Whether you like them shaken or stirred, on the rocks or dirty, here are the go-to spots in Charlotte for a great cocktail.
Related guide: 50 best bars in Charlotte, ranked
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
*Editor’s note: This guide was first published in August of 2018 and was last updated in March of 2022.