March 25, 2016

The 20 best cocktail bars in Orlando, right now

Sometimes a beer just doesn't cut it and since cocktails are a necessary part of any well-balanced alcohol diet, here are a few Orlando watering holes that do mixology right.

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The Courtesy Bar
114 N. Orange Ave.; 407-450-2041
The Courtesy is a don’t-miss on any true connoisseur’s barhop. Truly creative drink recipes are tested exhaustively before hitting the menu – no “hey, this might be good” sloppiness here – and only a few customer favorites stick around through the menu’s seasonal updates. In addition to the delicious drinks, the vibe is sophisticated without being stuffy: Lighting and sound levels are both pleasingly low, while style points for the vintage furnishings and long banquette are high.
Photo via The Courtesy/Facebook
The Courtesy Bar
114 N. Orange Ave.; 407-450-2041

The Courtesy is a don’t-miss on any true connoisseur’s barhop. Truly creative drink recipes are tested exhaustively before hitting the menu – no “hey, this might be good” sloppiness here – and only a few customer favorites stick around through the menu’s seasonal updates. In addition to the delicious drinks, the vibe is sophisticated without being stuffy: Lighting and sound levels are both pleasingly low, while style points for the vintage furnishings and long banquette are high.
Photo via The Courtesy/Facebook
Hanson’s Shoe Repair
27 E. Pine St., 407-476-9446
The speakeasy theme has been done to death, but Hanson’s does it right – you have to call ahead to get a password; only a limited number of people are allowed into the dim, narrow, impeccably designed space; and the craft cocktails are out of this world. No vodka served here – vodka wasn’t part of the American cocktail lexicon during the Prohibition era – but the bartenders will be happy to mix you something that’ll prove even more satisfying than that Cosmopolitan you may have had in mind.
Photo by Patrick Chin/via Hanson's Shoe Repair Facebook
Hanson’s Shoe Repair
27 E. Pine St., 407-476-9446

The speakeasy theme has been done to death, but Hanson’s does it right – you have to call ahead to get a password; only a limited number of people are allowed into the dim, narrow, impeccably designed space; and the craft cocktails are out of this world. No vodka served here – vodka wasn’t part of the American cocktail lexicon during the Prohibition era – but the bartenders will be happy to mix you something that’ll prove even more satisfying than that Cosmopolitan you may have had in mind.

Photo by Patrick Chin/via Hanson's Shoe Repair Facebook
Aku Aku Tiki Bar
431 E. Central Blvd.; 407-839-0080
It's a dark, intimate lounge ripe for a takeover – a group of a dozen could own the place. Comfy 1950s rattan furniture, a giant tiki idol, leaning surfboards, and hanging blowfish and glass floats set the scene for sweet-but-not-too Zombies, Singapore slings and Volcano bowls. Try (not to fall over after finishing) the Tigerfucker, built from 44 North huckleberry vodka and house-made blackberry-jalapeño syrup, topped with a flaming sugar cube and served in a huge glass goblet.
Photo by Rob Bartlett
Aku Aku Tiki Bar
431 E. Central Blvd.; 407-839-0080

It's a dark, intimate lounge ripe for a takeover – a group of a dozen could own the place. Comfy 1950s rattan furniture, a giant tiki idol, leaning surfboards, and hanging blowfish and glass floats set the scene for sweet-but-not-too Zombies, Singapore slings and Volcano bowls. Try (not to fall over after finishing) the Tigerfucker, built from 44 North huckleberry vodka and house-made blackberry-jalapeño syrup, topped with a flaming sugar cube and served in a huge glass goblet.

Photo by Rob Bartlett
The Guest House
1321 N. Mills Ave., 407-630-6574
All vestiges of the old Peacock Room are erased at the Guesthouse, Mills 50’s newest, chillest hangout. The many hanging plants (and the nifty palm-print wallpaper in the restrooms) give it a fern-bar feel; the lighting’s soft glow and the cushion-strewn couch pick up on that pick-up vibe. The walls, ceiling and floor are all dark, and the flickering candles and hanging globes give this bar the most flattering lighting ever. You’ll feel like you’re floating as you sit at the bar, quaffing carefully shaken craft cocktails. Don’t miss the Army-Navy, a gin-based wonder.
Photo by the_guesthouse/Instagram
The Guest House
1321 N. Mills Ave., 407-630-6574

All vestiges of the old Peacock Room are erased at the Guesthouse, Mills 50’s newest, chillest hangout. The many hanging plants (and the nifty palm-print wallpaper in the restrooms) give it a fern-bar feel; the lighting’s soft glow and the cushion-strewn couch pick up on that pick-up vibe. The walls, ceiling and floor are all dark, and the flickering candles and hanging globes give this bar the most flattering lighting ever. You’ll feel like you’re floating as you sit at the bar, quaffing carefully shaken craft cocktails. Don’t miss the Army-Navy, a gin-based wonder.

Photo by the_guesthouse/Instagram
The Matador 
724 Virginia Drive
Matador is the best of both worlds: It’s a dark dive with plenty of seating, where you can get an adventurous craft cocktail or just order up your usual drink. The patio is typically jumping after hours, but happy hour is normally chill. It’s almost too easy to order round after round in this well-rounded Ivanhoe watering hole.
Photo by Chris Martin via Matador/Facebook
The Matador
724 Virginia Drive
Matador is the best of both worlds: It’s a dark dive with plenty of seating, where you can get an adventurous craft cocktail or just order up your usual drink. The patio is typically jumping after hours, but happy hour is normally chill. It’s almost too easy to order round after round in this well-rounded Ivanhoe watering hole.

Photo by Chris Martin via Matador/Facebook
Eden Bar
1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland; 407-629-1088
It’s a place that can make a couple looking for craft cocktails just as happy as a crowd who just want to split a few pitchers of beer. The splashing fountain and tropical landscaping make it picturesque (when the weather’s nice), the menu is a good balance of satisfying bar snacks and more upscale fare, and the best movies in town are screening inside, just steps away. Unbeatable.
Photo by Rob Bartlett
Eden Bar
1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland; 407-629-1088

It’s a place that can make a couple looking for craft cocktails just as happy as a crowd who just want to split a few pitchers of beer. The splashing fountain and tropical landscaping make it picturesque (when the weather’s nice), the menu is a good balance of satisfying bar snacks and more upscale fare, and the best movies in town are screening inside, just steps away. Unbeatable.

Photo by Rob Bartlett
Bosendorfer Lounge
325 S. Orange Ave.,  866-663-0024
One of the best places to grab a martini before a show at Dr. Phillips, the Bosendorfer (located inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel) is a classy bar with classy drinks for the classy downtown clientele.  
Photo via grandbohemianhotel.com
Bosendorfer Lounge
325 S. Orange Ave., 866-663-0024

One of the best places to grab a martini before a show at Dr. Phillips, the Bosendorfer (located inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel) is a classy bar with classy drinks for the classy downtown clientele.

Photo via grandbohemianhotel.com
Lil Indies
1036 N. Mills Ave., 407-748-8256
The bartenders at Lil Indies know how to make a damn good drink. There's an ever-rotating cocktail menu, but if you have the chance to try a Drug Mule, then go ahead and ride that donkey. They also serve up some fun cheaper drink options if you're sipping on a budget, like bendejos (Corona filled with tequila).  
Photo by parkerart/Instagram
Lil Indies
1036 N. Mills Ave., 407-748-8256
The bartenders at Lil Indies know how to make a damn good drink. There's an ever-rotating cocktail menu, but if you have the chance to try a Drug Mule, then go ahead and ride that donkey. They also serve up some fun cheaper drink options if you're sipping on a budget, like bendejos (Corona filled with tequila).
Photo by parkerart/Instagram
The Treehouse 
68 E. Pine St., 407-205-2062
The Treehouse is so perfectly twee that it makes you feel like you're drinking in an elf's apartment. Find the green door on Pine Street and walk up stairs carpeted in fake grass and under "branches" that frame the stairwell, into a cozy wood-paneled room scented like pine needles. Craft cocktails are the bar's specialty, but be forewarned: The menu skews toward the sweet. Fortunately, the bartender was more than happy to mix us something a little less cloying off-menu.
Photo by jakewhitacre/Instagram
The Treehouse
68 E. Pine St., 407-205-2062

The Treehouse is so perfectly twee that it makes you feel like you're drinking in an elf's apartment. Find the green door on Pine Street and walk up stairs carpeted in fake grass and under "branches" that frame the stairwell, into a cozy wood-paneled room scented like pine needles. Craft cocktails are the bar's specialty, but be forewarned: The menu skews toward the sweet. Fortunately, the bartender was more than happy to mix us something a little less cloying off-menu.

Photo by jakewhitacre/Instagram
The Imperial
116 E 1st S., Sanford, 407-732-6956
Sanford’s version of Imperial is a much more alcohol-friendly version than its Orlando counterpart. Might as well make a night of it and slip right into the Classic Sazerac in all its 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye glory.
Photo by Imperial/Facebook
The Imperial
116 E 1st S., Sanford, 407-732-6956

Sanford’s version of Imperial is a much more alcohol-friendly version than its Orlando counterpart. Might as well make a night of it and slip right into the Classic Sazerac in all its 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye glory.

Photo by Imperial/Facebook