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Best Cocktails in Wilmington and Beaches

The best bars, lounges, and restaurants for tasty and creative cocktails

Best Cocktails in Wilmington and Beaches

Wilmington and Beaches' talented bartenders and restauranteurs have made Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach each a destination for craft beer and delicious cocktails.

Locals say that the best things about the area's craft cocktail scene are the lack of big-city pretension, and strong focus on creativity and customer service.

Here, local tastemakers like chefs, brewers, and artists share their favorite speakeasies, bars, beachside resorts, and oceanfront grills for cocktails in Wilmington and Beaches.

manna ave. 123

Recommended by: Jason Frye, Sam Cahoon, Dean Neff, Dan Brawley, Haley Jensen, Aaron Skiles, Billy Mellon, James Doss, Chris Batten, Emily Luther, Ashley Tipper

Neighborhood: Wilmington's Historic Downtown / River District

Source: Facebook

Wilmington and Beaches' restauranteurs and foodies all recommend manna ave. 123 for an upscale dining experience in downtown Wilmington.

Billy Mellon, Chef and Owner of manna ave. 123, says that the team wanted manna to be a concept-driven space that gets recognition for its drinks, food, and ambiance, while still being focused on “the service part of our industry.”

Locals have all taken note, with author Jason Frye saying,

"Manna serves gorgeous food made with hyperlocal ingredients. They really do an excellent job."

manna ave. 123's cocktails also get high praise. “Manna is great for mixed drinks. They have some really talented mixologists," says Aaron Skiles of New Anthem Beer Project.

Dan Brawley of the Cucalorus Festival puts it simply, “Manna has the best bartenders in town."

The Blind Elephant

Recommended by: Dan Brawley, Khalisa Rae Williams, Ashley Tipper, Haley Jensen, Ben Mabry

Neighborhood: Wilmington's Downtown & Riverfront

The Blind Elephant

The Blind Elephant is a speakeasy-style bar located in an alley in downtown Wilmington. "You've got to be a member to enter, but it's just a few bucks," said local musician Ben Mabry of Beta Radio.

Dan Brawley says, “The Blind Elephant is a great spot for an affordable but really sophisticated cocktail.”

If you go, order one of their flagship mules, which are served on tap. The Blind Elephant's Founder Ashley Tipper makes them in-house: “I only use fresh ginger so they definitely have a little bit of spice to them,” she says. “Our whiskey selection definitely sets us apart as well. We have over one hundred and twenty whiskeys!" 

Cloud 9

Recommended by: Dan Brawley

Neighborhood: Wilmington's Historic Downtown / River District

Cloud 9

Cloud 9 is a new rooftop bar, with stunning views and great food overlooking the Cape Fear River. Dan Brawley recommends their craft cocktails, which contain matcha-infused gin, smoked ice cubes, and cherry orange craft beer shrubs.

Dram + Morsel

Recommended by: Sam Cahoon, Mike Barlas

Neighborhood: Wilmington's Historic Downtown / River District

Dram + Morsel offers small shared plates and creative cocktails. “Dram + Morsel is a great local spot for drinks,” says Sam Cahoon, Chef and Owner of Savorez in the Historic Downtown/River District. "The setting is a bit swank, with oriental rugs and chandeliers, but the atmosphere is really relaxed." 

Blockade Runner Beach Resort

Recommended by: Randy McQuay, Carmin Black

Neighborhood: Wrightsville Beach

Source: Instagram

The Blockade Runner Beach Resort is on Wrightsville Beach with a beautiful garden, according to local musician Randy McQuay.

Randy says, “You can't even see the ocean when you're drinking in the garden. Then you take a short walk out of this beautiful garden and you can see the ocean right in front of you!”

Carmin Black, Co-Founder of HALF UNITED says, “In the evening, I would go to Blockade Runner on Wrightsville Beach for the outdoor bar. They have a beautiful outdoor lawn and if you buy a drink or appetizer, you can go outside and just hang out, right on the water. It’s gorgeous.”

Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar

Recommended by: Craig Love, Billy Mellon, Sam Romano

Neighborhood: Carolina Beach

Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar

Carolina Beach's Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar sits on a pier and offers amazing views with great food and drinks.

Sam Romano, Co-Founder of Seaview Crab Company says, “Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar does a great job with their food.”