The Southeast is home to classic cocktails such as the Sazerac, and famous concoctions like Peychaud’s Bitters and Coca-Cola. But, nowadays, the region is as well known for booming craft breweries, artisan distilleries and a growing number of small wineries. And with all that goodness to drink in, Southeastern cities have emerged as meccas for bars and nightlife.
Imbibing in Athens, Ga.
Home to the University of Georgia, and famous for its music scene, Athens is something of a hidden gem when it comes to bars, restaurants and craft breweries.
Creature Comforts Brewing (271 W. Hancock Ave., Athens. 706-410-1043, www.creaturecomfortsbeer.com,@creaturebeer) has garnered national attention since opening two years ago in the former Snow Tire building downtown. It’s best known for lush Tropicalia IPA, but look for an array of seasonal and year-round beers at tours and tastings offered Tuesdays-Saturdays.
A classic from chef Hugh Acheson, Five & Ten (1073 S. Milledge Ave., Athens. 706-546-7300, fiveandten.com, @fiveandten) was named to the Wine Enthusiast list of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2016. The broad, 130-label-plus wine list is annotated with wit and wisdom, and there are well-curated seasonal selections by glass, too. The bar opens daily at 5 p.m.
Seabear Oyster Bar (297 Prince Ave., Athens. 706-850-4367, seabearoysterbar.com, @seabearoysters) is an oysters-and-cocktails concept in a convivial corner of the Bottleworks building. Open from 3 p.m. until midnight every day, it offers two happy hours daily with drink specials starting at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Enjoy beer, traditional absinthe service and fun drinks like a Negroni slushy.
The Classic City’s first craft brewery, Terrapin Beer Co. (265 Newton Bridge Road, Athens. 706-549-3377, terrapinbeer.com,@TerrapinBeerCo) is now the second biggest in Georgia. A new tasting room and frequent live music events make it a popular destination. Find Hopsecutioner IPA and at least a dozen other beers at tours Wednesdays-Sundays.
Named for the vintage rye cocktail, the Old Pal (1320 Prince Ave., Athens. 706-850-4340, theoldpal.com) is an atmospheric neighborhood bar in retro/hipster Normaltown. It features some of the best drinks in the city, with a focus on the classics, plus thoughtful craft beer, old-world wine and whiskey lists.
Trappeze Pub (269 N. Hull St., Athens. 706-543-8997, trappezepub.com, @trappezepub) can be laid-back or lively, depending on the time of day. Regulars come for solid pub grub, friendly servers and a big beer list of American craft and Belgian selections with over 30 taps and at least 200 bottles and cans.
Cocktails in Tampa, Fla.
With stunning bay views, historic Ybor City, and a surprisingly sophisticated culinary scene, Tampa is a destination with a lot to like — and a whole lot to drink.
Visit Tampa Bay touts the city’s “craft beer renaissance” (www.visittampabay.com/baycrafted.html) headlined by tours and tastings at beloved Cigar City Brewing (3924 W. Spruce St., Tampa. 813-348-6363, cigarcitybrewing.com).
One of the finest steakhouses in the U.S., Bern’s (1208 S. Howard Ave., Tampa. 813-251–2421, www.bernssteakhouse.com,@bernssteakhouse) is a perennial recipient of the Wine Spectator Grand Award that boasts a wine cellar with some 6,800 different selections and more than half-a-million bottles.
But beyond beer and wine, cocktails are an exciting part of Tampa’s drink culture. And the owners of Bern’s have had a hand in that with a pair of newer endeavors.
Across the street, the Epicurean Hotel (1207 S. Howard Ave., Tampa. 813-999-8700, epicureanhotel.com,@EpicureanHotel) offers an immersive culinary experience, with a chef-driven restaurant, Bern’s wine shop and main floor and rooftop cocktail bars. Each room even features a minibar and pantry set up with all the fixings for craft cocktails, wine and snacks.
Steps away, Haven (2208 W. Morrison Ave., Tampa. 813-258-2233, haventampa.com, @HavenWineBar) features an inviting bar with classic and house cocktails, draft craft beer, more than 300 varieties of bourbon and 40 different wines by the glass, plus charcuterie and more than 60 types of cheese.
Nearby, Ciro’s Speakeasy (2109 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa. 813-251-0022) epitomizes the young and fun side of the cocktail scene (pictured, photo contributed by Ciro's). Call ahead for the password, then find the secret Prohibition-style entrance. It’s dark and romantic, the drinks are strong, and happy hour runs both early and late.
Other hot spots include Fodder & Shine (5910 N. Florida Ave., Tampa. 813-234-3710, www.fodderandshine.com, @FodderAndShine) in the heart of hipster Seminole Heights featuring Florida craft beers, small vineyard wines and a serious spirits collection.
The Refinery (5137 N. Florida Ave., Tampa. 813-237-2000, thetamparefinery.com, @TampaRefinery) from James Beard-nominated chef/owner Greg Bake has a bar that echoes the restaurant with affordable quality offerings of beer, wine and cocktails.
Ulele (1810 N. Highland Ave., Tampa. 813-999-4952, www.ulele.com, @Uleletampa) is a newish brewery and chef-driven restaurant in a historic space on the banks of the Hillsborough River with a lively outdoor bar scene.
Drink in Greenville, S.C.
A revitalized downtown with shops, restaurants, museums and galleries makes this easygoing city a cool backdrop for a few drinks.
The burgeoning beer scene began with Thomas Creek Brewing (2054 Piedmont Highway, Greenville. 864-605-1166,thomascreekbeer.com, @ThomasCreekBeer), which opened in 1998 and has been growing since. Public tours by appointment only, with pints and flights in the tap room or patio area, and growlers six-packs and homebrew supplies for sale Mondays-Saturdays.
Quest Brewing (55 Airview Drive, Greenville. 864-272-6232, questbrewing.com, @QuestBrewing), which opened in 2012, is one of the newest and best. It offers weekly tours on Saturday afternoons and a taproom that’s open Tuesdays-Saturdays with seasonal, barrel-aged and sour beers and frequent live music and weekly events such as yoga and trivia.
Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria (25 W. Washington St., Greenville. 864-232-3706, www.barleysgville.com, @BarleysGville) boasts a relaxed, casual atmosphere in a historic two-story building with an emphasis on beer, including over 40 selections on tap and a reserve list of vintage bottles. The food menu features appetizers, salads, pizza and pasta.
The newly redone bar at a popular Main Street restaurant, Crafted at Nose Dive (116 S. Main St., Greenville. 864-373-7300,thenosedive.com/drink), features handcrafted libations in a speakeasy-like atmosphere. Enjoy weekly punches at happy hour, a classic cocktail list, plus fine wines and craft beer on draft.
Dark Corner Distillery (14 S. Main St., Greenville. 864-631-1144, www.darkcornerdistillery.com, @DCDistillery), South Carolina’s first legal whiskey distillery, brags it makes “The World’s Best Moonshine” and has a slew of gold medals to back it up.The downtown tasting room offers guests the opportunity to sample six spirits for $4, including a shot glass.
A wine shop, bar and American cafe share space in a former trolley barn at Northampton Wines (211-A E. Broad St., Greenville. 864-271-3919, www.northamptonwines.com). Find wine, spirits, cheese and tastings in the shop, and featured wines, bar bites, dinner Mondays-Saturdays, and Saturday lunch in the cafe.
The Trappe Door (23 W. Washington St., Greenville. 864-451-7490, www.trappedoor.com) is a Belgian-inspired restaurant with an inviting atmosphere, hidden away in a basement space with low ceilings and heavy wooden beams. Find Belgian and Belgian-style ales on tap, imaginative cocktails and a food menu with traditional dishes such as Flemish beef stew.
Bar-hopping in Charlotte, N.C.
Though Asheville and the Triangle get a lot of attention these days, Charlotte has the buzz of a booming big city, with cocktail lounges and beer and wine bars to hop to.
Corkbuzz (4905 Ashley Park Lane, Suite J, Charlotte. 704-625-1328, charlotte.corkbuzz.com, @CorkbuzzCLT) is a stylish wine bar from master sommelier Laura Maniec with a restaurant concept to match. Food and wine pairings are the focus, with winemaker events, interactive classes, a rotating list of 35 wines by the glass and more than 150 by the bottle, plus beer and cocktails.
A popular stop in Hearst Tower, Blue Restaurant & Bar (206 N. College St., Charlotte. 704-927-2583, bluecharlotte.com,@BlueCharlotte) boasts a Mediterranean-flavored menu, a romantic atmosphere and a wine list that’s earned the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. The drink menu features classic and seasonal cocktails, and there’s live jazz in the bar on the weekends.
Originally built in 1912, the Cellar at Duckworth’s (330 N. Tryon St., Charlotte. 980-349-4078, thecellaratduckworths.com,@TheCellarAtDuck) has the feel of a speakeasy, offering a tap list of specialty beers and signature cocktails in an intimate, underground space with brick walls and exposed ceiling joists. The gastropub menu includes plenty of small plates and shares.
Go to Fahrenheit (222 S. Caldwell St., Charlotte. 980-237-6718, www.chefroccowhalen.com/fahrenheit-charlotte, @fahrenheitCLT) on the 21st floor above the Skye Condos for the view and rooftop fire pits, and hang out for the extensive wine list, signature cocktails and rotating North Carolina draft beers.
The Punch Room (201 E. Trade St., Charlotte. 704-547-2244, www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/charlotte/dining/punch-room) on the 15th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte is a fittingly upscale and clubby bar where bartender Bob Peters is something of a local legend. Look for a huge selection of punches and cocktails plus fine single-malt scotch and wine lists (photo courtesy of the Punch Room).
Soul Gastrolounge (1500-B Central Ave., Charlotte. 704-348-1848, www.soulgastrolounge.com) is another cool speakeasy-like space with a small bar, small plates and well-mixed, ever-changing cocktails that include takes on classic concoctions. Be forewarned, there are DJs every night and the place can get crowded quickly.
Beertime in Columbia, S.C.
Like many Southern cities, Columbia is having a bit of a craft beer moment, with several new breweries set to open in the next year, and major expansions of existing breweries.
Hunter-Gatherer Brewery and Alehouse (900 Main St., Columbia. 803-748-0540, huntergathererbrewery.com, @HGBrewery), which opened in 1995, is Columbia’s oldest brewery operation (photo by Sean Rayford/Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism), with a second, bigger brewery set to open at the historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar at Owens Field . In addition to house-made beer, you’ll find food, wine and spirits in the Alehouse.
Another of Columbia’s earliest craft beer companies, Conquest Brewing (947 S. Stadium Road, Columbia. 843-270-6100,conquestbrewing.com, @ConquestBrewing) features a cozy tasting room with windows overlooking the brewhouse. Sacred Heart IPA and other year-round and seasonal beers are available seven days a week, with tours by request.
River Rat Brewery (1231 Shop Road, Columbia. 803-724-5712, www.riverratbrewery.com, @RiverRatBrewery) was founded in 2013 and is currently undergoing an expansion. But you can still visit the tasting room, open Tuesdays-Sundays and now serving beer and wine, relax on the dog-friendly deck, or grab a growler to go.
Swamp Cabbage Brewing (921 Brookwood Drive, Columbia. 803-252-0250, swampcabbagebrewing.com, @swampcabbagebru) recently celebrated its second anniversary. The tap room is open Wednesdays-Sundays, serving the likes of Sabal Palm Blonde and Bald Cypress Porter, and food trucks often make the scene.
Technically a craft beer store and growler shop, Craft & Draft (2706 Devine St., Columbia. 803-764-2575,www.craftanddraftbeer.com, @CraftAndDraftSC) is open daily and features a small bar serving 12 selections on tap in flights or samples. You’re also welcome to grab a beer off the shelf or out of the cooler, and mix-and-match six-packs.
The Kraken Gastropub (2910 Rosewood Drive, Columbia. 803-955-7408, www.thekrakenpub.com) has 30 beers on tap, a full-service bar with wine and specialty cocktails, and food from Columbia chef David Marlow, who features beer dinners with regional breweries.
Brewing around Abita Springs, La.
While it may be best known for its cuisine and cocktails, Louisiana has become a destination for craft beer, with breweries around the state that reflect its distinctive culture.
Abita Brewing in Abita Springs, 30 miles north of New Orleans, was the first, opening for business in 1986. It’s now one of the biggest craft breweries in the U.S., and its visitor center, tours and tap room in Covington (166 Barbee Road, Covington. 985-893-3143,abita.com/visit, @TheAbitaBeer) are major tourist attractions, open seven days a week.
Back in Abita Springs, Abita Brew Pub (72011 Holly St., Abita Springs. 985-892-5837, www.abitabrewpub.com, @abitabrewpub) is a full-service restaurant in the renovated building that housed the Abita brewery until 1994. The pub features all the Abita flagship and seasonal beers and a Louisiana-flavored food menu that ranges from snacks to pastas and entrees.
Beyond Abita, the Louisiana beer scene is as rich and diverse as the state. And the Louisiana Brewery Trail(www.louisianatravel.com/blog/dont-miss-louisiana-brewery-trail) offers a comprehensive guide to exploring it all.
Nearby, Covington Brewhouse (226 E. Lockwood St., Covington. 985-893-2884, www.covingtonbrewhouse.com) is making German-style beers, along with more unusual offerings like Strawberry Ale, with tasting room hours Thursdays-Sundays.
For a taste of Cajun beer culture, travel to Arnaudville, where Bayou Teche Brewing (1106 Bushville Highway, Arnaudville. 337-754-5122, bayoutechebrewing.com, @BayouTecheBiere) is dedicated to creating styles that pair with the local cuisine, such as its LA-31 Biere Pale. The tasting room is open seven days a week.
In Broussard, Parish Brewing (229 Jared Drive, Broussard. 337-330-8601, www.parishbeer.com, @ParishBrewing) has a similar mission, making fresh beer in the heart of Cajun country, such as Canebrake Louisiana Wheat Ale. The tap room is open Mondays-Saturdays.
Wine in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Winston-Salem is the gateway to North Carolina’s largest wine region, the Yadkin Valley, where more than 40 award-winning wineries offer tastings, tours and special events.
If you’re new to the region, Yadkin Valley Wine Tours (www.yadkinwinetours.com) offers guided tours through the Piedmont and foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which has been compared to Burgundy in France and the Piedmont in Italy.
Childress Vineyards (1000 Childress Vineyard Road, Lexington. 336-236-9463, www.childressvineyards.com, @ChildressWines), which includes a winery with tours and tastings and a bistro, opened in 2004 as the dream of a NASCAR team owner, Richard Childress. The largest winery in the Yadkin Valley, it features 77 acres of European cultivars. Winemaker Mark Friszolowski oversees a broad range of varieties, including Viognier and Petit Verdot.
Situated on 77 acres of rolling hills with spectacular views of Pilot Mountain, Divine Llama Vineyards (5349 Macedonia Road, East Bend. 336-699-2525, www.divinellamavineyards.com) is located just 20 minutes from Winston-Salem. The vineyards are part of a working farm, and the tasting room is nestled among five acres of vineyards and 20 acres of pastures for llamas and miniature horses.
Sanders Ridge Winery and Restaurant (3200 Round Hill Road, Boonville. 336-677-1700, www.sandersridge.com, @SandersRidgeVin) features estate-grown wines, new Southern cuisine, certified organic gardens, and 150 acres for hiking, birding or special events. Wines are produced on a 15-acre vineyard from seven varieties of French wine grapes, plus two native muscadine varieties.
On the site of a former dairy farm, RayLen Vineyards & Winery (3577 U.S. 158, Mocksville. 336-998-3100, www.raylenvineyards.com) is known for its lush vistas in the southern portion of the Yadkin Valley Appellation. Vintner Steve Shepard, who has been making wine in North Carolina since 1989, produces 16 award-winning wines available for tasting and purchase. Tours of the winery and cellar are included in the cost of the tasting.
Known as Chianti in the Carolinas, Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery (450 Groce Road, Ronda. 336-835-9463, raffaldini.com, @Raffaldini) offers visitors an Italian-style estate experience (photo courtesy of Visit Winston-Salem). Sample wines at the Villa tasting room and take a tour of the vineyards surrounded by mountain scenery. Vine to Wine immersive experiences offer oenophiles the opportunity to participate in the activities of the vineyard and winery during the fall grape harvest.