Whether you’re into inventive craft cocktails at a posh lounge, rare wine vintages, locally crafted beer, a PBR at a honky-tonk, or even some whisky at an Irish gastropub, here are 10 of the best places to drink in Charlotte.
If you’re not rolling in dough, you might want to scroll on past this upscale hotel bar. Prices on the drink menu range from an $11 glass of pinot noir to a $1,050 bottle of Guigal Cote Rotie La Ladonne 2010. That being said, this see-and-be-seen spot is a nice Uptown locale to kick off your evening. Bring a date and make them think you’re fancy. The ambiance is super sophisticated, with black leather couches, high tables, impressive feather chandeliers, and a black ceiling. 5Church’s multiple bars offer a small creative cocktail menu, plenty of craft beer options, and a nice selection of wine, as previously mentioned. If you’re not going to drop your rent on a rare vintage, then try The Viper cocktail, made with Patron, orange liqueur, cucumber water, and cayenne pepper.
Located in the Gold District of Charlotte's South End, this expansive beer hall serves regional, artisanal brews and small plates. They have 36 rotating taps of all sorts of (mostly local) beer, so there’s always something new to try. Get a flight to try a handful, then once you figure out what you like you can get a pint, or even a growler to take home. There’s also a wide selection of bottles and cans. Find more bottled beer and local snacks at the Growler shop. Small plates, from flatbread pizza to artisanal regional cheeses and charcuterie, soak up the suds just right. The Craft Tasting Room has a little beer garden outside where they show movies in the summer.
This upscale, members-only prohibition-style speakeasy is “hidden” in the Park Road Shopping Center backlot. Many say Dot Dot Dot is the best cocktail bar in the city. The “private” social club is self-described as “inclusively exclusive.” It’s easy to join online—membership costs only $10 a year. When you become a member, you can bring up to three guests, but everyone must follow the “stylish but not stuffy” dress code. The 10 bucks is worth it so you can enjoy co-owner and mixologist Stefan Huebner’s classic and creative house cocktails, as well as their extensive collection of single malts, fine wines, and farm-to-table small plates.
Located in the Novel NoDa development at 36th Street Station, this cozy, casual cocktail bar has a classic vibe. Like many area bars, Idlewild also operates as a private club, so you’ll pay a dollar for membership the first time you visit. There is no set drink menu—cocktails are custom-made for the customer. Simply tell the bartender what you like to drink, and they’ll whip up a $13 libation just for you. Or be boring and order a classic cocktail, beer, or wine by the glass.
Head to the top of the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in Uptown for panoramic views of the city, craft cocktails, local beers, and elevated bar bites. The chic, 19th-floor space encompasses four areas: the indoor bar, an outdoor terrace, a private terrace, and the lawn. Merchant and Trade’s carefully curated cocktail program features classic cocktails and seasonal libations made with North Carolina-produced spirits and house-made mixers, like “Becky With The Good Hair,” made with Roku Japanese Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Bumbu rum, ginger, lemon, and Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic. The spirit list includes a large selection of bourbon and whisky, while the beer menu highlights local breweries on its rotating drafts. This is a pretty high-class joint, so dress to impress.
This royally outfitted boutique hotel bar is dripping with class. Also located in The Ivey’s Hotel in the heart of Uptown, this New York City-style cocktail lounge serves up mixed drinks and small plates fit for a queen. Cocktail names like the Bonnie & Clyde (made with vodka, ginger, lime, and maraschino) match the vintage atmosphere. Wind down after dinner and enjoy an adult beverage in front of the fireplace.
Like Dot Dot Dot, this stylish private club has a $10/year membership fee, but they only allow one guest. Located at 7th Street and Pecan Avenue in historic Elizabeth, The Crunkleton’s light-filled interior features a library of liquors set against exposed-brick walls. Order one of their signature Prohibition-era cocktails with a modern twist, like the Gin Gin Mule, which marries the mojito with a Moscow mule. If you’re hungry, check out The Crunkleton’s full dinner menu of regional hearth-cooked cuisine.
Located in the Ritz-Carlton, this luxurious 15th-floor lounge is rich with gold accents, plush leather seating, and skyline views. It might be hard to find a seat in the intimate, dark “beverage den,” as it only accommodates 37 people. Mixologist Bob Peters’ beverage program stars small-batch spirits infused with seasonal, local fruits, herbs, and vegetables. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat, sample the eponymous high-concept spirit-based specialty punches, a custom cocktail, or a signature hand-crafted libation.
Finally, a break from fancy hotels. Even though this orange cinderblock gem is sandwiched between two apartment buildings on Central Ave, you can’t miss it—just look for the giant beaver in a cowboy hat painted on the side. This quirky, honky tonk-inspired dive is the place to enjoy some country tunes (whether live or from the free jukebox), imbibe in some cheap drinks, and/or relax on the small front deck. Like any good dive, “The Beaver,” as locals affectionately refer to it, is decorated with random crap on the walls and has pool tables.
Oops, we almost got through this list without naming a gastropub! This Irish country pub, located at the corner of Central Ave and Thomas St, is actually owned and was designed by Irish folks. Order a pint of Guinness, a glass of Redbreast 15 year, or an Irish coffee to enjoy by the fire or outside. The menu is Irish too, of course, which is great if you’re in the mood for some fish and chips or a sausage roll. The Workman’s Friend also offers brunch, and everyone knows an Irish breakfast cures any hangover.