From trendy rooftop cocktails and mocktails to locally crafted brews, Wilmington offers something to suit your beverage of choice complemented by all the beautiful views the coastal destination has to offer. Read on for a guide to unique craft drinks and brews in this vibrant riverfront city.
From Rooftop to Riverside
Located right on the Cape Fear River, Wilmington is home to breweries and bars that boast exceptional views. Overlooking the river from the seventh floor of the new Aloft Wilmington at Coastline Center, aView Rooftop Bistro offers unique craft cocktails complemented by a constantly evolving menu of savory sharables like fresh oysters, charcuterie plates and sliders with fries. Try the Purple Heart, a mesmerizing concoction featuring Ketel One Vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, shimmery pomegranate and lime juice. Or, sample the Carolina Girl, featuring Hendricks Gin, Aperol and prosecco with charred rosemary syrup and lemon juice.
Cloud 9 is another trendy rooftop bar where you can sip on one of 22 local brews on tap or a one-of-a-kind craft cocktail as you watch the sunset paint the sky pink. Try the Fire & Flames with tequila, mango, cayenne, fresh lime and ginger beer, or the Bullet with Butterfly Wings, combining bourbon with flavors of pear, honey, ginger and lemon. Or, forgo the alcohol with an In Bloom, a mocktail featuring refreshing hits of cucumber, lime and mint complemented by a floral non-alcoholic spirit. If those don’t strike your fancy, there’s plenty more on the menu. Pair your unique drink with a savory bite like the Pimento & Blue Crab Dip.
The cocktails at Sauce’d are just begging to be Instagrammed. Choose from photogenic signature craft cocktails like the Forbidden Fruit featuring cardinal gin and flavors of blood orange, lemon and Maui hibiscus, or the Black Rose with Bedlam vodka, blackberry puree and flavors of lime and sage. You’ll want to snap a pic of the Tree Hill Project that features cape fear gin, fresh lemon and elderberry served in a bird-shaped glass. Ideally located on the scenic Riverwalk, you can sip on a delicious creation while enjoying beautiful river views.
Floating on the water right off the Riverwalk, Anne Bonny’s Bar and Grill serves up signature cocktails – frozen or on the rocks – and their infamous frozen rosé, blended with strawberry or peach puree. Cool off with a frozen Dreamsicle cocktail featuring orange vodka and vanilla ice cream, sip on a Watermelon Margarita with watermelon puree, fresh lime juice, Cuervo Silver and sour, or choose something else entirely.
Not Your Mama’s Cocktails
Escape the mundane in speakeasies and bars specializing in craft cocktails. manna ave. 123’s in-house mixologists use only using the freshest and finest fruits and herbs available to create one-of-a-kind drinks. The AAA Four-Diamond restaurant’s award-winning cocktail menu is always changing, so there is something new to try every time you visit.
An extension of manna ave. 123, Earnest Money & Sons is an understated, exclusive speakeasy and cocktail lounge. The upscale atmosphere is a product of the one-time “membership fee” and promises a truly exceptional experience. Try a sophisticated craft cocktail from the menu, or ask the talented bartender to craft a custom drink just for you.
Step back in time as you walk into The Blind Elephant, a 1920s Prohibition-style speakeasy tucked away in a quiet alley. Choose from signature elixirs on the chalkboard menu crafted by mixologists or opt for a classic bourbon cocktail. If you’re in the mood for a fancy drink minus the added alcohol, opt for a mocktail like Bella’s Blues featuring blueberries, orange blossom honey, lemon juice and house-made ginger beer. Play some pool while classic films flicker on the exposed brick wall and enjoy live jazz piano four nights a week.
Whiskey lovers definitely won’t want to miss Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but even non-whiskey drinkers will find something to love at this laid-back bar that specializes in craft cocktails. Sample one of the more than 30 single malt whiskeys or get your whiskey fix with a craft cocktail like a Cedar Smoked Old Fashioned or Rhubarb Reverse Manhattan. For a different kind of treat, try the signature Cotton Candy Martini or Lemon Meringutong.
Brews with Character
Beer-lovers fret not because Wilmington is home to plenty of breweries for those so inclined, one of which is Flytrap Brewing. Named for the native Venus Flytrap, this dog-friendly brewery offers small-batch beers, in addition to wine, kombucha and craft sodas. Settle down on the outdoor patio with live music on the weekends as you try a craft beer like the crisp and refreshing Belgian Blonde or a seasonal option like the intensely fruity Dry-Hopped Sour with Yuzu.
As Wilmington’s original restaurant and brewery, Front Street Brewery offers its own award-winning craft brews and light appetizers in its third-floor tap room or on the dog-friendly patio. Sample a seasonal beer like the Java the Hutt, an imperial porter brewed with French vanilla coffee for a latte-like brew with sweet mocha notes. Or, try a flagship beer like the Coastal Pilsner, a crisp golden pilsner that is light and easy to drink with a punchy finish. The brewery also boasts the area’s largest bourbon and whiskey selection, which can be enjoyed by the glass or in a flight.
Carrying the name of the infamous pirate better known as Blackbeard, Edward Teach Brewing is housed in a 100-year-old former firehouse that today has a pirate theme with a ship-shaped bar on the first floor. Sample a flight of beers or indulge in a staple draft, like the Teaches Peaches Peach Wheat, Scullywag Session IPA, Cutlass German Lager or Black Spot Black Lager.
Waterline Brewing Co. offers tours and tastings at its dog-friendly taproom located in a 1940s warehouse under the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. Bring the whole family along for outside games like corn hole and sip on a flagship ale or pick a seasonable brew from the chalkboard draft list. There’s something for every beer lover here, from the German Kolsch and American Pale Ale to the Oatmeal Stout and the Belgian Tripel.
These breweries, bars and speakeasies not only promise one-of-a-kind craft cocktails and brews, but also one-of-a-kind experiences. Shake things up and take a trip to Wilmington to discover the bustling craft beer and drink scene. Check out even more specialty sips in our nearby island beaches – Carolina and Wrightsville.