Eat & Drink

Charlotte Pours: The Ultimate Cocktail Primer

Whether it’s taking a shaken-or-stirred class, visiting a distillery or simply ordering a drink that’s not only tasty but enthusiastically made, here’s how to explore Charlotte’s cocktail culture.

It doesn’t take much training to pour a cold beer or a chilled glass of Riesling, but making a craft cocktail is an art—and local mixologists have it perfected. We’ve distilled three popular options for experiencing Charlotte’s craft cocktail culture. Salud!

Order a Drink

Skip the beer and wine lists and head straight for the cocktail menus at notable restaurants and cocktail bars where classic and creative drinks generate big buzz.

Something Old

Order an old fashioned, sidecar, Manhattan, negroni or Moscow mule at Soul Gastrolounge, Dot Dot Dot or Heirloom where bartenders have mastered the art of mixing up classic cocktails.

Something New

For inventive cocktails and concoctions you’ve never tried before, head to Haberdish, a former general-store-turned-restaurant that serves beverages made with staple ingredients like milk, honey, salt and pepper. BBQ Apple Milk Punch includes mescal, gin, apple brandy and apple cider syrup clarified with milk, while The Local Melon features vodka, watermelon juice, lime juice, sweet basil bitters and cracked black pepper.

Something Borrowed

Drinks at The Punch Room in The Ritz Carlton, Charlotte take on a decidedly culinary feel, thanks to the vast array of ingredients used. The craft cocktail menu at the Uptown hot spot changes seasonally but always emphasizes small-batch spirits and locally sourced fruits, vegetables and herbs. Namesake punches such as Top of the Hill Punch, made with gin, Champagne, blackberries, rosemary, lemon and Earl Grey tea, are designed to be shared.

Take a Tour

Indulge your love of imbibing by going straight to the source, where you can meet the folks who make your favorite beverages and see what goes into creating a craft spirit.

Sip and See

Local distilleries like Doc Porter’s Distillery, Dragon Moonshine Company, Great Wagon Road Distilling Company, Seven Jars Distillery and Muddy River Distillery offer tours and tastings for behind-the-scenes looks at what it takes to produce craft spirits ranging from moonshine and vodka to rum and rua. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the craftsmanship that went into making your favorite spirits.

Taste Test

Sampling craft cocktails is also an essential part of the experience on local food tours. The three-hour Unwind and Dine in Historic South End tour offered through FEAST Food Tours stops at six popular neighborhood hot spots. You’ll get the inside scoop on what makes each restaurant and recipe special while sampling amazing foods and craft beverages. Taste Carolina also features craft cocktails on their culinary tours.

Sign Up for a Class

If sampling local libations has you thirsting to up your own craft cocktail game, a mixology class may be the answer.

Shake It Off

Learn to mix, shake, stir and pour a range of adult beverages in hands-on classes offered through Liberate Your Palate. The two-hour classes cover the basics, from choosing bar tools and mastering basic skills such as muddling, mixing and garnishing to choosing ingredients. Earl’s Grocery hosts hands-on cocktail classes through its Mixology Lab. Top Charlotte mixologist Bob Peters, the creative force behind the craft cocktail menu at The Punch Room, leads the themed classes. Heirloom Restaurant also offers cocktail classes.

Join the Club

The Whiskey Club of Ballantyne at The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte is not a hands-on class but the monthly events, which include tastings from the impressive collection of whiskeys featured on the restaurant menu, emphasize education. Sample single malts, small batch bourbons and flagship whiskeys from around the world while learning about their origins and flavor profiles.