Food & Drink

The Best Cocktail Bars in Charlotte

Published On 09/23/2015 Published On 09/23/2015
Shutterstock

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.

Courtesy of Punch Room/Justin Driscoll

The Punch Room

Uptown
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.

The Cellar at Duckworth's

The Cellar at Duckworth’s

Uptown
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.

Courtesy of Pint Central/Justin Driscoll

Pint Central

Plaza Midwood
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. 

Courtesy of Heist Brewery

Heist Brewery

NoDa
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.

Kindred

Kindred

Davidson
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.

Soul Gastrolounge

Soul Gastrolounge

Plaza Midwood 
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.

Crepe Cellar

Crepe Cellar

NoDa
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.

Fahrenheit

Fahrenheit

Uptown
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

Stagioni

Myers Park
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).

5Church

5Church

Uptown
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. 

Sign up here for our daily Charlotte email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Queen City.

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. The Punch Room 201 E Trade St, Charlotte, NC 28202 (Uptown)

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. The Cellar at Duckworth's 330 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202 (Fourth Ward)

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Pint Central 1226 Central Ave, Ste A, Charlotte, NC 28204

The beers on tap at Pint Central read like a greatest-hits list for local beers, and the bar’s stocked with premium Carolina liquor.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Heist Brewery 2909 N Davidson St, Ste 200, Charlotte, NC 28205 (Noda)

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Kindred Restaurant 131 Main Street, Davidson, NC 28036 (Davidson)

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Soul Gastrolounge 1500 1/2 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205 (Plaza Midwood)

This second-story small-plate lounge feels like a modern speakeasy. Snag a seat early at its small bar because this spot doesn’t accept reservations and fills up fast with a hip crowd that comes for its killer boozy concoctions. The constantly evolving cocktail menu features inventive (and potent) libations like a Celery Spritz made with gin, Cointreau, house-made celery seltzer, lemon, and olive oil. The vibe here also calls for classics, and drinks like the Manhattan or Sazerac are some of the tastiest in town.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Crepe Cellar 3116 N Davidson St, Charlotte, NC 28205 (Noda)

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. Fahrenheit 222 S Caldwell St, Charlotte, NC 28202

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Stagioni 715 Providence Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207

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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. 5Church 127 N Tryon St, Suite 8, Charlotte, NC 28202 (Uptown)

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.

Clickbait