We’ve spent four years drinking in the dozens of bars — the following are Mad City’s notable spots, whether for a chill one or one you won’t remember:
Place to Get Wrecked: Monday’s
If it’s been one of those weeks — or if you just like to get rowdy — Monday’s (523 State St.) provides the perfect setting for a night of serious drinking. “We’re known for our stiff drinks,” bartender and front of the week manager Matt Delaney, 28, assured us as he poured a tangy Long Island iced tea. Thursday nights, Monday’s hosts a crowd of students especially eager to get crunked — and it’s easy to do when rail mixers cost $2.75.
The dark, woody bar is fixed with lighted beer signs, multiple TVs, mirrors, framed vintage posters and a candy dispenser. Choose your favorite tunes on the jukebox and the whole bar might just join you in a rousing, not-so-sober chorus.
Madison’s new smoking ban has upset some, but Monday’s has a solution: an outside
patio open year-round. Play darts for free on Wednesday nights.
Place to Meet Mr. or Ms. Right Now: Kollege Klub
With bartenders sporting shirts that read: “Never let school interfere with your education,” the KK, a 52-year-old Madison institution often populated by athletes and members of the Greek system, is a great place to grind up next to your latest fling. To get in the mood, spend $5 on the KK’s strongest drink, the Shell of a Man, a bright pink, very sweet Amaretto concoction reminiscent of a cherry lollipop. Whip out another $2 and you can sport a famous KK drinking glove as you shake it on the dance floor. (The DJ works Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays — the bar’s busiest nights.) Wednesday nights get a beer and a shot for $3; Brett Helgeland, a 22-year-old KK bouncer and bartender, told us Miller Lites and Kamikaze shots are the most popular combo. Order from the grill before 8 p.m. and enjoy the KK’s fast food classics.
Sleek Martinis, Brews, Music and a Swell View: Brocach
For a dramatic capitol view, live music and a chilled pint of Guinness, check out Brocach, the most sophisticated Irish pub in Madison (7 West Main St.). The Wednesday night open-mic night draws a tee shirt and jeans grad school crowd.
The massive dark wood bar serves a variety of taps, including Guinness and Carsberry, plus the American standards. For a sleek martini, try the Stoli Doli ($8), a frothy, cool mix of vodka infused in pineapple, shaken with water and ice, and garnished with a cherry. This is the perfect place to grab a beer and listen to tunes.
Spot for Chocolate Martini and Burning Money In Style: Kimia Lounge
If you want to feel like a high roller, grab a hot date and descend into a “whisper nook” or exotic bed at Kimia Lounge (14 West Mifflin). Upon arrival you’ll be transformed into another culture; each of the lounging rooms are adorned with ancient Persian, Roman and Chinese artifacts inspired by the Silk Road. The dark, exotic, candle-lit ambiance, white Grecian columns and stonewalled “brook” scream sex. This swank joint has an extravagant wine list and extraordinary martinis — we recommend the Chocolate Martini, a creamy but light chocolate laced treat served in an ornate martini glass topped with a decadent swirl of high-end Godiva chocolate. Penny pinchers — check out two-for-one martini night on Tuesday.
Most Improved Watering Hole: The Churchkey
This former hole-in-the-wall just reopened after a major refurb. The new, split-level space has that same small-town sports-bar feel but offers a more cheerful atmosphere — upstairs, drinkers can chill with friends in booths. Stick to the first-floor for an active pick-up scene.
Try a shot of 44 North, an intriguing combination of huckleberry infused potato vodka. But skip the Churchkey sangria, a failed attempt of a Spanish mainstay; this delicately garnished elixir resembled fowl tasting cough medicine.