Cocktails/Wine Bars in Raleigh, NC
Isaac Hunter's Oak City Tavern and its signature cocktail, The Cherry Bounce, are legendary to Raleigh becoming North Carolina’s Capital City. In 1788, the Constitutional Convention was struggling to muster a quorum at the coastal city of New Bern, so members agreed to seek a more central spot. The well-known Isaac Hunter’s Tavern was selected, and prominent landowner and state senator Joel Lane was happy to mingle with and occasionally treat fellow legislators to a Cherry Bounce, hoping to sway them to buy his nearby land for the capital. While the drink’s influence cannot be certain, it is fact that in 1792 Lane sold 1,000 acres of his property for the creation of the state capital. Today’s popular bar has a vastly expanded drink list, centering on ales, but still sells The Cherry Bounce: four parts cherry, two parts sugar, one part whiskey and a dash of history. Note: This is a private club with sign-up on the website.
With three local owners -- Jeff, Seth and Ryan -- personal attention is part of what you get at The Raleigh Wine Shop, featuring not only a shop, but a WineStation where you can sit and sample up to 12 wines in one-, two- and four-ounce pours from a wine preservation dispensing system (yes, wine on tap). The owners taste every wine before it makes its way into the store, so they'll happily guide you through the entire WineStation lineup, or simply point you in the right direction for a purchase. Service, by the way, also includes home delivery, if you’d like. One recent tasting featured 2010 Domaine Massiac Viogner, Minervois, France; 2009 Domaine Massiac red blend, Minervois, France; 2010 John d’Anguera Garnatxa, Montsant, Spain; and 2008 Ostatu Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain. Tasting wines are discounted by bottle and case.
Frazier’s is a good bet for wine in Raleigh, with its hip Hillsborough Street location not far from North Carolina State University. The spot seems to have gotten it right now, in its third reincarnation, as a blend of casual-chic from velvet settees to sparkling bead chandeliers to a dramatic striped backdrop behind the bar (pictured). The stars are the 35-plus wines by the glass, some in two- and four-ounce pours as well as six ounces. Frazier’s Wine Bar/Lounge is also known for its food, including charcuterie plates and cheeses, and is part of the popular Urban Food Group, which includes French brasserie Coquette, Italian trattoria vivace (sic), Porter’s City Tavern and Chow burgers and pizza bar.
“Beer with a View” could be the slogan for Boylan Bridge Brewpub thanks to its iconic view of the Raleigh skyline. But beer aficionados give it major points for brewing its own selections on site -- seven year-round brews (most with a 6% alcohol by volume) and two seasonals. Patrons like the pricing too at $4 a pint. BBB’s craft beers include Gantlet Golden Ale, Bruno Bitter, Rail Pale Ale, Boylan Brown Ale, Endless Summer Ale, Pullman Porter, Southbound Stout and seasonals such as Polar Bear Winter Warmer and Trainspotter Scottish Ale. Added cool factor -- from the bar, through glass doors, you can watch the brewing operation (using only water, malted barley, hops and yeast) a la stainless steel tanks and copper piping. The woodworking shop downstairs is responsible for much of the bar decor and the wood-post-and-beam pergola on the popular outdoor deck. Cocktails specials are also available like $5 Martini Thursdays.
Technically not in Raleigh (but rather in friendly, neighboring Cary), The Bar & Lounge at The Umstead Hotel and Spa must top any list of local sophisticated sips thanks to a seasonal cocktail menu handcrafted by the standout culinary team in concert with the bar staff. The result is simply inspired, from “The Rosemary,” a classic gin martini with rosemary smoke and Maytag blue cheese, to a “Winter Solstice” featuring pisco, lime, egg white, Angostura bitters and atomized bourbon. Or, try a “Woodland Eggnog” (pictured), “Pomegranate Cosmo” or “Blood Orange Ginger.” The setting is award-winning elegance since The Umstead is one of only two Forbes (formerly Mobil) Five-Star properties in the entire state. The lounge centerpiece is a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture. Turn cocktail hour into an art lesson -- ask the concierge to borrow the book that highlights Umstead’s incredible art collection