Though most of Salvador ’s bars are at least partially outdoors and pretty basic, what makes them special is their strategic setting: being located in a hidden garden or a colonial mansion, overlooking the ocean, or in a lively cobblestoned praça overflowing with Soteropolitanos talking, dancing, laughing, and going about their lives.
The Pelourinho ’s narrow streets are packed with bars. Though there’s no lack of action in the Pelô, some of it—vendors and beggars going after gringos—can be trying. Aside from the ubiquitous bars sprinkled around the Praça Tereza Batista, Praça Pedro Archango, and Praça Quincas Berro D’Água (see Live Music ), a traditional watering hole with a largely local clientele is O Cravinho (Terreiro de Jesus 3, Pelourinho, tel. 71/3322-6759, 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m. daily). Cravinho, meaning “little clove,” refers to the house specialty of cachaça infused with cloves, lime, and honey. This deceptively explosive concoction goes down real nice and costs next to nothing (which is why the bar is always packed). Over 30 such cachaça infusions (using herbs, flowers, roots, fruits, and seeds) are left to steep in the great wooden barrels lining the walls.
Just off the nearby Praça da Sé , turn onto the Ladeira da Misericórdia. A few steps down brings you to the Zanzibar (Ladeira da Misericórdia 9, Centro, tel. 71/8823-8008, 6 p.m.–close Tues.–Sat., cover R$3–10). The bar’s undeniable charm is due to the fact that it was built around the immense trunk of an immense mango tree that’s more than a century old. On weekends, the downstairs features local bands who offer up a cool mix of music that ranges from MPB and reggae to soul and jazz. The menu features African-tinged Bahian fare. Upstairs, tables are scattered beneath the leafy mango branches, and the views of the moonlit Bay of All Saints  are more intoxicating than even the African-inspired ginger batida, which does duty as the house cocktail.
In Santo Antônio , a favorite place to watch the sunset over the Baía de Todos os Santos  is the Bar do Espanhol, also known as Bar Cruz do Pascoal (Rua Joaquim Távora 2, tel. 71/3243-2285, 11 a.m.–close Mon.–Sat.), where any hunger pangs can be assuaged by an arrumadinho (bite-sized chunks of sun-dried beef mixed with black-eyed beans, toasted manioc flour, and diced tomatoes and peppers).
Mouraria is a captivating neighborhood that is completely off the tourist path though it’s located just behind the Pelourinho . For years, Thursday has been the customary night to take a seat at one of Mouraria’s sidewalk bars clustered around a cobblestoned square and dig into a ceramic pot steaming with lambretas. A local clam-like mollusk reputed to be an aphrodisiac (and a great hangover cure), the lambretas are steamed with cilantro, onions, salt, and pepper, then served piping hot.
Traditionally, the city’s “Old Guard” indulges at the square’s largest bar, called Koisa Nossa, also known as Os Internacionais (Travessa Engenheiro Alione 3, Mouraria, tel. 71/3266-4496, 5 p.m.–midnight Tues.–Wed., 5 p.m.–1 a.m. Thurs.–Fri., noon–8 p.m. Sat.), where an estimated 900 dozen are served a week (Tuesdays are two-for-one). Recently, however, a younger crowd has caught lambreta fever, and newer bars (with their own two-for-one specials) have opened to keep up with the demand. Although the neighborhood itself is safe, you should come and go by taxi.
Similar to the Mouraria, Dois de Julho is another lively old residential neighborhood in the center of town where you can find some authentic watering holes. A perennial favorite is the Líder (Largo 2 de Julho 32, Centro, tel. 71/3321-8955, 7 a.m.–1 a.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun.), where conversation gets famously animated, often as a result of the running commentary of Zé Carlos, a devoted client whose exuberant complaints about the iciness of the beer and the slowness of the waiters keep things running.
Close by, the recently opened Mocambinho Bar (Rua Carlos Gomes 135, Centro, 5 p.m. onward. Tues.–Sat.) is a friendly place that draws in a bohemian and alternative crowd and where the home-cooked bar food—sun-dried beef and pumpkin puree, for example—is a few steps above usual bar fare.
In Barra , aside from tourist traps along the ocean, the biggest concentration of nocturnal activity takes place near the residential streets of Rua Belo Horizonte, Rua Florianópolis, and Rua Recife—a neighborhood known as Jardim Brasil. Although quiet enough during the week, the place sizzles on weekends. This is when a rather yuppie-ish university-age crowd flocks to roost at the multiple choice of bars and eateries in the area (which close early, at 1:30 a.m.).
For a quieter and less collegiate option, you might want to drop by the relatively new Nego Loro (Rua Marquês de Leão 183, tel. 71/3264-0250, 5 p.m.–close Mon.–Fri., 10 p.m.–close Sat.–Sun., cover R$5). Here, you can choose between a laid-back sidewalk bar, an indoor lounge with sofas and a snooker table, and a show space where live pop-rock is sometimes played.
Probably the most eclectic nightlife mecca in town takes place in the bohemian bairro of Rio Vermelho . There is always lots happening here, especially when the weekend rolls around. Unless it’s pouring, the outdoor bars on Largo de Santana and Largo de Mariquita are always packed with long lineups of people waiting to assuage their dendê oil cravings with the famed acarajés and abarás of Dinha, Regina, and Cira).As well, the bars and restaurants on Rua da Paciência and Rua de Meio are always pulsating with activity.
Considered one of the best traditional botecos (bistro-style bars) in the bairro, the always popular, but not too trendy Boteco da França (Rua Borges dos Reis 24-A, Rio Vermelho, tel. 71/3335-1529, noon–last client Tues.–Sun.) was opened in 2002 by a former waiter who toiled for many years at two other classic Rio Vermelho  haunts—the still thriving Extudo (Rua Lídio de Mesquita 4, tel. 71/3334-0671) and Póstudo (Rua João Gomes 87, tel. 71/3334-0484). He obviously learned his trade well since aside from attentive service, the Boteco offers an extensive drink menu, including chope de vinho (wine on draft), delicious nibbles (try the shredded sun-dried beef with pumpkin puree), and a mellow jazzy-bossa soundtrack that has made it a favorite with intellectuals, artists, and journalists.
Meanwhile, if you find yourself in the situation where everything is closing down, the sun is coming up, and you’re still raring to go, make a beeline for the Mercado de Peixe (Largo de Mariquita). Open 24 hours, this market’s many lively bars are a classic “last call” option and they feature plenty of traditional grub—try a thick, chowder-like bean soup, caldo de feijão, or caldo de sururu (similar to a mussel)—to stave off a hangover.