No-frills Charlotte staple for cheap beer and good music
The Thirsty Beaver is the place to play darts, listen to Merle Haggard on the jukebox, and drink a PBR. Although construction is going on all around it, The Beaver has gained international attention as being an endearing middle finger to the development currently going on in Charlotte. Reminiscent of the movie Up, The Beaver is a true Charlotte staple. Stay warm all year long by drinking shots of Fireball and challenging your friends to a game of pool.
Over 75 beers, Jenga, and Pappy Van Winkle
In a short amount of time, Hattie’s has established a cult following that is rightly deserved. Artists, bankers, and everyone else in between come to Hattie’s to unwind after a long day. Karaoke, a cozy inside that leads out to a spacious patio, a craft beer selection, and an ever-improving cocktail program make this a Charlotte favorite year-round. Also, for the Pappy fans… Hattie’s is one of only 20 places in Charlotte that procured a bottle… so get in quickly for a sample.
Ping-pong, pickle back shots, and people watching
Unless you are versed in dive bars in Charlotte, you may not know about Smokey Joe’s, which is dripping with character. The interior features a stage for live music as well as hidden nooks for cuddling with your sweetie whether you’ve known him/her for 10 years or 10 minutes. But it’s the outside that makes this a Queen City institution: The outside patio has a beach vibe with a sanded ping-pong area that’s fitted with multiple fire pits and television sets during the winter months. This watering hole is perfect for game watching or people watching any time of year.
Small plates made for sharing and cocktails to pair with them
Nestled on the first floor of the Omni Hotel, Essex Bar & Bistro is gastropub and cocktail bar that is an excellent place for people watching on Trade and Tryon Streets. Sit out on the patio under the heaters and order the Rob Collins No. 2 with Hendrick's Gin, mint, and prosecco, or another of its seasonal cocktails. During the holidays, you can enjoy the patio view of the large Christmas tree in front of the Bank of America Corporate Center, as well as the lights around uptown. If you’re lucky, you may be treated to music and carols from street musicians.
Requisite first date spot with seasonal cocktails
5Church Charlotte is the epitome of swanky/sexy/cozy. Seasonal cocktails make this a local favorite as the menu is constantly changing. Head here for a dinner or for a quick bite and cocktail before exploring the rest of Uptown with your date. If it happens to be your first date (and/or first time meeting), opt to sit at the bar so the bartender can help break up any awkward breaks in conversation.
Good beer, cocktails on tap, and delicious pork belly tacos
Beer, cocktails, oysters, and popcorn -- Growlers has something for everyone. Featuring a rotating beer selection, cocktails on tap, and a menu that redefines bar bites makes Growlers a great NoDa neighborhood bar. Sit at a table or slide into a booth with your beverage of choice and watch people walk up and down North Davidson St.
Quintessential bar for fish and chips and a cold Guinness
Walking into the Workman’s Friend makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Ireland. The cozy, dimly lit Irish pub is perfect for fish and chips and a Guinness on a cold day. Once you’ve warmed your belly, head outside and warm your bones by an inviting fireplace.
Low-key neighborhood spot plating up comfort food
A Charlotte staple, “Al Mikes” is known for being a place to grab a drink and a meal with friends, loved ones, or even solo. Unpretentious with a come-as-you-are ambiance, eating at Al Mike’s is as comforting and as comfortable as eating at your own home. After you’ve had your fill of food and drink, bundle up and walk around historic Fourth Ward.
Where to have intimate conversation over good food and drinks
Wanna get romantic, but get the most bang for your buck in regards to food and drink? An interior with dark wood, wallpaper, and dim lighting sets the tone, while the food and drinks take the experience to the next level. Order a bottle of wine or a signature cocktail from Colleen Hughes (Charlotte’s Bartender of The Year in 2016) to turn even the coldest night into one of the hottest you’ve had in awhile.
Cosy whiskey den filled with comfy leather couches
The tufted leather sofas on the two floors of Broken Spoke are perfect spots to get cozy, have great conversation, and order a cocktail. The sister bar of Great Wagon Road Distilling Company focuses on simple, yet delicious cocktails. Try a cocktail with house-made liquor such as the signature Broken Spoke with GWR Rúa single malt whiskey, Amaro Montenegro, and orange zest.
Crazy good punch bowls and a $400 cocktail
Cocktails are what the Punch Room and head mixologist Bob Peters do best. Craft cocktails and signature punches have defined this speakeasy-inspired den, but Bob’s ever-changing menu is what keeps the people coming back. Try the Sour in Spanish Harlem (Vida mezcal, muddled lemon, lime, and finished with a wine float -- and one of Bob’s favorites), or if you’ve got money to burn, order the $400 cocktail... literally called The $400 Cocktail.
Strong cocktails and delicious food in upscale, vintage digs
With a sexy and slightly hidden vibe, The Cellar is guaranteed to please even the most particular palate. Head to Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse and descend a flight of stairs into a different era. Modeled after a speakeasy, this Prohibition-style cocktail and beer bar pays homage to drinks of yesteryear. The smoked whiskey sour and the Negroni are not to miss, but the craft beer list has options not seen at many local establishments.
Unique flavor pairings in a cool, dimly lit lounge
Known for cocktails and food with unique flavor pairings such as watermelon and Asian glazed pork belly, Soul is a perfect spot for a date night or night out with friends. Cozy couches, thumping beats, and a dimly lit setting will have you craving a custom cocktail like the Barbados Slim (Mt. Gay Black barrel rum, Cynar, Demerara, and Angostura bitters – stirred).
Italian cuisine and superb cocktails in a rustic villa setting
There is care put into every detail of Stagioni, and it was created to impress -- whether you’re lounging at the front of the house near the bar or in the main dining area. Yet the drink menu is just as important at Stagioni as the food menu. Warm, inviting, and overall delicious, the cocktail menu is broken up by categories such as bitter, sweet, and signature. The wine list is also impressive and worth a look if you’re not feeling like beer or cocktails.
Charlotte’s most sought after cocktails
Dot Dot Dot was easily the most anticipated opening of 2017. Stefan Huebner, one of the OGs of the Charlotte beverage scene, has created a thoughtful and unique cocktail program. For something different, order the Lily Wants a Pony (Tito’s vodka, riesling, rosemary, fresh lime juice) or the Good to Be King (Early Times 354 bourbon, Bonal Gentiane Quina, house-blend sweet vermouth, black walnut bitters). Word to the wise: to get in you have to pay a one-time membership fee.
When you want to pair your cocktail with a burger
From the beer and wine to the farm-to-table meats, everything at this Uptown spot is completely thought out. The cocktails have been created to pair with the food (strip steak, rack of lamb, salmon, burgers) and feature standouts like the Ballantyne (gin, elderflower, strawberries, and mint) and the Fourth Ward (tequila, port, lime juice, ginger beer, and bitters).
Glasses of whiskey and throwback tunes
A welcome addition to the bustling Brevard Court, the Cotton Room is a casual yet sophisticated speakeasy in an area comprised mostly of sports bars. Up the stairs from the Belfast Mill, CR serves beer, wine, and cocktails while 90s hip-hop and other throwback tunes play nostalgically through the speakers. Whiskey drinks are a standout here, but the bartenders will steer you in the right direction if you don’t want to go to town on the brown.
Fried chicken and fancy drinks in Charlotte’s best new restaurant
The team behind Growlers Pourhouse and Crepe Cellar did it again with this addition to the QC culinary scene. Haberdish is known for fried chicken and no-frills Southern food. We even gave it the honor of Best Restaurant 2017 in Charlotte. That said, the drinks are where it’s at. Grab your friends, family, or just take yourself on a date and saddle up to the bar. If you’re in a group, order one of the punches, but if you’re by yourself, have fun browsing the sections (aperitifs, spirits, after dinner, and digestives) to find your perfect cocktail(s).
New kid on the block with incredible views of the city
Located on the 19th floor of the newly opened Kimpton Hotel, Merchant & Trade has incredible panoramic views of the city. The cocktail program is comprised of classic cocktails made with North Carolina-produced spirits, house-made mixers, and locally sourced ingredients. Even the beer served is predominately made in North Carolina. Be sure to show up a little early to grab a seat (all of which boast unrivaled views of Queen City).