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Aug 24, 2007 05:10 PM

Cocktail and Wine Bars in the Triangle

I'm newly turned 21 and am looking for serious cocktail and wine bars to expand my knowledge of the drink. Staying in Durham is ideal, but I'll travel for quality drinks.

In particular, I'm looking for cocktails bars with a focus on the craft behind the drink. Does such a place exist in the area? A wine bar with steady turnover, diverse selection, and a knowledgeable staff would also be nice.

Also, does anyone in Durham do serious wine tasting?

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  1. I've never encountered such a place in the triangle only for cocktails, but The Lantern, Piedmont, and some others will have interesting things. Enoteca Vin has a great wine selection and flights that can be tried for $2-4 for a small pour. And for a book and make some old school cocktails, they're hard to come by in the NC area.

    5 Replies
    1. re: insectrights

      It's a different kind of place than some of the others mentioned - but the bar at Lantern in Chapel Hill is well worth the trip down 15-501. First of all, there's a sophisticated city vibe in the room. Secondly, the expertly mixed cocktails are intriguing tributes to the place's Asian influences.

      (oops, somehow missed the mention of Lantern. duh)

      423 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

      1. re: drawn

        I love Latern's food, vibe, and aesthetic but man are their drinks mediocre.

        At least 3 different friends have remarked that the bartenders must have been hired for something other than their ability to mix drinks. They once served me a room temperature martini. I watched them make it: gin, dash of vermouth, stir, pour, all w/o ice.

        1. re: brokegradstudent

          Huh. I'm surprised. I'm a pretty serious drinker, and I've never had a bad cocktail at the Lantern (although sometimes I think the prices are ridiculous, considering).

          1. re: LulusMom

            While I have a difficult time believing that ANY bartender would put together a martini without ice--if I had a nickel for every time someone told me that the ice and water are the most important ingredient in a cocktail...--the mere thought of a room temperature gin martini sends a shudder down my spine.

            The problem with my getting to C-Hill is that it involves driving. As we all know, drinking and driving don't mix. Furthermore, three out of the five drinks at Lantern are vodka-based. Nothing screams boring to me more than vodka-based cocktails. There's a rather ironic drink at the new NYC restaurant Tailor that's called bubblegum-vodka. To me, this drink is a reflection on the state of modern mixology in far too many locales.

            1. re: BryanZ

              They should immediately card anyone who orders such a drink...

    2. BryanZ,

      Congratulations! Hope you're enjoying your new-found freedom.

      Beer! You're in a beer town...expand that brain and palate with ales and lagers!

      Okay, but seriously, check out how these guys are progressing:

      And check out this thread:


      1. In Chapel Hill the West End Wine Bar has impressively large wine menu that changes fairly often. You can get 3 different size pours (if memory serves me correctly - I normally just go by the glass). The place doesn't look like much, but there are always some good wines on the list and its a nice enough place to sit and drink. And now there is Glasshalful in Carrboro as well (although WE has a larger selection).

        Totally agree that Piedmont and the Lantern both have some great cocktails. And while I can't really recommend the food, Acme makes some good cocktails.

        1. I had a pretty solid drink at Piedmont last night. I tried three of their cocktails and found two to be "meh" but the one very, very tasty. It's called the Rose Marie and while not particularly complex, makes for a nice, herbaceously citrusy summer drink.

          It's gin, rosemary syrup, grapefruit, and a single maraschino cherry. Not shaken long enough and the glass wasn't chilled, yielding a cool but not cold cocktail, but something that has a lot of potential. I would've liked one more layer of flavor on the bitter end to give the drink more depth and body. Still, it was tasty.

          Wasn't too psyched on the limocello cocktail and thought the champagne cocktail was alright.

          2 Replies
          1. re: BryanZ

            I tried one there last night too, and loved it. Vodka, mint, simple syrup and ... the last thing escapes me, but it was fantastic.

            1. re: LulusMom

              I vaguely recall seeing that drink on the dessert menu but not on the cocktail menu. It's kind of weird how they seemed be offering different drinks on the two menus. Perhaps it was on the normal menu, too, but I don't really go for vodka drinks so may have just skipped over it.

          2. I enjoy the Friday night wine tastings at Southern Season. Each week focuses on a different region/grape/other theme, with usually 5 wines to try (plus cheese pairings) for $10-13 total. At least one or two of Southern Season's knowledgeable wine buyers are usually there if you want to learn more - if it's a regional theme, often they have travelled there. It's an unstructured, drop-in kind of event, and you can take it at your own pace, discussing the wine as much or as little as you like.