Living Here Guide

10 best cocktail bars in Charlotte

Colleen Hughes crafts a cocktail at The Crepe Cellar.
Colleen Hughes crafts a cocktail at The Crepe Cellar. CharlotteFive file photo

Looking to start -- or end -- an evening out on the town with a well-thought-out beverage? You’ve got options. Here are 10 spots where creative Charlotte mixologists are doing cocktails right.

Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub; 3116 N. Davidson St., Charlotte.

The cocktail program at Crepe Cellar was perfected by self-taught cocktail creator Colleen Hughes. Look for both riffs on classic cocktails and cocktails that are being turned into sensory experiences with ingredients like essential oils. “As opposed to it just being a drink,” Hughes said, “it’s a sensation, along with a drink.”

Pro tip: You can also find Colleen's cocktails down the street at Haberdish.

Stoke Charlotte; 100 W. Trade St., Charlotte.

Experience hand-crafted cocktails at Stoke Charlotte’s sleek dining area and bar inside the revamped Marriott City Center. The libations menu features a list of cocktail styles including stirred, shaken, poured and pressed.

Pro tip: Order the Stoke house pretzel brioche with whipped butter or the one-pound doughnut to split while you sip.

Cocktail in the making at Stoke Charlotte. Photo by Molly Mathis, Charlotte Obse
DiSean Burns, bar manager at Stoke Bar at the Marriott City Center, makes a drink. Molly Mathis

Sophia’s Lounge; 127 N. Tryon St., Suite D, Charlotte.

The key players behind 5Church, Alejandro Torio, Patrick Whalen and Chef Jamie Lynch, opened this upscale bar and lounge right next door to the restaurant. They teamed up with Charleston mixologist Patricia Smith to bring the chic lounge to the ground level of The Ivey’s hotel, complete with vintage touches, a Parisian flair, food, drinks and craft cocktails.

Pro tip: Have a seat on a velvet sofa and admire the expensive art while you drink.

Dot Dot Dot; 4101 Park Road, #260B, Charlotte.

You'll need to buy a $10 membership before you venture through the door of this cocktail parlor envisioned by Conrad Hunter (owner of Foxcroft Wine Co.) and Stefan Huebner (formerly of Cosmos Cafe and Heist Brewery) in Park Road Shopping Center’s Backlot. Grab a seat in the low-lit dining area or expansive bar and try a craft cocktail at this culinary-driven bar.

Pro tip: Try the Truffle New York Sour, crafted with Kentucky bourbon, orange liqueur, truffle egg white, house sweet and sour, and ruby port.

Cocktail at Dot Dot Dot. Photo by James Fedele
A beautiful concoction at Dot Dot Dot. James Fedele

The Punch Room; 201 East Trade St., Charlotte.

Here, on the 15th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, bartender Bob Peters' concoctions sound like magical elixirs. A dash of exotic bitters here, a splash of infused syrup there, now carbonate this and smoke that. Watching Peters behind the bar feels like getting a glimpse of a mad scientist in his laboratory.

Pro tip: Tell the bartender the flavors you like and see what gets whipped up. Surprise yourself.

Bob Peters at The Punch Room. Photo by Robert Lahser, Charlotte Observer file
Bob Peters, head mixologist at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte’s The Punch Room, pours “The Last Word” – a drink made with Cardinal barrel rested gin. Robert Lahser

Gallery Bar; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy., Charlotte.

This elegant, art-infused space within The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge features an array of wines, single malt Scotches, whiskeys and cocktails. And the Gallery offers more than 200 distinctive whiskeys.

Pro tip: You can also order off the complete Gallery Restaurant menu here, featuring a progressively Southern approach to new American cuisine with an upscale spin.

French Revolution at Gallery Restaurant. Photo by Gallery Restaurant
The French Revolution at Gallery Restaurant. Ray Sepesy Gallery Restaurant

204 North Kitchen & Cocktails; 204 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.

Sip a cocktail in this remodeled 1928 structure that features a bright, industrial-chic vibe with Edison bulbs, and a metal and glass chandelier that dangles from the second floor. 204 North has the kind of casual atmosphere where someone in a T-shirt could be sitting at a table next to someone in a sport coat – and both can be drinking a signature or draft cocktail.

Pro tip: Try a cocktail with a neighborhood name. Do you ever wonder what “Dilworth” tastes like?

The Cellar at Duckworth’s; 330 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.

This speakeasy-style space holds a soft, golden glow and an air of exclusivity with its limited seating. Opt for an extravagant cocktail, whether you're in the mood for a Moscow mule or a signature mix.

Pro tip: Don't just come for the drinks. Try the gastropub fare on the chef-driven menu.

The Broken Spoke; 227 Southside Dr., Charlotte.

This relaxed space is intended to invoke a warm, familiar vibe (think leather-couch seating). The bar serves up handcrafted spirits made in the copper stills at Great Wagon Road Distilling next door, as well as spirits from around the globe.

Pro tip: This is a private club. Join here for just $1.

Soul Gastrolounge; 1500-B Central Ave., Charlotte.

This funky Plaza Midwood spot was stirring up innovative cocktails before most of the other places on this list were even open. Choose a drink from the ever-changing cocktail menu then snag a spot on the patio or head inside and groove to a local DJ.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to eat. Soul has a wide selection of sushi and tapas like Lamb Lollipops and Dirty South Nachos with fried chicken skins and pimento cheese.