Drink in Sights and Scenic Views

From local breweries and craft cocktails to drinks with a view, libations abound in Wilmington and our Island Beaches. Immerse yourself in the bar scene known for its locales as much as its craft beer and cocktails as you enjoy drinks with a view on the Riverwalk or take a self-guided tour along the Wilmington Ale Trail to explore one of the country’s fastest-growing craft beer hotspots. Here are the wine, beer and unique cocktail spots you must visit during your stay.

Read on or browse the full list of local libation hot spots.


Craft Cocktails

You can find a spot to grab a cocktail pretty much anywhere these days. But according to locals, what sets Wilmington’s coastal craft cocktail scene apart is its lack of big-city pretension, strong focus on creativity, fresh ingredients and unique locations, including killer waterfront views, intimate and rustic speakeasies and historic buildings.

Sip on unique takes on classic cocktails at The Blind Elephant, a 1920’s Prohibition speakeasy tucked away in a hidden alley. To enter, knock and purchase your $1 membership card for entry. Once you’re inside, choose from cocktails written on a blackboard and a selection of bourbons or moonshine. Jazz up your evening with live piano held every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Indulge in award-winning drinks by the talented mixologists at manna ave. 123. The AAA Four Diamond restaurant curates a list of exceptional wines and spirits from around the world. Cocktails are taken very seriously here and use the finest and freshest ingredients available including fruits and a selection of herbs. The menu is ever-changing, so don’t spend your time getting hooked on a favorite! The minds behind manna ave. 123 also own Earnest Money & Sons. The quintessential private club for members ($24 to join) and their guests was opened to create an intimate cocktail spot and delivers refreshing, thoughtfully made libations, interesting wines and local and regional beers. For a night of entertainment, check out Bourgie Nights, located next to manna, for brilliant acoustics, live music and unique bar.

Return to the bygone era of glamour and gracious civility at Tails Piano Bar and Lounge. The sophisticated speakeasy, decorated with posh-appointed furnishings, hosts pianists known for playing their own songbooks and offers an outdoor patio with live music on Wednesday nights where the atmosphere is a little more relaxed. Visitors can expect to sample beautifully crafted cocktails that will transport them back to the days of Gershwin and Fitzgerald. To enter this bar located in a beautifully restored historic building, visitors must pay $1 for a year membership.

Enjoy hand-crafted cocktails at Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot – a rustic, relaxed bar that offers fun signature drinks like the Cotton Candy Martini, Margarita Boba and Adult Freezy Pops. Also on the menu, you’ll find 30 single malt whiskeys, craft beers, a rotating local snack selection and cigars.

Swing by for an afternoon tour and tasting or stop in for a late-night snack and nightcap at Front Street Brewery. The restaurant and bar has been honored as one of America’s Top Bourbon Bars by the Bourbon Review, thanks to the largest whiskey selection in the state of North Carolina.

Located in the heart of historic downtown, Dram + Morsel is a place where you can enjoy a classy cocktail, wonderful wine or balanced beer in an informal, community setting. Leave time to participate in signature events including Wine Dinners, Top Shelf Whisky Flight Nights and Live Music Fridays.

The Brooklyn Arts District is home to The District Kitchen & Cocktails, a polished but casual restaurant bar with a thoughtfully crafted wine, beer and cocktail list to complement the menu that’s based upon availability of fresh products. Try the Bee’s Knees made with Lond Dry Gin, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice and lavender bitters or the B.A.D Fashion that’s made with Maker’s Mark, Demarara Syrup, orange and burlesque bitters.

Toast a moment in our nation’s history at Rebellion NC that offers a selection of whiskeys celebrating the Whiskey Rebellion. Located in a restored historic building, visitors can select the beverage of their choice from a 28-tap local craft beer selection, extensive whiskey list and craft cocktails that salute our history, too, such as the Congress Hall and The Resistance – both made with bourbon and other liqueurs.

A 2018 OpenTable Diner’s Choice award winner, 1900 Restaurant & Lounge prides itself on its regional Americana style made using locally sourced products. Craft cocktails include variations of classic favorites like a Black Tie Martini, Cucumber Gimlet Martini and Watermelon Mojito. Enjoy a beverage on the restaurant’s seasonal patio or in the stylish dining area that seamlessly transforms into a first-class lounge with music from a DJ after 10 p.m.

Drinks with a View

Sip on craft cocktails with views of the WWII Battleship NORTH CAROLINA at Cloud 9. Located on the rooftop of the Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel in downtown Wilmington, Cloud 9 is one of the best spots in town to catch the sunset over the Cape Fear River. The hotspot features a number of craft cocktails, local brews (22 on tap), specialty mules and rosé, all of which can be paired with locally inspired small plates. Sample the frozen Crowd Control made with light rum, strawberry, fresh lime or Purple Rain that’s made with Tito’s vodka, hibiscus-elderberry syrup, local honey and lemon juice.

Sip on a cocktail on the water aboard a barge at Anne Bonny’s Bar and Grill. Wilmington’s only floating bar is named after the Irish pirate who worked under Jack Rantham and sailed along Wilmington’s waters. It’s an excellent place to soak up a sunset and views of the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. Enjoy a frozen cocktail (did someone say Sangria Slushie?!), hand-made cocktail (the Pirate Punch is a favorite), wine or beer.

Enjoy a nightcap at local watering hole Board & Barrel, located in the Hotel Ballast. Mixologists at this indoor and outdoor restaurant and bar create fresh original cocktails like the Wamax, made with Sombra mezcal, banana du bresil, coconut milk, lime, agave and salted grapefruit foam, and classics like the Old Fashioned. The outdoor patio invites patrons to enjoy a fire pit and live music on Fridays and Saturdays with sweeping views of the Cape Fear River and Battleship NORTH CAROLINA.

Rooftop views of the Cape Fear River and fun for everyone can be found at the Reel Café. You’ll find four bars, daily drink specials – including beer, wine and mixed drinks – and live music overlooking our historic downtown.

Located atop the iconic Masonic Lodge in the heart of historic downtown, The Rooftop Bar at North Front Theatre provides breathtaking, unobstructed views of the Cape Fear River. Grab a cold one or a refreshing cocktail to dance the night away to a DJ’s tunes or live music.

Watch boats float down the Cape Fear River while you savor cocktails, wine and beer at Elijah’s, Pilot House and The George. The three restaurants offer outdoor seating right on Wilmington’s Riverwalk that are the perfect spots to catch a sunset over the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA and sip on your beverage of choice.

Grab a craft beer, glass of vino or cocktail and enjoy the seasonal concerts outside of Marina Grill, located at Port City Marina near Pier 33 Entertainment Venue. Those who travel by boat can dock their vessel at the marina to pop in for a quick bite and drink. The restaurant and bar hosts signature events throughout the year including Springtime Yoga Pier Pressure and Mimosas and Music in the Outside.

Adventure to Smoke on the Water, a restaurant tucked away from Wilmington’s downtown in a spot just off the water. The restaurant’s deck offers large round tables perfect for large groups, cocktails and incredible sunset views. Don’t forget to walk along the pier over the water to snap a vacation photo to remember.

Waterfront drinks can also be found along the Intracoastal Waterway just across the bridge from Wrightsville Beach. Bridge Tender, Dockside and Fish House Grill all offer wine, beer and signature cocktails. And all three function as marinas, which means you can simply dock your boat for a well-deserved drink after a day on the water.

Craft Breweries

Wilmington has been named one of “America’s Beeriest Beach Towns” and was listed among the top five places to experience a “beery, beachside getaway” by CraftBeer.com. From solar-powered brews to a ship-shaped bar and a disc golf course, the area has a variety of unique breweries that will quench the taste buds of all beer drinkers. And if you are planning a beer-based getaway, why not do it at the coast!

To explore Wilmington’s 16 breweries, embark on a self-guided brewery tasting tour along the Wilmington Ale Trail. A guided map with brewery information, signature and seasonal brews is available to download here. The Wilmington Ale Trail Mobile Passport App unlocks experiences and perks at area breweries, bottleshops and beer hot spots alongside vouchers to use at participating locations, area brewery information and maps. If you’d rather enjoy a guided (non-walking) tour, hop aboard the Port City Brew Bus. The bus drives guests to several local breweries along the Wilmington Ale Trail. Each tour is designed to be fun, educational and appeal to everyone – not just craft beer aficionados. You’ll sample offerings from each brewery you visit, tour their facilities and gain an understanding of their brewing philosophy.

Indulging in a beer can be “good” for the environment, too. Recently named America’s favorite solar-powered microbrewery, Mad Mole Brewing is Wilmington’s first and only solar-powered brewery. Solar panels installed on the building’s roof use the sun’s rays to power the brewery’s seven-barrel system. Take some time to enjoy the sun yourself and sip on a signature beverage like the Marilyn MonMole, Darth Mole, Boston Mole Party or Raspberry Molay in the brewery’s outdoor, dog-friendly beer garden.

Flytrap Brewing pays homage to the Venus flytrap, a carnivorous plant whose only native habitat in the world can be found within a 60-mile radius of Wilmington and can be seen in the wild a short drive away at Carolina Beach State Park or at Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden. The brewery specializes in American- and Belgian-style ales with a constantly rotating draft list, while also educating visitors about the Venus flytrap, its shrinking habitats and ways to protect the plant from extinction. Located in Wilmington’s Brooklyn Arts District, Flytrap is not only a brewery but also a place where locals and visitors meet and mingle, artists display their works and live music can be heard every weekend. Food trucks are parked outside the brewery every Friday and Saturday like Pepe’s Tacos and Urban Street Eats.

Wilmington’s original brewery and restaurant, Front Street Brewery was founded in 1995 and has kept its award-winning beer flowing ever since! The brewpub took home nine medals during the Carolina Championship for Beer in 2018 for its Amberjack ESB, Port City IPA, Slainte Irish Red, Afterglow Vienna Lager, Spring Brew, Coastal Kolsch, Sinful Stout, Papa Don’t Peach Sour and Henry Helles Boch! Swing by for an afternoon tour and tasting or stop in for a late-night snack and craft beer nightcap – the restaurant serves a full menu until midnight.

Edward Teach Brewing is located inside a 111-year old historic firehouse in Wilmington’s Brooklyn Arts District and features a two-story ship-shaped bar with eight craft beers on tap, including the Three Sheets Double Whitt, Cutlass German Lager, Devil’s Son IPA and Peg Leg Chocolate Porter. The brewery’s moniker is a nod to the infamous pirate Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, that frequented the shores and shallows of North Carolina. To find Edward Teach Brewing, look for the flag Blackbeard flew over the Queen Anne’s Revenge at the door.

Waterline Brewing Co. is expanding production of its flagship Kolsch ale to meet growing local demand for a beer known for its lightness and drinkability – a ‘gateway beer’ for those accustomed to traditional domestics and in an IPA-dominated market. In addition to its unique line-up of beer, visitors can challenge each other to a game of squirt guns, air hockey and basketball, or stop by for a relaxing hour of yoga.

At Carolina Beach, Good Hops Brewing – a family-owned and operated small-batch brewery that is dog- and family-friendly – offers beers of all styles from golden ales to IPAs. Good Hops increased in size with new seven-barrel and 10-barrel fermenters, meaning bigger and better beer production. Don’t miss out on the Boardwalk Brown Ale, Flip Hop IPA, Donna Golden Ale or – a classic – the Good Hops Pale Ale. Plus, the 18-hole par 3 disc golf course located on the brewery’s four acres of land makes for a unique experience guests are unlikely to find elsewhere. The course is open to the public during daylight hours.

Wrightsville Beach Brewery is known for its eleven different craft beer options – like the Airlie Amber Ale, Oysterman Stout, Wilmywood Wit and Waterway IPA – and for its great food – especially signature and unique items like its Calamari Frites or Local Shrimp Tacos. Recently named one of the “6 Breweries with Meals that Rival Their Beers” by Our State Magazine, the brewery frequently features live music events in its beer garden, free brewery tours and tastings and cask tapping as well.

These are just a sampling of our breweries. It’s guaranteed that when in Wilmington, any and every beer lover will appreciate the handcrafted, distinctive twist area breweries add to draft selections along with unique environments.

Indulge in craft beers with unique offerings and walk-in coolers; expertly crafted specialty cocktails using the freshest ingredients and cocktails with a tiki-flair, or wine and drinks with views of the ocean accompanied by a beachy vibe at one of the many locales in Carolina Beach or Wrightsville Beach for a refreshing beverage.

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