Cocktails: a necessary part of any balanced diet. Whether you need something to prepare your palate, wash down your meal, or just complete your daily food & booze pyramid, here are 10 places that do mixology right.
This drinking den sits atop the 15th floor of the swanky Ritz-Carlton. It's spearheaded by local cocktail celeb Bob Peters, so you’re bound to be impressed by the obscure ingredients, boutique liquors, and craftsmanship that go into each of his concoctions. Though you’ll want to ladle down anything you can get your hands on fast, this spot isn’t a fan of vertical drinking, so find yourself some manners and a table to enjoy your handcrafted punch in Gatsby fashion.
A modern-day speakeasy with access down a flight of stairs and through a sliding barn door, this Prohibition-style cocktail bar focuses on the drinks of yesteryear. Guys clad in suspenders deliver boozy sips, which pay homage to old-timey drinks that never get old. Behind the bar, you’ll see everything from whole cinnamon sticks and ginger root to herbs and tinctures. Even the ice is special: it’s all hand-cut.
Most people flock for the unique bar fare and craft brews, but the cocktail program at Pint Central is a real gem. Lead bartender Henry Schmulling gets adventurous in his endeavors, coming up with cool concepts such as craft shooters. His take on the old oyster shot classic? Pecan chili-infused tequila and ceviche syrup topped off with a corn tostada garnish with shrimp and a sprig of cilantro.
You don’t typically walk into a place that brews beer and expect to find quality cocktails. In addition to craft brews, this place serves up some mean cocktails with new twists on classic staples. Its version of the Old Fashioned is served with brandied cherries that you’ll inevitably want to steal from the container behind the bar. Also, beer cocktails: two beautiful worlds mashed together.
This chef-driven spot knows that a well-designed cocktail bar is crucial to any eatery. Gorgeous leather tufted barstools surround a crisp white backdrop: a combination of painted brick, gleaming subway tiles, and a solid marble bar top. Behind the bar, causally dapper barkeeps shake up seasonal cocktails to complement the ambiance. For kicks, try the “Take Two of These & Call Me Amaro,” a fernet slushie that will make you feel like a kid all over again, but with the perk of booze.
One of the originals to sling true craft cocktails in Charlotte, Soul continues to churn out some of the most innovative drinks in town with ingredients you’ve never heard of and will probably butcher if you say them out loud. Paired with its eclectic ambiance and funky selection of tapas, it’s an oldie but goodie that continues to please. Its ever-changing drink list also includes cocktail taps that deliver handcrafted taste with a less-than-a-minute turnaround time. Yeah, we know you’re so over waiting 10 minutes for someone to put a drink in your hand.
You’ll be hard pressed to nab a barstool at this neighborhood pub, but once you do, you won’t want to leave. Manned by chicks (score) that whip up some seriously boozy concoctions -- many with a whiskey base -- it’s any guy’s dream. Of course, the drinks are seasonally inspired and crafted with the best of everything, like local liquors and herbs, small-batch bitters, and homemade syrups.
This scenic restaurant boasts the best view of Uptown, hands down. Of course, the cocktails and fire pits only make it better. Your drink will most likely include a fresh herb plucked from the rooftop and it’s possible it’ll have a pickled fruit. A craft drink with a view? Your Instagram page better brace for some likes.
Stagioni is housed in a historic mansion with a fireplace inside, so there are few places you’d rather spend an evening sipping away. The drink list may not be long, but every cocktail on it is thoughtfully conceived and executed. If it’s not in season, it’s not on the list. The cocktails are aromatic, boozy, and sure to prepare your palate for the delicious Italian food that comes from the open kitchen (order everything on the menu).
It’s likely you’ll meet a celebrity while sitting at the bar and it’s a definite you’ll be sipping on something tasty. The half-spicy, half-sweet “Viper,” (tequila, Cointreau, cucumber water, and cayenne) is a local celeb of its own kind and is a must-order. Your drink won’t be set on fire here, but it’ll be good and you can’t beat the vibe.
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Lauren Blake enjoys writing about restaurants and bars just as much as she likes frequenting them. Well, almost as much. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @palieblake.
1. The Punch Room201 E Trade St, Charlotte
2. The Cellar at Duckworth's330 N Tryon St, Charlotte
3. Pint Central1226 Central Ave, Ste A, Charlotte
4. Heist Brewery2909 N Davidson St, Ste 200, Charlotte
5. Kindred Restaurant131 Main Street, Davidson
6. Soul Gastrolounge1500 1/2 Central Ave, Charlotte
7. Crepe Cellar3116 N Davidson St, Charlotte
8. Fahrenheit222 S Caldwell St, Charlotte
9. Stagioni715 Providence Rd, Charlotte
10. 5Church127 N Tryon St, Suite 8, Charlotte
When a bar is on the 15th floor of The Ritz-Carlton and features gold accents, plush leather seating, and skyline views, you expect it to be good. When that spot also includes Bob Peters, an enthusiastic bartender whose creations make him more magician than mixologist, it's safe to expect greatness. Sample the daily punch, but bring your sense of adventure for one of the inventive elixirs like Carbonated Aviation, an effervescent twist on the classic, or Strange Brew made with smoked bourbon, hazelnut milk, and a coffee ice cube.
With a speakeasy Roaring Twenties atmosphere unlike anything you've seen in Charlotte, this restaurant has carved out it's niche in the city. From a carefully crafted cocktail menu and rivaled beer selection, to the menu selections all sourced locally, this restaurant makes for a quality dining experience. Boasting one of the best filets in Charlotte and having a 32oz. Tomahawk Bone-in Ribeye Steak there red meat selection is sure to please.
The roster of beers on tap at Pint Central reads like a greatest-hits list for local beers. With over 40 bottled brews, and 34 on tap, the Southern spot is a mecca for North Carolina's most devoted beer fans. The dog-friendly patio and the casual, rustic taproom provide ample space to chat over cold pints of jalapeño pale ale, or some of the lighter local wheat beers, while those who are less interested in hops can opt for a house cocktail or a glass of wine, instead (the bar is fully stocked with premium Carolina liquor). The food menu consists mainly of Argentinian-American tapas, like chicken empanadas or kimchi-topped pork belly, and on Mondays, tacos are just 1$, when paired with one of Pint Central's numerous bottled Latin American Beers.
Housed in an old cotton mill, this triple threat is part brewery, part cocktail bar, and part restaurant -- and the whole is greater than the sum of those parts. Despite the ample seating, this is the kind of place you’re likely to have to squeeze into the bar, or wait for a table on the weekends, especially during its next-level Sunday brunch. The small batch beers change frequently and are especially tasty when mixed in one of the beer cocktails like The Black Fog made with Heist stout, rye whiskey, and blackberry puree.
Nestled in historic Davidson, this family-owned and chef-driven restaurant never disappoints with its modern takes on Southern cuisine. Like many new American-style restaurants, this chic eatery cooks with local ingredients, rotates their menus seasonally, sticks to small portions and stuns with elegant presentation. The home-made milk break, duck fat potatoes and crispy oysters are all must-haves at dinner — order one of each and share the wealth with your entire table, that's the best way to get a little bit of everything.
For regulars at Soul, Mondays are always a treat -- the evening's soundtrack is crafted purely of R&B and soul on vinyl, hand selected from the restaurant owner's very own collection. The small-plate lounge is notorious for tasty, inventive house cocktails and upscale snacks like Asian glazed pork belly tacos to match. The no reservations bar is small and fills quickly, so get here early if you're looking to eat, while there's plenty of standing room for drinkers. The constantly rotating cocktail menu features (potent) libations like a Celery Spritz made with gin, Cointreau, house-made celery-lemon seltzer, and olive oil, and each night of the week, Soul hosts a different DJ, so patrons at this dimly-lit craft-cocktail-haven never run out of reasons to keep coming back.
Located in NoDa's arts district, this cozy gastropub offers Euro-inspired cuisine that ranges from crepes and steak frites to pesto pasta and pan-seared Scottish salmon. You'll want to go for one of the savory buckwheat crepes (they're in the restaurant's name, after all), which come in varieties like ham & gruyere, spinach & wild mushroom, and turkey apple brie. The Crepe Cellar burger is a favorite, too, served on a soft potato bun, smothered in creamy garlic aioli, and topped with melted gruyere cheese and some onion straws for crunch. When it comes to beverages, you can expect a rotating list of craft beer, seasonal cocktails, French press coffee, and tea.
Located on the 21st floor of the Skye Condos, this cozy spot serves up New American food with a fusion twist. The outdoor portion of the space stunning city views, fire pits, and a seasonal herb garden the restaurant harvests for its own use. Small, sharable plates are ideal for lunch on the open terrace, and more substantial dishes, like the signature Kobe beef short ribs, anchor the dinner menu along with a range of classic, wood-fired pizzas. The atmosphere here is definitely breezy and classy, but not overly fussy. There's no dress code, but you might want to make a reservation at this popular venue, just in case.
This is an updated take on a classic Italian bistro, with European elegance and a restrained seasonal menu. Using all local produce and proteins, the chefs at Stagioni craft a list of small, sharable plates inspired by classic Italian flavors, along with wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas. There's no guarantee what'll be there when you go, but definitely keep an eye out for the creamy housemade burrata and hand-rolled gnocci. There's definitely an upscale vibe within the space itself, but the atmosphere is relaxed an causal—no need to get dressed up. You will want to make a reservation, however, as this place gets rather busy. The upscale-yet-relaxed dining room features an Italian-inspired menu of surprising small plates and seasonal entrees along with wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas.
Feather chandeliers, leather banquettes, and a black ceiling set the scene at this sleek, loft-style space in the center of Uptown, where signature dishes such as a lamb burger, ahi tuna poke, and citrus- & herb-roasted whole fish are served alongside fancy libations. Guests typically mingle here earlier in the evenings for a drink or two before continuing on to another nearby nightlife destinations. Specialty cocktails like the Viper (Patron, orange liqueur, cucumber water, and cayenne pepper) and the Rosemary Gin Fizz (gin, liquid egg whites, and rosemary simple syrup) are sophisticated enough to keep up with the crowd.