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Bryants

Bryant's Cocktail Lounge 1579 S. 9th St. (414) 383-2620

Byrant's is know to have the strongest drinks in Milwaukee. Generally their drinks range from the 5-shot to the 10-shot variety.

Don't ask the kindly waitresses at Bryant's for a menu of their tall, icy beverages. Instead, tell them the flavor you savor, and these knowledgeable and very courteous ladies will list off all of the bar's many unique cocktails. Looking for a flaming, purple drink? Then you've come to the right place. Ask for the Black Magic.

Maybe even darker than At Random, Bryant's has two floors of dimly lit, '70s nostalgia. A large tropical fish tank lines the bar downstairs, and upstairs looks like the set of “The Love Boat.” The juke box plays Sinatra and the standards, and sitting in one of the bar's several curved booths, it's easy to start doing tipsy Godfather impressions.

For adventure-seekers: get Brainbusted at Bryant's. We don't know what's in this large drink, but it's yellow, citrus-flavored and very strong. One isn't enough, but two is far too many. If you drink one, you even get a bumper sticker, but slapping it on your car may not be the wisest idea.

For those looking to get really pounded try slamming down the “holy trinity” of a black magic, brainbuster, and mai tai. Guaranteed you will not be able to walk straight once you leave 10th and Lapham.

Most unusual artifact in the bar: the napkins. They read, “In excellent taste for those who care.” What does that mean? Does it mean, “This place is in excellent taste, FYI?” Or does it mean, “For those who care about excellent taste, you've come to the right place?” Either way, Bryant's is a Milwaukee landmark and a great time, but there's not a whole lot there that could be considered “in excellent taste.”

Bryant's Closes in 2007

Bryant's Cocktail Lounge is closed.

A South Side institution located at 1579 S. 9th St., Bryant's served swanky specialty drinks for more than four decades amid a Sinatra-heavy soundtrack and a setting of mirrored walls, gold wallpaper and black velvet. The cocktail napkins were inscribed with a classic catch-phrase: “In excellent taste for those who care.”

Owner Debbie Malmberg, who took over the establishment after the death of her father, Carl, in October 2005, confirmed the closing for OnMilwaukee.com on Wednesday.

“It's unfortunate that we did close,” Malmberg said, adding that the building is for sale. “The bar had been there almost 45 years in that same spot and it was open years before my father took over. It's a sad thing. (Running a bar) just isn't for me.”

Bryant's, which appealed to blue-collar people from the neighborhood, college students, bachelorette parties and retirees, served about 500 specialty drinks, including Hurricanes, Zombies, Singapore Slings, Blue Hawaiians and the popular Brain Buster (bumper sticker included).

There was no menu – the waitstaff simply asked patrons to order by flavor.

Though it was popular with customers, the bar closed quietly without any publicity or fanfare. “We did not do that,” Malmberg said. “It's kind of sad.”

The bar will be missed, and remembered, by those who visited. Another neighborhood institution, Goldmann's department store also recently closed after more than a century on Mitchell Street.

Bryant's Reopens

On July 8th, 2008, Bryant's reopened its doors under new ownership. Even through the ownership has changed hands, the bar has been kept largely the same. The lighting, jukebox, and drinks have been retained. According to onmilwaukee.com, the new owner, John Dye, has said, “We've kept it as close to authentic as possible; we're trying to revive what it was like in the '70s when it first opened (in its current form).”

The biggest change has been that many of the staff have retired or found other jobs, so the bartenders and servers have changed. However, the original recipes are still there. Local veteran bartenders have a rolodex full of the original recipes. Locals can still order a Brainbuster or Black Magic if they so desire, and they taste just as good as you may or may not remember. After watching a Warrior's win, feel free to return to Bryant's.


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