We all love cocktails and admire the maestro mixologists who create them. Cocktail creation is both a science and an art. Knowing when to add a specific ingredient, understanding the flavor profile, figuring out the nuances of each liquor, spice, fruit and blending them together into one amazing drink takes skill & creativity.
By Cape Fear Living Staff
In our quest to look for the best mixologists and bartenders in Wilmington, NC, our goal is to introduce this myriad of newbie and professional artists who make beautiful and delicious cocktails. So aesthetically pleasing that it’s almost a sin not to drink them. Here are the Cape Fear Living best bar picks in alphabetical order.
Q&A with Edie Alexander, Director of Marketing
109 Market Street, Wilmington, NC
What makes Dram & Draught unique?
At Dram & Draught, our cocktail menu is defined by several factors. Our incredible bartenders are constantly studying & creating new cocktail ideas at all our locations. They come together twice a year to craft a cohesive spread for our seasonal menus. We also employ the use of fresh in-house syrups & juices. All the ingredients used are made from scratch on location, allowing us to make the highest quality cocktails while staying on top of new techniques in the industry.
Master Mixologist: Lexi Cross
Lexi is a young, motivated bartender who loves the industry. Her penchant for hospitality is palpable in her drink-making and time behind the bar. Seeing people smile is her favorite part of the job.
The Hellfire Club is one of our standout cocktails from the spring menu. It's a beautiful, intense mix of a Szechaun + Jalapeno-infused Tequila mixed with a rich orange liqueur, agave, fresh lime juice, and delectable toasted coconut syrup. Very lively & bright, the perfect spring sipper!
Tunes to Sip To
Music Sounds Better With You - Neil Frances
If It Feels Good - Leon Bridges
Q&A with Beth Faulkner, Co-Owner
1815 Castle St, Wilmington, NC
What makes EOD unique?
From the outset, our team set out to create cocktails that would perfectly match our premium spirits made by End of Days Distillery. We chose to spare no cost or detail by using only the freshest ingredients, most hand-squeezed and made in-house. We wanted them to easily stand along some of the top cocktail bars in the country. With nine award-winning spirits now made by End of Days, our menu has become comprehensive and has something for any spirit lover. We often hear, "I want to try them all." That is an amazing testament to our exquisitely designed cocktail program.
Master Mixologist: Gustavo Bellavida
Gustavo Bellavida was the first mixologist we hired and quickly became a stand-out team member. Gus, as we call him, is a true artist. Each cocktail is created with precision, beauty, and phenomenal taste. He is extremely creative and hardworking. We will never forget Gus' first days on the job serving over 2800 customers during an unimaginable grand opening weekend. We worried he would never come back after such an overwhelming feat! Come back, he did, though, and he continues to shine week after week, year and year, designing and crafting, in our humble opinion, some of the best cocktails in Wilmington and beyond.
Tilley's Club: is a true classic. It's gorgeous, well balanced and dangerously easy to drink. Raspberry, thyme and lemon pair perfectly with the botanicals of our Port of Entry Gin with a splash of dry vermouth. Then this masterpiece is finished with egg whites which gives it a fantastic taste and beautiful presentation.
Tunes to Sip To
We are really feeling the band Djo lately, especially songs End of Beginning and Roddy. And Kill Bill by SZA. Tilley's in hand with these tunes, is a good time!
Q&A with Brian Westlye, Owner
15 S Front St, Wilmington, NC
What makes Rebellion unique?
Rebellion's cocktail menu is unique in that we take a lot of "classic" cocktails and make them our own. It could be one or more ingredients or it could just be the spirit we change, but they are cocktails that withstand the test of time.
Master Mixologist: Lauren Savage
Rebellion doesn't have any "Mixologists" per se. We focus on good old fashioned bartenders who focus on guest experience more than the latest cocktail trends.
Lauren is the longest tenured employee here at Rebellion and is one of the most driven and dedicated employees our company has ever had. She prides herself in getting to know our guests in a way where she knows what they'll order before they do. She makes Rebellion a better place and we are extremely lucky to have her.
The Congress Hall: The basis of the cocktail came from the Congress Hall Hotel in Cape May, NJ. It is essentially a Bourbon Sour, but it is made with our housemade Bourbon Cherries which imparts the Sour flavor into the cocktail. We added it onto the Rebellion menu in DC in 2016 and it has remained a Rebellion cocktail (and our #1 seller) since.
Tunes to Sip To
S.O.B. - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Q&A with Courtney Osgood, Co-Owner
224 S Water St, Wilmington, NC
What makes Sauce'd unique?
I may be biased, but I think everything we do regarding our menu makes us unique. For example, we’re one of the first bars in the United States to incorporate a pop-able, scented bubble that goes on top of a cocktail. We partnered with a company out of the UK in 2021 to bring that added level of experience to our program, and it’s so interesting to see now, a year and a half later, how the bubble craze has caught on - we’re seeing it everywhere! When you come to Sauce’d, you’re not just getting a great cocktail. It’s a full-on experience from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave. And even though we may be known as the one with the “bubble cocktail,” it’s just one small part of our program. We fresh squeeze all of our juices and house-make all of our syrups. You’re not going to find any pre-mixes or fake stuff here! So when you’re sipping on a cocktail at our bar, you can rest easy knowing that you’re getting the freshest of ingredients – fruits, spices, herbs, you name it - and we’re super proud of that.
Master Mixologist: Jeremiah Ramos
What most people don’t know is that my partner, Jeremiah Ramos, isn’t just an owner, he’s also the creator behind all of our cocktails. He’s been in the industry for over 20 years, the majority of his experience being behind the bar in New York City – so when given the opportunity to be creative, while also maintaining a level of consistency and balance, that’s really where he shines. Even though he’s the mixologist out of two of us, we work together in creating the program as a whole. I come from the marketing background and I know how important it is for your cocktail to not only taste great but also be visually stunning. So, Jeremiah will come up with the recipes for the cocktails, and between the two of us we will create a super fun garnish, a unique piece of ice or incorporate a creative glassware to compliment what’s inside, and then - the cherry on top of the sundae is of course the name.
It’s LIT!: Made with Cape Fear Distillery’s brand new spirit, Billfish Tequila, this ‘grammable cocktail features tart pink guava, freshly-squeezed lime, muddled mint and a dash of simple syrup. Using a mini funnel, it’s poured into a lightbulb glass and garnished with a pink LED light dropped right into the cocktail.
Tunes to Sip To: We love to pay homage to the nostalgia of the 90s and early 2000s in the music we play but also the cocktails and the names that we come up with for each. So, if you’re into throwback jams -- Sauce’d is where it’s at!
Strawberry Letter #23 - The Brothers Johnson
The Blind Elephant
Q&A with Ashley Tipper, Owner
21 N Front St, Wilmington, NC
What makes The Blind Elephant unique?
Our menu is unique in that each bartender comes up with a new cocktail every two months. This ensures that our menu contains various cocktails based on seasonal flavors. In addition, our ingredients are fresh, and our tinctures and syrups are all made in-house.
Master Mixologist: Breanne Lotz
Breanne Lotz is a mixologist and one of the managers here at the bar. She works really hard, does the research, and is always a step ahead in the cocktail world with her unique and original drinks.
New Moon: This cocktail was created by another fantastic mixologist, Cabell Bryan. Her tequila cocktail contains Olmeca Altos reposado tequila, Cocchi Rosa Aperitif, rose water, fresh lemon juice, Scarborough bitters (which are very herbal), and blue spirulina with a splash of edible glitter to make it shine for spring.
Tunes to Sip To
Vintage jazz tunes are always on rotation at the Blind Elephant and Billie Holiday is always a favorite.
Q&A with Anastasia Worrell, Owner
1427 Military Cutoff Rd, Wilmington, NC
What makes The Green House unique?
All of our craft cocktails are constructed from quality and seasonal ingredients. As a result, the Green House cocktail menu has a wide variety of flavor profiles that capture the true essence of what a cocktail should be complex yet balanced. To compliment our alcoholic spirits, we've composed six equally dynamic N/A cocktails to showcase the range of elaborate herbal flavors.
Master Mixologist: Regan DeSutter
Regan DeSutter is our mixologist and master of craft cocktails. Our cocktail list features the best of her creations. Regan is exceptionally skilled and has proved over and over that she can create quality cocktails on the fly and for special events. Every themed event we have had, Autumn to Remember, NYC New Year's, Perisian Romance, and Spring has Sprung, Regan's cocktails for each event have made their way onto our daily drink menu because of how spectacular they were. Regan is a true LA bartender, bringing SoCal flavor and style to everything she does.
The Green House: Using Green Chartreuse as our base spirit allows for an innovative flavor and follows our core values. Green Chartreuse was created by Carthusian Monks as a drink for living a long and healthy life, similar to the lifelong benefits of a vegan diet. This spirit has 130 beneficial herbs and botanicals. We've found the perfect ways to compliment these herbs with warm Falernum, tropical pineapple, freshly squeezed lime, ground nutmeg, and a sprig of mint. All these flavors are served over crushed ice for just another one-of-a-kind, The Green House touch.
Tunes to Sip To
Balearic chill out vibes dominate our nightly playlist.
Gutlauk (Bakermat remix) - Kronan and Nyaruach Beat Goes On - The All Seeing I Otherside - Monolink
Q&A with Katy Brodeur
1612 Queen St, Wilmington, NC
What makes The Starling unique?
The menu at The Starling is seasonal but still ever-changing. We stick to 4-5 staples that never leave the menu for the season and let the rest rotate as inspiration strikes - maybe it's fruit coming into peak ripeness, or a flavor combination we get really excited about, or perhaps a guest asks us to make something that's off-menu. It ends up so good we have no choice but to add it to the list. Those are some of my favorite cocktails. We try to push the boundaries of what guests are "used to" by making all our cocktails approachable - the team and I are always eager to talk you through what you're drinking and why we implemented each ingredient.
Master Mixologist: Kaley June
Hi! I'm Kaley June, the bar director at The Starling, and I create about 90% of the cocktail menu. Cocktails, spirits, but above all else, bar education is my passion. I'm constantly traveling and finding new techniques, methods, and inspiration to bring back to the bar to incorporate into our menu, and I hope it shows. My approach to the bar is always creating a special guest experience. Whether they just want a vodka soda or something from our curated list, my goal is that it's the best you've ever had.
Paper Constellations - is a delicious mix of Maker's Mark Bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, pink peppercorn, lemongrass, fresh lemon juice, & salt. When I was creating it, I was worried that it would get muddy flavor-wise, but instead, every single ingredient has its place. The whiskey lends some heat and sweetness, Aperol for a pop of fresh & bitter grapefruit, Amaro Nonino to lock in the ABV so it's not too juicy and adds some peppery components, pink peppercorn for zesty citrus, lemongrass for brightness, lemon juice to enhance all of the other flavors, and salt because much like in cooking, seasoning your cocktails can take it to the next level and balance out any residual sweetness. It's a riff on a paper plane, a modern classic cocktail, and we twisted the name to Paper Constellations because a flock of Starlings can be called a "constellation." This cocktail is a bar favorite, and we very lovingly refer to it as "the best adult lemonade you've ever had."
Tunes to Sip To
I Love making cocktails that feel like music, and when you stop into the bar, we are always jamming out to what inspires us:
Honorable mention that we play all the time at the bar: Heart of Glass - Blondie
Q&A with Joseph Senna & Ivan Moore, Owners
265 N Front St, Wilmington, NC
What makes Underfront unique?
The menu is extensive. We feature an array of classics, some reimagined, and genuinely unique cocktails customized from homemade bitters and tinctures to the vast assortment of in-house garnishments from sugar glass to dehydrated dragonfruit. Our actual menu is uniquely constructed by body and flavor in an understandable format Fresh & Fruity to Bold & Smoky to Bitter & Herbal.
Master Mixologist: Ivan Moore
Ivan has led the creation and implementation of cocktail programs for each of our previous Wilmington businesses: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Rumcow, Tacobaby, and now, Underfront. Each represented a specific program: like classic cocktails rum cocktails at WTF, Tiki at Rumcow, tequila at Tacobaby, and progressive classics and new age cocktails at Underfront. He has a broad knowledge of single spirits and cocktails and an extensive understanding of accouterment from making bitters, tincture, syrup, and reductions. Underfront also employs advanced techniques from fat-washed spirit, spherification, smoked cocktails, gelatins, and confectionery additives.
Open Sesame: House infused Toasted Sesame washed Gin, Domaine De Canton with lychee ginger syrup and pineapple juice garnished with candied ginger and Bumbu rum boba balls.
Tunes to Sip To
In the Summertime- Mungo Jerry