North Carolina has had a long history of distilling.
From mountain moonshiners to city speakeasies, imbibing locally crafted spirits is practically a state tradition.
But when the state’s first legal distillery opened in 2005, indulging in a locally sourced cocktail became much more enjoyable – and, well, legal.
With the state now awash in distilleries producing well-crafted spirits, we’ve found Charlotte’s top 10 cocktails for drinking local.
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The SouthPark Mule ($10)
If ever a drink epitomized a restaurant, this is it. Known for its farm-fresh fare, Rooster’s is an upscale favorite in the SouthPark neighborhood. This sophisticated drink made with Covington vodka, white wine and elderflower offers a bright, floral flavor. And expect to taste the vodka, which is made with locally grown sweet potatoes in eastern North Carolina, and features a subtle hint of yam.
Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen SouthPark, 6601 Morrison Blvd. 704-366-8688; www.roosterskitchen.com.
Heirloom Old Fashioned ($12)
At Mountain Island Lake’s Heirloom Restaurant, all of the spirits are local – which makes sense in a spot where the chef is dedicated to using North Carolina purveyors and often even forages for his ingredients. Heirloom’s twist on a classic Old Fashioned features Cardinal Barrel Rested Gin in place of the traditional whiskey. The Kings Mountain-made gin offers a distinct juniper flavor, which mixes well with the house-made bitters for a smooth drink.
Heirloom Restaurant, 8470 Bellhaven Blvd. 704-595-7710; www.heirloomrestaurantnc.com.
The Rudy ($10)
Some days you’re just not in the mood for one of those egg-whites-are-practically-mandatory fancy cocktails. Enter The Rudy. At SouthPark’s Dogwood Southern Table & Bar, order this perfectly crafted version of a G&T. Made with North Carolina’s Cardinal Gin and South Carolina’s Jack Rudy tonic, it’s a fresh and tasty version of the favorite summer drink.
Dogwood Southern Table & Bar, 4905 Ashley Park Lane. 704-910-4919; http://dogwoodsoutherntable.com.
Tropical Storm Charlotte ($15)
Want to have the happiest happy hour? First, snag one of the tables on the breezy second-story patio of the chic uptown Halcyon restaurant. Second, order this sweet drink made with Queen Charlotte’s Reserve Carolina Rum, mint and simple syrup. Third, impress your companion with your knowledge of the rum, which comes from Belmont’s Muddy River, the state’s first legal rum distillery.
Halcyon, 500 S. Tryon St. 704-910-0865; www.halcyonflavors.com.
Blueberry Infused Moonshine Lemonade ($8)
There are 12 different moonshine cocktails on tap at Montford Drive’s Ten Park Lanes. So regardless of how well your game is going, you’ll likely enjoy your night at this retro bowling alley. For the brightest and booziest drink, opt for this version made with Junior Johnson’s blueberry infused Midnight Moon moonshine. Made in small batches in Madison, this a seriously Southern elixir.
Ten Park Lanes, 1700 Montford Drive. 704-523-7633; www.rollten.com.
Miso Daiquiri ($18)
Forget the days of blenders and colorful umbrellas. The Punch Room’s version of a daiquiri, created by mixologist extraordinaire Bob Peters, is as sleek and sophisticated as they come. Made with Queen Charlotte’s Reserve Rum from Belmont’s Muddy River distillery, as well as Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, fresh lime, fresh-pressed grilled grapefruit and housemade mint and miso syrup, this is a smooth citrus drink with a bright, minty finish.
The Punch Room, 201 E. Trade St., 15th Floor. 704-547-2244; www.ritzcarlton.com/en/properties/Charlotte.
Mystic Rain Forest ($13.50)
It would be hard to find a better view in town than the panoramic skyline from the rooftop at Fahrenheit. It would be even harder to find a better drink for enjoying that view than this dangerously delicious mix of Mystic Bourbon Liqueur, lemongrass, lemon juice, simple syrup and sage. The liqueur, which is made in Durham, offers a rich bourbon flavor that pairs perfectly with the fragrant lemongrass and sage.
Fahrenheit, 222 S. Caldwell St. 980-237-6718; www.chefroccowhalen.com/fahrenheit-charlotte.
Salty Pup ($12)
With warm nights officially here to stay, you’re likely craving an ice-cold concoction with vibrant citrus flavors. Look no farther than The Asbury, where you’ll find an original version of the classic Salty Dog cocktail. This summery drink is made with Chapel Hill’s TOPO Vodka, as well as fresh grapefruit, simple syrup and a grapefruit sugar rim. Sip slowly – this one is as potent as it is pleasurable.
The Asbury, 235 N. Tryon St. 704-342-1193; www.theasbury.com.
Carolina Peach Mai Tai ($9)
Consider this your “staycation.” Trade in the flight reservations for a dinner reservations at Tupelo Honey Café and order up a round of this fruity drink. Made with Belmont’s Muddy River Carolina White Rum, Triple Sec, and a housemade fruit punch, this cocktail is a trip straight to the tropics.
Tupelo Honey, 1820 South Blvd. 980-225-9175; www.tupelohoneycafe.com/location/charlotte.
Mount McKinley ($12)
Dilworth’s The Summit Room features seven cocktails named after the world’s tallest seven summits, including Alaska’s Mount McKinley – the only U.S. summit of the group. Which makes it fitting that this drink is as American as apple pie. Or, more specifically, this drink is made with Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Apple Pie moonshine. Shaken in are housemade North Carolina honey and lemon syrup, apple juice and maple syrup to create a sweet and boozy drink ideal for sipping on the restaurant’s front porch.
The Summit Room, 1531 East Blvd. 980-237-2227; www.thesummitrm.com.