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Make The Rounds

by and


Curating a complete list of where to indulge in bacchanal is close to
impossible.. Instead, we've compiled one with our favorite local watering
holes, from the fanciful to the more modest. They offer amazing libations,
of course, with a few pleasant surprises—from gourmet menus and hard-
to-find liquors to campy games and nostalgic snacks.

—Victoria Bouloubasis and David Klein


16 East Martin Street, Raleigh

The bitter might refer to the thirty varieties of gin Bittersweet stocks (the most in the area). Cocktails are inspired by classics and coffee (try the espresso martini), artfully crafted with both standout liquors and seasonal ingredients. Imbibe the sweet in nostalgic riffs on favorite treats (such as the Thin Mint: vodka, mint liqueur, local chocolate milk), as well as desserts so beautiful it's almost a shame to eat them. (Almost.) That, plus wine and a Bruce Willis-themed mural, will have you coming back for s'mores.

713 North West Street, Raleigh

Located in a former taxicab office, the Cardinal doesn't try to stand out as a hangout for local beer, but somehow the hot dogs make it special. Braised in local brews and served with simple scrumptious toppings, these dogs are the perfect complement to a cold quaff and the ineffable communal essence every good bar has.

213 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh

This dark subterranean bar with exposed brick walls is known for stocking exclusively Southern-made whiskey and moonshine offerings and for signature drinks like the Basil Smash. The look is austere, but the vibe is warm, and the bartenders will create libations to suit your whims.

237 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh

Fittingly branded as a "drinking den," this basement bar by star chef Ashley Christensen begs your attention. Classics like the Hemingway Daiquiri and new cocktail strongholds like the potent Penicillin round out a sleek menu shaken up by expert bartenders.

106 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh

The Triangle's first mezcaleria upholds its commitment to stocking more mezcal than you can imagine, while maintaining an approach that's inclusive toward libations and spirits of all sorts. If you want to explore some of the most beautiful, handcrafted, and cooperatively owned mezcal coming out of Mexico at the moment, you'll find it here first (and, unfortunately, not at the ABC store).

327 West Davie Street, #102, Raleigh

Aside from splicing Mexican and Southern culinary traditions, the restaurant's bar dabbles in throwing some fun into the (fresh) margarita mix. At brunch, ask for the elusive Breakfast Margarita, laced with a rim of crushed Fruity Pebbles. Or take a spin over to the bar later in the night for a grown-up Mexican-inspired cocktail, like the Mole! Fashioned with rye bourbon, tequila, piloncillo syrup, and house-made mole bitters. Hosting monthly Latin dance parties, Jose and Sons greets Raleigh with a hearty "Hola, y'all."

117 East Hargett Street, Raleigh

Landmark is a friendly neighborhood spot with a graceful wooden bar and bartenders who'll mix you a first-class cocktail, draw you a PBR on tap, and remember your name the next time you come in. A great place to start off your night—or finish it.

109 Main Street, Holly Springs

This elegant Mediterranean-themed vino emporium has a down-home feel and welcoming vibe. Niche's vast wine-by-the-glass offerings are unmatched anywhere in the state, the staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and the venue often features live music.

4035 Lake Boone Trail, Raleigh

Heaven on earth for bourbon lovers. The Oak stocks more than sixty varieties of the favorite Southern spirit, including in-house-aged varieties where you can "adopt" a barrel and be a part of the process. The adjacent restaurant gives bourbon-focused dinners an extra seasonal flair.

805 North Person Street, Raleigh

This handsome, sleekly designed neighborhood bar offers an array of fine local beers and quality cocktails, along with well-selected diversions including pinball and a jukebox befitting a city in love with great tunes. There's also a game room and a large, dog-friendly back patio that's perfect for day drinking.

120 East Chatham Street, Cary

This super-hip pub, which features oversize storefront windows, white subway tile, and an exposed wood ceiling, takes its beer seriously, with sixteen chrome taps of local goodness at the ready at all times. It may be trendy, but it's pet-friendly and has plenty of outdoor seating.

14 East Hargett Street, Raleigh

Housed in an old newspaper office, the Raleigh Times no doubt served as a reporter's makeshift ratskeller long before it became an official bar. With Barack Obama's PBR can encased in glass at the bar and a renovated upstairs dining room, Raleigh Times has moved through history with ease. Its sidewalk tables offer the best views for downtown people-watching.

938 North Blount Street, Raleigh

With offerings like crispy pig's head, Stanbury is foodie heaven for serious gourmands. And with that comes a rough-and-tumble service industry set who sidle up to the bar for warm, attentive service (on a day off) and a vigorously curated menu of libations. Find all the fun tricks of the trade in each glass, like sherry stirred into bourbon or an array of amari.

201 West Martin Street, Raleigh

Imagine an industrial-chic beer garden for whiskey lovers, and you'll get a sense of this seat-yourself spot in Nash Square. Whiskey-wise, you can't lose (try a flight), while the kitchen serves up straightforward hearty Southern fare like cracklin' biscuits, chicken potpie, and the (unmissable) fried cauliflower.

616 North Person Street, Raleigh 

At the warm and welcoming William & Company, the art of the cocktail is on luscious display. Hang out on a cozy couch and sip a craft cocktail from locally sourced spirits and ingredients that include freshly squeezed citrus juices and house-infused mezcal—in winter, they'll even supply a blanket. Pro tip: $3 tamales and tacos are often for sale behind the bar (the owners also own the El Taco Cartel bicycle cart).


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