15 best cocktail bars in Charlotte

15 best cocktail bars in Charlotte

The cocktail bar at Supperland. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

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Whether you like them shaken or stirred, on the rocks or dirty, here are the go-to spots in Charlotte for a great cocktail.

Honorable mentions: Billy Sunday, Cotton Room, Backstage Lounge, Dogwood and Broken Spoke.

Related guide: 50 best bars in Charlotte, ranked


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Bardo

Small plate restaurant in the Gold District loved by foodies

Why we love it: Bardo strikes the balance of serving sophisticated drinks and small plates while maintaining a come-as-you-are atmosphere.

What we’re drinking: Life’s Peach ($14) – Ketel One peach orange blossom vodka, Paul Masson peach brandy, Angostura cocoa bitters, orange, lemon and coconut vanilla milk.

Must-try cocktail: No Fig Deal ($13) — Old Forester Signature Bourbon, balsamic glazed fig, honey, bitters.

Bardo Restaurant

Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios


The Cellar at Duckworth’s

Speakeasy with a gastropub menu underneath Duckworth’s in Uptown

Why we love it: It’s the best of both worlds under one roof. The upper level has a sports bar feel with tons of TVs while the lower level has dim-lighting and a more intimate feel.

What we’re drinking: The Cellar Smash ($14) — Vodka, ginger, herbal flavor, citrus, elderflower.

The Cellar at Duckworth

Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios


The Crunkleton

Whiskey-forward cocktail bar and restaurant in Elizabeth

Why we love it: The original Crunkleton in Chapel Hill garnered national attention for its Prohibition-era cocktails. This location just builds on that with a top-notch food menu to match.

What we’re drinking: Penicillin ($15), made with whiskey, ginger, wildflower honey and lemon.

Membership: $10/year

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bartender-serving-cocktail-at-the-crunkleton


Dilworth Tasting Room

Wine bar in a historic 1940s-era building with a courtyard garden

Why we love it: The enchanting courtyard garden and outdoor bar feel like a faraway secret escape right in the heart of Dilworth.

What we’re drinking: Cucumber Fresco ($14) – Your choice of vodka or gin, cucumber juice, mint syrup and lime juice.


Dot Dot Dot

Prohibition-style speakeasy in an old storage unit behind Park Road Shopping Center

Why we love it: The unique atmosphere and exclusive vibe thanks to its location.

What we’re drinking: A classic Old Fashioned with Elijah Craig 10-year bourbon, bitters, sugar, orange and cherry served over ice.

Membership: $10/year.

stefan huebner dot dot dot

Co-owner and bartender Stefan Huebner

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Most popular Dot Dot Dot cocktails: Lily Wants a Pony ($12, left) and their Old Fashioned ($14, right).


Elsewhere

Craft cocktail bar from the Wooden Robot CEO, Josh Patton

Why we love it: The drink menu has a few core drinks but also has a rotating selection of cocktails inspired by a specific region or theme.

What we’re drinking: All aboard to Lake Louise ($15) – It’s made with empress gin, st. Germaine, lime, soda and garnished with mint.

Membership: $10/year

Elsewhere Cocktail Bar

All aboard to Lake Louise cocktail. Photo: Emma Way/Axios


Fahrenheit

Charlotte’s go-to destination for showing off the city to out-of-towners.

Why we love it: The evening atmosphere is a major draw, but be sure to come back for their rooftop brunch on Sundays from 11am to 2:30pm.

What we’re drinking: Girls Just Wanna Have Rum ($20) – Plantation pineapple rum, lemon juice, ginger honey syrup, fresh pineapple, fresh ginger topped with a pineapple slice.

Fahrenheit Rooftop

Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios


Haberdish

Southern-inspired restaurant in the heart of NoDa with a beautiful large bar area

Why we love it: Innovative plates and drinks.

What we’re drinking: The Fruit Loops Mimosa. It’s made with house-made citrus cordial, Galliano herb and lavender liqueur and Cava brut.

Group cocktail: If you’re dining with a group, consider ordering the Happy Go Lucky Champagne Punch ($12/$25/$52) — champagne, vodka, gin, lime juice, grapefruit-blood orange tea syrup.

haberdish pandemic cocktail kit

Haberdish punch bowl. Photo courtesy of Jamie Brown.


Idlewild

Customize a cocktail to your liking with expert recommendations behind the bar

Why we love it: Here, the bartenders know what you’re going to order before you do. Just tell them your spirit of choice, and what your ideal palate is, and they’ll make you a one-of-a-kind cocktail. It has a dark, speakeasy vibe designed for a nightcap or an intimate date.

What we’re drinking: Whatever the bartender makes us. We’ve never had a bad drink here.

Background: Owner Vince Chirico chose to operate without a set drink menu, opting instead to let bartenders drive a custom experience according to a guest’s general taste preferences.

  • This style of bartending is an ode to famed bars in New York City like Milk & Honey and Raines Law Room, where Chirico worked as lead bartender.

Membership:  Idlewild operates as a private club so you’ll pay $1 for membership the first time you visit.

idlewild cocktail bar in charlotte

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This Penicillin is topped with a traditional float of Laphroaig — a single malt scotch.


Merchant & Trade

Chic rooftop bar on the 19th floor of the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel

Why we love it: It’s Uptown’s swankiest rooftop with views overlooking Romare Bearden Park and Truist Field. The flexible, indoor/outdoor space features an indoor bar with floor-to-ceiling windows, an outdoor covered terrace, a semi-private VIP section and a sprawling “lawn” with a retractable roof.

What we’re drinking:

  • M&T Ol’ Fashion ($14) – Wild turkey 101 bourbon, Demerara Syrup, Angostura and orange bitters
  • Pink Slip ($16) – Ketel One vodka, ashwagandha, tangerine, hibiscus, rosehip, fresh lemon, Peychaud’s bitters and prosecco

Pro tip: In the winter, rent out their impeccably designed igloos.

Of note: There is a dress code and typically a line to get in.

Read more: 13 best rooftop bars in Charlotte

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The Royal Tot

Two-story tropical-themed bar that’s a true urban oasis

Why we love it: There are great skyline views from the upstairs patio coined “The Bird’s Nest.”

Fun fact: Royal Tot has Charlotte’s largest selection of rums.

What we’re drinking: Mango Tango ($16) – Silver Rum, Blanco tequila, mango, passionfruit and hibiscus.

The Royal Tot

The Royal Tot. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios


Sophia’s Lounge

Regal cocktail lounge at The Ivey’s Hotel

Why we love it: The space is outfitted with opulent crystal and gold decor, statement chandeliers and unique artwork. Catch it on a good weather day when the windows overlooking 5th Street are open.

What we’re drinking: The Crown – Queen Charlotte Rum, fresh lemon juice, pineapple juice and vanilla-honey syrup.

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Soul Gastrolounge

Cozy date night spot in the heart of Plaza Midwood

Why we love it: The intimate, no-reservations space drips cool with resident DJs spinning every night of the week. Plus, it’s a landmark restaurant for many Charlotte couples’ relationship milestones.

What we’re drinking: Skull Island – Plantation Pineapple Rum, Campari, Lillet Blanc, Saline and Banana Coconut Foam.

Pro tip: Inside Soul’s downstairs sister restaurant — appropriately named Sister — you’ll find Tattoo, a teeny speakeasy-style cocktail bar.

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Pork belly tacos are a must-order small plate at Soul.

inside-soul-gastrolounge cocktails

Soul’s beverage program is led by Kel Minton.


Spindle Bar

All-day cocktail bar at Optimist Hall

Why we love it: Fun setting for casual cocktails with friends.

What we’re drinking: Optimist Old Fashioned ($11) – bourbon, Benedictine and chocolate bitter.

Spindle Bar Margarita

Photo courtesy of Spindle Bar.


Supperland

Classy Southern steakhouse with an adjoining cocktail bar and basement speakeasy

Why we love it: Can’t snag a reservation at Supperland? Try the cocktail bar next door. The decor channels spring and the drinks are ever-rotating thanks to an expert team behind the bar.

What we’re drinking: The Jeffery – Made with El Jimador Blanco Tequila, Aperol, house-made grapefruit soda, lime and salt.

Pro tip: Reserve tickets for Supperland’s downstairs speakeasy for a true drinking and dining experience. Tickets for the tasting menu are usually around $115, and the space only holds 10 people so they go fast.

Related Axios story: 5 quick takeaways from my first visit to Supperland

tequila cocktails at supperland

The Jeffery cocktail at Supperland.

The Speakeasy at Supperland. Photo: Emma Way/Axios


*Editor’s note: This guide was first published in August of 2018 and was last updated in March of 2022.

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"It's good. I promise." - Emma   Emma Way