15 Places to Get a Cocktail in Charlotte
The Queen City’s cocktail scene is blowing up, from hidden speakeasies to an unsuspecting tiki bar.
by Hayden Pigott
Mixology is a science, and Charlotte’s bartenders are crafting indulgent concoctions. From herbaceous G&Ts to aromatic Manhattans and everything in between, find your perfect drink at these Queen City cocktail bars.
Lounges with Libations
Neighborhood: South End
Located under South End’s iconic water tower, this bar has custom ice cubes and an on-trend drink called Girl Dinner that’s a must-sip. Hibiscus-infused gin is mixed with the French aperitif, Suze, along with lemon juice and simple syrup, then topped with champagne and a grapefruit peel.
This NoDa tavern is intimate — you can’t make reservations for parties larger than six — and has no menu. How, you may ask? Idlewild makes the drams to your preferences, crafting something creative for your palate no matter what liquor era you’re in.
Named after Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, there’s a room in this upscale cocktail lounge with an exceptional gallery wall and a plush blue-velvet couch. Made with vodka, apple cider and ginger beer, the Your Highness should be on your list to try.
Uptown’s Ritz Carlton secrets away what’s referred to as a “drinking den inspired by the 19th-century speakeasies of yesteryear.” Those in the know order the signature punch, a full ceramic bowl adorned with a giant ice cube, fresh fruit and flowers that are grown on the hotel’s roof.
Neighborhood: South End
Hidden behind SouthBound, make your way to old-school phone, pick it up and say the secret word — don’t worry, it’s posted on Instagram. BackStage Lounge regularly changes its menu for the seasons. Halloween brings the Black Lagoon and December sees festive holiday beverages during the Miracle pop-up.
Built in 1912, this space in Uptown is home to mixologists and craft-beer experts. The Cellar at Duckworth’s sources ingredients from local farms, so the menus can change depending on the season. Sip on a Sazerac to really feel in tune with the space’s history.
You wouldn’t suspect Park Road Shopping Center to be hiding a members-only bar. Try the Hot Box cocktail with single-barrel bourbon, scotch, sweet vermouth and chili bitters. It’s placed in a wooden box with pecan-wood smoke and tastes wild on the tongue.
Downtown Belmont’s newest drinking venue is a members-only speakeasy that hosts tastings with expert mixologists and pop-culture-themed parties — most recently “Peaky Blinders,” “Hamilton” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The menu is ever-changing but is heavily influenced by prohibition-era spirits.
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood
Most don’t know that there’s a reservation-only speakeasy tucked away in the basement of Supperland. The speakeasy hosts events like “A Vulcan & a Jedi Walk into a Bar” that pairs four cocktails with dishes from the restaurant’s well-known kitchen that are unique to the experience.
Vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur and simple syrup are mixed to make an epic Queen City Grounds espresso martini that pairs excellently with this Uptown restaurant’s chocolate mousse cake. 204’s other signature cocktails include the 704 Gimlet, made with your choice of 704 gin or Salamander vodka.
The Crunkleton’s bespoke interior offers a chance to escape day-to-day life with a classic cocktail. With a 21-page spirits menu, you must taste this Elizabeth restaurant’s barrel-aged Old Fashioned or try one of Gary Crunkleton’s concoctions like the Elderflower Sour. Get a reservation for Tomahawk Tuesday, when the 42-ounce CAB ribeye is half the price.
NoDa’s Southern kitchen does group cocktails like the What’s the Tea? Blackberry Punch, made with vodka, Krupnikas, Cardamaro, blackberry-thyme-earl gray syrup, lemon and grapefruit juice and soda, that are phenomenal when matched with fried chicken thighs and pearl-sugar liege waffles at weekend brunch on the covered patio.
Reservations are required to witness the incredible sunset views of Charlotte’s skyline at Fahrenheit. Order a Jalapeño Bidness, which features tequila, orange Cognac, pineapple, jalapeño, lime juice, agave, dehydrated Tajín pineapple and dried chile. It will set your mouth on fire in the best way.
Located atop the Kimtpon Tryon Park, Merchant & Trade oozes cool vibes. With a bright yellow bar, fire pits and a view overlooking Truist Field, it’s an only-in-Charlotte experience. Order the truffle fries and a Rosemary's Baby featuring gin, Aperol, lemon and grapefruit juice, house-made rosemary simple syrup and plum bitters.
Neighborhood: Belmont, Charlotte
Tucked into an old warehouse, with excellent views of Uptown, this tiki bar feels like you’ve entered an island rum shack. Split a Whole Pineapple, which is an actual pineapple filled with high-proof rum, spiced rum, gin, Pimms, vermouth, lime juice, bitters and nutmeg, with your bestie.