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Good Spirits

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/13/05/5gQbJ.Em.138.jpeg|237
    David T. Foster III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Bartender Blake Pope of Soul Gastrolounge makes the drink, Strange Negroni, made with Hendrick's Gin, Lillet Blanc, and Aperol, on February 26, 2013. David T. Foster III-dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/13/05/40D8t.Em.138.jpeg|467
    ADAM JENNINGS - ADAM JENNINGS
    Pisces bartender Bob Peters prepares a Blueberry Soju Sake Martini cocktail at Pisces on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. ADAM JENNINGS

The cocktail craze that has intoxicated the rest of the country has finally spilled over into some of Charlotte’s top restaurants and bars. From artisanal ingredients to classic creations with a twist, local mixologists are making a boozy splash. We’ve found the 10 top spots around town for toasting the trend with the latest libations.

Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth (500 S. Tryon St.) : Locavores are in luck at this sleek uptown destination. Here, mixologist Maggie Ruppert works her magic with ingredients like North Carolina’s Covington Sweet Potato Vodka and local fruits and honey. The menu, which changes seasonally, offers innovative creations like the Queen to Bee, a sweet-meets-floral drink made with Earl Grey-infused local gin, honey, lavender and a splash of Charleston, S.C.’s famed Jack Rudy Tonic. www.halcyonflavors.com.

Fern, Flavors From the Garden (1323 Central Ave.) : While you’ll find Maggie Ruppert behind the bar at Halcyon, the talented mixologist also invented the latest libations for its sister restaurant, Fern. Each drink follows in the restaurant’s vegetarian vein with options like the vegan Fellini, a spirited mix of organic vodka, bee balm leaf, watermelon pepper and Prosecco. www.fernflavors.com.

e2 emeril’s eatery (135 Levine Avenue of the Arts) : This spicy spot offering southern and Cajun cuisine, has plenty of inventive cocktails for cooling down. Plus, its quiet street-front patio may be the city’s best-kept secret for post-work drinks and bites. For a fresh drink with a Southern twist, try the Prickly Moon, made with moonshine, prickly pear juice, hibiscus syrup, lime juice and maraschino liqueur. www.emerilsrestaurants.com/e2-emerils-eatery.

Block & Grinder (2935 Providence Road) : This restaurant is a relative newbie on the scene, but its classic cocktails have become fast favorites. Pull up a stool at the small, L-shaped bar to sample traditional offerings like an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Mint Julep or Dark & Stormy. Feeling adventurous? Order the bright green and bracing Gin Basil Smash, which has vibrant flavors of gin, basil and lemon. www.blockandgrinder.com.

Vivace (1100 Metropolitan Ave.) : If the Greenway-side patio with its skyline views isn’t enough to tempt you in for a tipple at this Midtown Italian restaurant, perhaps its house-made cellos will do the trick. While options like a Mojito Italiano with lime cello and fresh mint are tasty, the upscale spot’s Aperol Spritz may be the most refreshing drink in town. Made with Aperol, orange cello, and soda, the bubbly cocktail is perfect for warm nights. www.vivacecharlotte.com.

5 Church (corner of Fifth and Church streets) : If you’re looking for a swank spot to sip your spirits among the see-and-be-seen crowd, this uptown restaurant’s long bar is the place. Settle in under one of the feathery white chandeliers and order expertly crafted options like the spicy Viper, a mix of Patron, orange liqueur, cucumber water and cayenne pepper, or the fruity Bourberry made with Jim Beam, raspberry liqueur and muddled raspberries. www.5church.com.

Good Food on Montford (1701 Montford Drive) : Sure, they have a well-curated wine list, perfect for pairing with their tasty small plates. And yes, the craft beer list is unexpectedly diverse and locally sourced. But a dinner here demands at least one cocktail. Start with the Mint Julep made with house-smoked Bulleit Bourbon and served icy cold, or end your evening with the Hot Chocolate, a creamy creation made with dark chocolate, chilies, spices and vanilla vodka. www.goodfoodonmontford.com.

Heist Brewery (2909 N. Davidson St.) : Diners at this bastion of beer may not arrive expecting some of the city’s sexiest cocktails, but with one of its most notable mixologists behind the bar, that’s exactly what they’ll find. Veteran bartender Stefan Huebner had been stirring up Charlotte’s drink scene for years before landing at this NoDa brewpub. While there are classics, Huebner has created a provocative, ever-evolving list of libations, including a 100 percent organic cocktail made with locally sourced vodka and kombucha tea. www.heistbrewery.com.

Soul Gastrolounge (1500 Central Ave.) : Maybe it’s that it’s tucked away on the second floor, or maybe it’s the dim lighting and exposed brick walls – whatever the case, this Plaza Midwood restaurant gives off a distinctly speakeasy vibe. The ambience corresponds with mixologist Andy Maurer’s handcrafted cocktails featuring unexpected ingredients, such as the Vikingsblood, which incorporates egg whites, cinnamon syrup and port into a heady spiced rum concoction. www.soulgastrolounge.com.

Pisces Sushi Bar (1100 Metropolitan Ave.) : While you’ll occasionally find mixologist Bob Peters behind the bar at Soul, Pisces is the talented mixer’s home base for creating his gorgeous – and potent – elixirs. The menu’s bright drinks made with sparkling sake may seem the most fitting for pairing with sushi, but don’t skip the classic Sazerac. Bulleit Rye Bourbon, absinth, housemade simple syrup, bitters, a lemon twist and Peters’ deft touch make this one of the best drinks in the city. www.piscessushi.com.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

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