The Best Spots to Drink in Charlotte Right Now
When it comes to spots in Charlotte serving up cold beers and refreshing cocktails, the options are seemingly endless. Look around and you’ll see weekly announcements about brand new openings, trendy pop-ups, and new, semi-confusing things like pour-your-own drink concepts. But all this really means is that it’s incredibly easy to grab a drink here.
From dive bars with sticky floors and rowdy crowds to upscale lounges with sleek décor, we’ve rounded up the best of the best when it comes to Charlotte’s watering holes. Cheers.
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.
Dog-friendly bar with one of the best patios in Charlotte
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, live music, a cozy inside that leads out to a spacious patio, board games and other games to play (Mario Kart, anyone?), only adds to the vibe and the beer and cocktail selections.
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.
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.
The 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. The bar has recently expanded with an indoor/outdoor patio option allowing more space for patrons to grab a drink, a meal, or watch a soccer match.
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.
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.
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).
The secret is out… this is the hottest new speakeasy in town
Stefan Huebner, one of the OGs of the Charlotte beverage scene, and his team continue to create a thoughtful and unique cocktail program. The drinks menu changes regularly, but some of the standouts have been Lily Wants a Pony (Tito’s, 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). And just like their cocktails, their food options are delicious -- consisting namely of charcuterie, small plates, and pastas.
Glasses of whiskey and throwback tunes
A welcome addition to the bustling Brevard Court, the Cotton Room is a casual yet sophisticated bar with a speakeasy vibe situated in an area comprised of mostly sports bars. Up the stairs from the Belfast Mill, Cotton Room serves up 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 obviously steer you in the right direction if that’s not your cup of tea… er… whiskey.
Fried chicken and fancy drinks
Haberdish is known for fried chicken and no-frills Southern food. That said, the drinks are on point in this NoDa staple. Grab your friends, family, or just take yourself on a date and saddle up to the bar. Bartender Colleen Hughes makes some of the most inventive drinks in the Queen City. If you’re in a group, order one of the punches. If you’re not, maybe still order one of the punches and make some friends. Or just have a little fun browsing the sections (aperitifs, spirits, after dinner, and digestives).
Proving hotel bars can be anything but gaudy and overpriced
Located on the 19th floor of the Kimpton Hotel, Merchant & Trade has incredible panoramic views of the city. The cocktail program is comprised of classics made with North Carolina-produced spirits, house-made mixers, and locally-sourced ingredients. Even the beer served is predominately made in North Carolina. Dress to impress and show up early to grab a bite or a seat. If you’re even a little late, expect a line.
Prohibition-era cocktails and exceptional bourbon
The Crunkleton is a private club ($10 per year) that serves comfort food cooked over an open fire. While the food is delicious, it is the bar program that has received accolades and made patrons not think twice about the membership fee. Located in an intimate setting, The Crunkleton features numerous cocktails that will appeal to every palate. For something different, try the Jack Rose cocktail. Made with apple brandy, pomegranate, and freshly squeezed lemon, the drink pays homage to the fact that before Prohibition, there were more apple brandy stills in North Carolina than there were bourbon stills in Kentucky.
Where the bartender decides what you’ll be having
Although not new to other cities, Idlewild introduced Charlotteans to the “no set cocktail menu” concept. Guests are seated and their servers ask them a series of questions about their drink preferences. Then, with that information, the bartenders create a custom cocktail experience based on the guest’s answers. There is a $1 membership fee, but that’s a small price to pay to sit back, relax, and let someone else make the decisions for you. Plus, you’ll feel fancy AF.
Cocktails and tapas in extremely cozy digs
When rockstar mixologist Bob Peters left the Punch Room, Charlotteans wondered what would be his next stop. Bob sightings were reported all over Charlotte, but it was a new concept in Dilworth called The Queen & Glass where he hung his apron. With unique, delicious, and potent cocktails, The Queen & Glass has quickly become a Charlotte favorite. We also love the names, many inspired by The Office, such as the Assistant to the Regional Manager, which is made with Turning Point bourbon, homemade strawberry syrup, and Fernet Branca.
Gold District of South End
Where a seat at the bar is the best seat in the house
Bardo is known for the creative food, carrot cake dessert, and their cocktails conceptualized by award-winning mixologist Amanda Britton. Although there is no bad seat in the house, especially with the open kitchen in the middle, the best seat is at the bar where you can watch the team create their sought after concoctions. The menu changes by the season to match the food options, but if available, we recommend the Brew-tiful Bloom, which is made with Cardinal barrel rested gin, Fernet Branca, coffee, lavender, vanilla, cream, egg white, and sparkling water.
Late night pizza and a legendary drink called the Transfusion
Along Selwyn Avenue, in the heart of Myers Park, is Selwyn Pub. You’re not a true Charlottean until you’ve had your first $5 Transfusion “cocktail” from Selwyn Pub. Enjoy this vodka-based drink while watching current and former college kids hangout and/or relive their glory days. And keep an eye out for Michael Jordan (the ball player, not the actor). Order the pizza late night, and ask the bartenders about the infamous golf cart legend, when two inebriated dudes stole a golf cart from Quail Hollow Country Club and drove the 5 miles to Selwyn Pub where they, you guessed it, ordered Transfusions.
Charlotte’s first self-serve bar, which is indeed hoppin’
Having a self-serve bar is both a good and bad thing that depends solely on your level of self-control. When you arrive swipe your credit card and get a wristband. Pour your own drinks from their selection of over 60 taps including beer, wine, and even kombucha. Here’s a lil’ tip from experience -- pay attention to the number of drinks you pour. Before you go, you’ll have to tunr in your wristband and pay up.
Gold District in South End
Where beer flights and charcuterie boards come together in perfect harmony
Enjoy beer from local and regional breweries at this no-frills, perfect happy hour spot. With 36 rotating taps, wine, bubbly, and other beverages, you’d be hard pressed to walk out of here without grabbing a drink. For bites, grab a cheese plate or a more substantial charcuterie board. Every Friday night from May through October they show free movies. Recently, their sister concept Lincoln Street Kitchen & Cocktails opened next door.
Wine, cocktails, and koi fish
An impressive wine list matched by an equally impressive cocktail list has made Dilworth Tasting Room a standout since it took over the space of the former Dilworth Billiards. While the interior is cozy with its signature red couch, it’s the outside that really creates the vibe. In warmer weather, grab your drink and sit outside in the courtyard garden complete with a koi pond. The food menu rotates with the seasons, so expect fresh and shareable dishes yearround.
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