There’s a growing list of excellent cocktail bars in Raleigh. And while we are still working our way through them all, below are a few of our favorites we like to frequent for their outstanding cocktails and vibes, either on a date night or drinks with friends!
Whether you’re looking to sip on creative cocktails in an up-beat environment, relax on a comfy couch on an intimate date night, or grab an after work drink with colleagues, there’s a bar for you!
Along with the food scene, Raleigh’s bar scene keeps improving. You can enjoy a drink in a classy speakeasy, there’s a few cool rooftop bars, and some awesome sports bars. But if you’re on your phone searching for “cocktail bars near me” the below list is a good place to start.
But be sure to suggest your favorite Raleigh bars in the comments section at the bottom. We love getting your perspective and suggestions from our community!
Cocktail Bars in Raleigh
With over 300 whiskeys to choose from, excellent craft cocktails, a solid beer selection, and a beautiful open space with a repurposed industrial feel including garage doors that open to the outside patio, Whiskey Kitchen is one of the award-winning bars in downtown Raleigh.
Part whiskey bar, part Southern kitchen, you can’t go wrong here whether you come alone, as a couple or with a group of friends. Grab a spot indoors or under an umbrella and string lights on the patio. Not sure which whiskey to drink, try a flight.
Watts & Ward
I won’t forget walking down the stairs into Watts & Ward thinking I’d be entering a tiny hole in the wall space. I was stunned when it opened up to one classy room of leather seating, vintage artwork, rustic tables, dim lighting and bookshelves full of history.
That room led to another, and then another, and then right down the end another secret room. Hello underground spirit of 1920s America. Now it’s where we take all our friends who visit Raleigh for an ultra-cool experience with incredible cocktails.
Located under Caffe Luna, don’t let the nondescript stairs outside turn you off to the 6,000-square-feet multiroom drinking space underground. It’s still my favorite of the underground cocktail bars in Raleigh with a pure 1920s Prohibition vibe.
The Blind Barbour
The term “hidden gem” tends to get overused and exaggerated, but The Blind Barbour definitely lives up to the name. To be honest, I almost put my car in reverse and left before even entering. But don’t let the nondescript exterior and its location in an almost vacant strip mall turn you away!
If you love off-the-beaten-path neighborhood bars with personable service, you’ll love the Blind Barbour. What brought us here in the first place was a suggestion from Mike, owner of Revival 1869, an excellent cocktail bar in Clayton, Johnston County that we discovered on a date night.
We thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the bartender, Smalls (aka Brian), who makes creative cocktails like Caroline’s Tom Yum. If you love Thai food like us, it tasted exactly like the dish and you know what I’m talking about!
They have a great selection of whiskeys and bourbons, cool decor, nice atmosphere, and a super local neighborhood clientele.
Dram & Draught
I’m still in mourning that they had to move from their original and unique location a few years ago. But I’ve come to really love this space and they’re easily one of my favorite Raleigh bars.
Featuring 300 whiskeys from around the world, hand-crafted cocktails, draught beer from North Carolina and beyond, and a good selection of wines, you can expect excellent drinks with unique and sophisticated flavors. They also make spirit-free cocktails.
As Kevin Barrett, the founder mentioned in our Q&A interview with him, their most popular drink is their Barrel Old Fashioned. And despite how fast Raleigh is growing, they haven’t lost that sense of southern hospitality, and their bartenders really know how to mix a drink!
The cocktails are exquisite and service excellent. And I highly recommend this bar to anyone living in or visiting Raleigh!
We’ve been back since, but cocktails at Killjoy were the perfect start to our date night a few years ago at nearby Second Empire Restaurant (highly recommended for a special occasion).
Killjoy, nestled in the heart of downtown Raleigh, serves up a fresh, fun and colorful vibe. It’s the kind of bar where you can tell the mixologist how you feel and they’ll whip up an elixir to match.
Order a Killjoy classic cocktail (or a mocktail) and get cozy among the cool and colorful indoor decor for photo opps. They also serve wine and bubbles, plus beer and seltzers.
If the weather is nice, check out their outdoor patio with plants and herbs they use in their seasonal and classic alcoholic and nonalcoholic cocktails.
Interested in making cocktails? Killjoy has cocktail making classes every Wednesday night. Join resident cocktail enthusiast Kat Binkley who features simple yet delicious drinks that anyone can make at home.
By memory, Foundation is the first cocktail bar in Raleigh we visited when we moved back here for the second time in 2009. Our local buddy, Curt, who grew up near downtown Raleigh loves this bar and would take us there for special occasions, such as his birthday, but frustratingly, I always forgot to take a photo!
Located on Fayetteville Street and built into the actual foundation of a building, this underground bar features an industrial-chic decor, warm brick walls, interesting artwork and intimate atmosphere. Behind the bar are super talented bartenders who make great cocktails – some classics, some new, and some are seasonal.
Kevin, owner of Dram & Draught, used to manage this bar and they are well known for serving one of the best Old Fashioned cocktails.
There’s an extensive selection of bourbons and whiskeys, and this place tends to get more of a vibe later at night once other industry folk get off work – they know where the best cocktails bars in Raleigh are at!
The Green Light
Well, the true definition of a hidden bar has to be The Green Light. Literally tucked away behind a secret bookcase door in a secret room in what was once an architect’s office, look out for it within The Architect Bar & Social House on E Hargett st
This dimly lit room with a 1920s speakeasy feel can involve a wait to get in, especially on weekends as it’s a small space, but it’s a unique cocktail bar experience. I recommend you book a reservation on Tock.
William & Company
One of many reasons North Person Street is one of our favorite streets in Raleigh is because of William & Company, or Willco to the locals. This cozy local neighborhood cocktail bar in the heart of Oakwood serves up fresh and unique craft cocktails created by top-notch bartenders!
After our date night at nearby Crawford & Son, we enjoyed an after-dinner drink here, and you can be sure we’ll be back soon!
A bar I love to go to in downtown Raleigh for an Espresso Martini and Irish Coffee (take me back to Ireland) is Bittersweet. And during the day, our kids even love it here for their delicious and creative desserts!
If you enjoy the concept of a dessert bar, a place where you can get bourbon with your pie, or champagne with your cake, put this local favorite bar on your list.
Conveniently located within an easy walk to some of the best Raleigh restaurants, I even recommend just popping in here for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up coffee – you know my order!
Another one of the popular cocktail bars in downtown Raleigh is The Haymaker. Tucked away off Fayetteville Street, they make creative cocktails among a cozy ambiance with offbeat, vintage-style decor.
The bartenders are fast and knowledgeable with great suggestions. And if you’re familiar with boxing terms, that’s where their name derives from and the theme continues with drinks like “Sing Like a Bee”.
They’ve become well known for their Christmas themed decorations and drinks during the holidays. On Friday nights they have a DJ spinning tunes from 9pm-1am.
You might be wondering why I have a French brasserie on my list of favorite cocktail bars in Raleigh? Well, they make a damn fine Espresso Martini, probably the best I’ve had in the area.
Besides the excellent Espresso Martini, I love their stylish and inviting long bar draped with a French flag. On either side are marble-topped tables of all styles, red-leather booths, and petite curving tables and chairs.
Choose a drink from their extensive, mostly all French, wine list – make it a French one – or a classic French cocktail made from scratch at the bar.
A highlight of our date night in the Village District were the exquisite cocktails at Tazza Kitchen, a popular bar and eatery.
Even though we were on a date night, we always enjoy sitting at a bar (it’s not that common in Australia) and the warm, stylish and buzzing atmosphere of Tazza was perfect for cocktails and conversation.
The cocktails here are fantastic. Caroline’s Leisure Queen was made with vida mezcal, creme de cacao, pineapple, and lime-coconut ole. This cocktail maintained the integrity of its smoky attributes.
And my Out Of Office bourbon cocktail was sensational (Elijah Craig bourbon, fernet branca, peach brandy, pineapple, lemon, spicy cinnamon, angostura bitters).
Not necessarily a fan of the actual bar to hang out in, but truly some of the best cocktails we’ve had in the Raleigh area. They also serve regional wines, local brews and seasonal menus with ingredients sourced from dozens of farmers and food artisans.
Now it’s your turn. What cocktail bars in Raleigh should we try next? And what drink do your recommend at that bar?
If you’re looking for the best rooftop bars in Raleigh, check out this post. Don’t miss our list of the best sports bars in Raleigh to catch a game. And there are some excellent wine bars in Raleigh, too!