clock menu more-arrow no yes
The Imperial Sanford/Official Press Photo

Orlando’s 13 Essential Cocktail Bars

The must-try cocktails throughout the City Beautiful

View as Map

The city’s craft cocktail revival of yore has given way to a period of heightened imagination and innovation. A creative quaff can now be had in every corner of the city, from speakeasies manned by mustachioed mixologists, to bars playing up postmodern experimentation to, yes, Applebee’s.

Indeed these are heady times for Orlando’s spirited tipplers and this list presents the very best haunts in which to procure a proper cocktail.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Imperial at Washburn Imports - Sanford

Copy Link
(407) 732-6956
Visit Website

Picture a store selling some of the most unique furnishings from India and Southeast Asia. Now picture a bar in the middle of the store and that pretty much describes the Imperial inside Sanford’s Washburn Imports. Sure the Imperials in Ivanhoe Village (the original) and the one that just opened in Winter Park have similar aesthetics, but only the Sanford outpost serves liquor, and its cocktail program caters to connoisseurs. Besides, how many joints can sell a quality Sazerac and the seat being sat on?

2. Bitters & Brass

Copy Link
410 Sanford Ave
Sanford, FL 32771
(407) 871-2237
Visit Website

There’s no bemoaning Sanford’s cocktail scene any more, certainly not with the likes of this gorgeous bartender-owned and operated stunner that draws the envy of many a tippler in Orange County. Cocktail creations are just as classy as B&B’s wood-paneled interior, though nowhere near as dark and moody. The necromancers behind the bar conjure a selection of potions guests can’t help but be impressed by, be they trad concoctions (including amari and absinthe-based cocktails) or seasonal originals showcasing local ingredients and an experimental side.

3. The Matador

Copy Link
724 Virginia Dr
Orlando, FL 32803

It’s the spot for bullfighting vampires to get their drink on, though those with a penchant for enjoying spirited beverages in dimly lit parlors will find this Ivanhoe Village haunt just as appealing. The Matador is the quintessential neighborhood bar with its easygoing mien, but that’s not to say it doesn’t get a bit raucous come the stroke of midnight. Patrons often pour out onto the patio sipping their gin and tonics and Torontos for all of Virginia Drive to see.

4. The Guesthouse

Copy Link
1321 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 630-6574
Visit Website

Quality quaffs in pretense-free digs is lure enough for liquorists to the Guesthouse in Mills 50. By day, the large square bar at the space’s core is bathed in sunlight and potted plants happily photosynthesize around its perimeter. By night, the bar takes on an ethereal complexion as guests purposefully sip between two ferns (or more) and barkeeps swizzle and shake potent potables of the highest order. Out on the back parking lot, an Airstream trailer serving cocktails keeps the party going.

5. Lil Indies

Copy Link
1036 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 898-5070
Visit Website

Joined at the hip to legendary live music venue Will’s Pub, Lil Indies is a gathering ground for hipsters, subversives and anti-corporate activists who fancy a properly crafted seasonal cocktail while discussing strategies on how to change the world, or while listening to the croonings of a local act. Dingy collides with French Provincial in the oddly shaped rooms, and a rotating cocktail menu with names like “John Waters Is Dead” (it’s got dill Aperol, gin, genepy, egg white, lime and local Smiling Goat shrubs) keeps things equally amusing.

6. The Courtesy

Copy Link
114 N Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 450-2041
Visit Website

One of the progenitors of the city’s cocktail craze, the Courtesy still lays claim to the tippler’s haunt of choice thanks to the scholarly nerds behind the bar and the locally sourced and seasonal ingredients going into their mixers and garnishes. Its throwback apothecary motif and intimate layout offers sanctuary from the surrounding bars catering to the city’s Jager Bombers. And be patient – its well-constructed cocktails take time and precision. Literate types will want to give good study to the nifty selection of absinthes.

7. The Woods

Copy Link
49 N Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 203-1114
Visit Website

A fixture of downtown’s cocktail scene, the Woods is yet another bar housed inside a historic building, the 1924-constructed Rose Building on N. Orange Avenue to be exact. Just make sure to head up the stairs to the second-floor bar as the Lodge on the ground floor has a decidedly different (read drunken) vibe. The Woods is chill, in a Twin Peaks-y sort of way, and house cocktails can sometimes take on Lynchian kookiness (reposado tequila + Italicus + falernum + Domaine de Canton + green Chartreuse + mulled fig syrup + bitters + lemon = an Enamorada). That said, the vast selection of whiskeys and ryes keep hooch hounds content.

8. Aku Aku Tiki Bar

Copy Link
431 E Central Blvd
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 839-0080
Visit Website

Even those with a love/hate relationship with tiki culture will find it hard to find fault with this nostalgia-filled bar – it’s got enough South Pacific kitsch and rum to keep Richard Rodgers and Captain Morgan amused. Rattan furniture, grass skirts and over-the-top cocktail vessels aside, there are some stiff drinks to be had, most notable of which is the signature, and rum-less, “Tiger Fucker” – a fuschia-hued drink of 44° North potato vodka, jalapeno-blackberry syrup, lemon juice and passion fruit juice in an ice-filled schooner glass. It’s then garnished with a flaming sugar cube sitting atop a lemon slice. Needless to say, it’s lit.

9. Mathers Social Gathering

Copy Link
3 Phoenix Building, 30 S Magnolia Ave
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 250-5005
Visit Website

Boutique spirits, seasonal ingredients, cordials, bitters, and syrups are all necessary requirements in modern-day cocktail making, but what Mathers Social Gathering brings to Orlando (apart from another speakeasy) is a level of big city sophistication. It’s like the city’s very own Soho House, sans the high fees, but with all the style. The spacious bar is housed on the third floor of an 1884 building replete with vintage furnishings, antique accents, soaring bookshelves and cozy brick-lined nooks. While drinks have that old-timey flair, their pricing reflects a current age, that is, pricey. Dress dapper.

10. BauHaus

Copy Link
27 E Pine St
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 649-0000
Visit Website

The barkeeps at this downtown haunt two floors beneath Hanson’s Shoe Repair are liquor literates who’ve earned the right to be a bit self-assured, but ‘tude or no, it’s hard to deny their prowess in mixing well-crafted drinks. Brick walls, a low ceiling and narrow confines lend a moody and intimate air ideal for sipping and savoring. The seasoned clientele are eager to be taken out of their comfort zone by the alchemists tending bar, all of whom are more than happy to oblige. 

11. The Robinson Cocktail Room

Copy Link
61 E Pine St
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 536-8075
Visit Website

Equal parts Brooklyn loft and West Elm showroom, the second-floor bar in the historic Robinson Building is a paean to pomo art and poisons in every way. It’s from the same group who brought Mathers Social Gathering into our cocktail consciousness and who envision the Robinson Cocktail Room to be “a bastion for the avante-garde.” No doubt, that ethic is reflected in drinks incorporating a dose of the uncommon with a dash of molecular gastronomy. Think the boozy and bitter riff on a Martinez called “Death by Elocution” with Treaty Oak Old Youpon and Bristow barrel-aged gin, a vermouth blend and maraschino foam. It’s then dusted with the powdered skins of lacto-fermented kiwis. If that isn’t out there enough, take a swig and stare at the skeleton display of a sabre-toothed tiger encased in glass.

12. Hanson's Shoe Repair

Copy Link
27 E Pine St
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 476-9446
Visit Website

The speakeasy thing has become a somewhat tired novelty, so once entry to Hanson’s Shoe Repair has been secured by procuring the password from the Twitters (@HansonsShoeShop), head to the Hanson Building (generally considered to be the oldest building in Orlando) and give the person minding the door on the third-floor the “secret” code. Once seated inside the tight, dimly lit space, relax and savor the stiff potions designed by Rene Nguyen, one of Orlando’s finest cocktail creators. There’s even a small outdoor area for those feeling a bit claustrophobic. Oh, and don’t be overly nonplussed by couples making out — it’s a thing here.

13. Southern Craft

Copy Link
2405 E South St
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 412-5039
Visit Website

Right around the corner from popular gay nightclub Southern Nights (and by the same owners), Southern Craft has gained a rep for its affable barkeeps who mix a mean drink with humorous and creative flair. Order the “lumber sexual” with bourbon, Tuaca, maple syrup, cold brew, Angostura bitters and candied maple bacon for proof. Southern Craft’s happy hour goes until 9 p.m., so popping in for a nightcap is an absolute must, God willing and if the creek don’t rise. 

1. The Imperial at Washburn Imports - Sanford

Sanford, FL 32771

Picture a store selling some of the most unique furnishings from India and Southeast Asia. Now picture a bar in the middle of the store and that pretty much describes the Imperial inside Sanford’s Washburn Imports. Sure the Imperials in Ivanhoe Village (the original) and the one that just opened in Winter Park have similar aesthetics, but only the Sanford outpost serves liquor, and its cocktail program caters to connoisseurs. Besides, how many joints can sell a quality Sazerac and the seat being sat on?

2. Bitters & Brass

410 Sanford Ave, Sanford, FL 32771

There’s no bemoaning Sanford’s cocktail scene any more, certainly not with the likes of this gorgeous bartender-owned and operated stunner that draws the envy of many a tippler in Orange County. Cocktail creations are just as classy as B&B’s wood-paneled interior, though nowhere near as dark and moody. The necromancers behind the bar conjure a selection of potions guests can’t help but be impressed by, be they trad concoctions (including amari and absinthe-based cocktails) or seasonal originals showcasing local ingredients and an experimental side.

410 Sanford Ave
Sanford, FL 32771

3. The Matador

724 Virginia Dr, Orlando, FL 32803

It’s the spot for bullfighting vampires to get their drink on, though those with a penchant for enjoying spirited beverages in dimly lit parlors will find this Ivanhoe Village haunt just as appealing. The Matador is the quintessential neighborhood bar with its easygoing mien, but that’s not to say it doesn’t get a bit raucous come the stroke of midnight. Patrons often pour out onto the patio sipping their gin and tonics and Torontos for all of Virginia Drive to see.

724 Virginia Dr
Orlando, FL 32803

4. The Guesthouse

1321 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803

Quality quaffs in pretense-free digs is lure enough for liquorists to the Guesthouse in Mills 50. By day, the large square bar at the space’s core is bathed in sunlight and potted plants happily photosynthesize around its perimeter. By night, the bar takes on an ethereal complexion as guests purposefully sip between two ferns (or more) and barkeeps swizzle and shake potent potables of the highest order. Out on the back parking lot, an Airstream trailer serving cocktails keeps the party going.

1321 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803

5. Lil Indies

1036 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803

Joined at the hip to legendary live music venue Will’s Pub, Lil Indies is a gathering ground for hipsters, subversives and anti-corporate activists who fancy a properly crafted seasonal cocktail while discussing strategies on how to change the world, or while listening to the croonings of a local act. Dingy collides with French Provincial in the oddly shaped rooms, and a rotating cocktail menu with names like “John Waters Is Dead” (it’s got dill Aperol, gin, genepy, egg white, lime and local Smiling Goat shrubs) keeps things equally amusing.

1036 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803

6. The Courtesy

114 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801

One of the progenitors of the city’s cocktail craze, the Courtesy still lays claim to the tippler’s haunt of choice thanks to the scholarly nerds behind the bar and the locally sourced and seasonal ingredients going into their mixers and garnishes. Its throwback apothecary motif and intimate layout offers sanctuary from the surrounding bars catering to the city’s Jager Bombers. And be patient – its well-constructed cocktails take time and precision. Literate types will want to give good study to the nifty selection of absinthes.

114 N Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801

7. The Woods

49 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801

A fixture of downtown’s cocktail scene, the Woods is yet another bar housed inside a historic building, the 1924-constructed Rose Building on N. Orange Avenue to be exact. Just make sure to head up the stairs to the second-floor bar as the Lodge on the ground floor has a decidedly different (read drunken) vibe. The Woods is chill, in a Twin Peaks-y sort of way, and house cocktails can sometimes take on Lynchian kookiness (reposado tequila + Italicus + falernum + Domaine de Canton + green Chartreuse + mulled fig syrup + bitters + lemon = an Enamorada). That said, the vast selection of whiskeys and ryes keep hooch hounds content.

49 N Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801

8. Aku Aku Tiki Bar

431 E Central Blvd, Orlando, FL 32801

Even those with a love/hate relationship with tiki culture will find it hard to find fault with this nostalgia-filled bar – it’s got enough South Pacific kitsch and rum to keep Richard Rodgers and Captain Morgan amused. Rattan furniture, grass skirts and over-the-top cocktail vessels aside, there are some stiff drinks to be had, most notable of which is the signature, and rum-less, “Tiger Fucker” – a fuschia-hued drink of 44° North potato vodka, jalapeno-blackberry syrup, lemon juice and passion fruit juice in an ice-filled schooner glass. It’s then garnished with a flaming sugar cube sitting atop a lemon slice. Needless to say, it’s lit.

431 E Central Blvd
Orlando, FL 32801

9. Mathers Social Gathering

3 Phoenix Building, 30 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando, FL 32801

Boutique spirits, seasonal ingredients, cordials, bitters, and syrups are all necessary requirements in modern-day cocktail making, but what Mathers Social Gathering brings to Orlando (apart from another speakeasy) is a level of big city sophistication. It’s like the city’s very own Soho House, sans the high fees, but with all the style. The spacious bar is housed on the third floor of an 1884 building replete with vintage furnishings, antique accents, soaring bookshelves and cozy brick-lined nooks. While drinks have that old-timey flair, their pricing reflects a current age, that is, pricey. Dress dapper.

3 Phoenix Building, 30 S Magnolia Ave
Orlando, FL 32801

10. BauHaus

27 E Pine St, Orlando, FL 32801

The barkeeps at this downtown haunt two floors beneath Hanson’s Shoe Repair are liquor literates who’ve earned the right to be a bit self-assured, but ‘tude or no, it’s hard to deny their prowess in mixing well-crafted drinks. Brick walls, a low ceiling and narrow confines lend a moody and intimate air ideal for sipping and savoring. The seasoned clientele are eager to be taken out of their comfort zone by the alchemists tending bar, all of whom are more than happy to oblige. 

27 E Pine St
Orlando, FL 32801

11. The Robinson Cocktail Room

61 E Pine St, Orlando, FL 32801

Equal parts Brooklyn loft and West Elm showroom, the second-floor bar in the historic Robinson Building is a paean to pomo art and poisons in every way. It’s from the same group who brought Mathers Social Gathering into our cocktail consciousness and who envision the Robinson Cocktail Room to be “a bastion for the avante-garde.” No doubt, that ethic is reflected in drinks incorporating a dose of the uncommon with a dash of molecular gastronomy. Think the boozy and bitter riff on a Martinez called “Death by Elocution” with Treaty Oak Old Youpon and Bristow barrel-aged gin, a vermouth blend and maraschino foam. It’s then dusted with the powdered skins of lacto-fermented kiwis. If that isn’t out there enough, take a swig and stare at the skeleton display of a sabre-toothed tiger encased in glass.

61 E Pine St
Orlando, FL 32801

12. Hanson's Shoe Repair

27 E Pine St, Orlando, FL 32801

The speakeasy thing has become a somewhat tired novelty, so once entry to Hanson’s Shoe Repair has been secured by procuring the password from the Twitters (@HansonsShoeShop), head to the Hanson Building (generally considered to be the oldest building in Orlando) and give the person minding the door on the third-floor the “secret” code. Once seated inside the tight, dimly lit space, relax and savor the stiff potions designed by Rene Nguyen, one of Orlando’s finest cocktail creators. There’s even a small outdoor area for those feeling a bit claustrophobic. Oh, and don’t be overly nonplussed by couples making out — it’s a thing here.

27 E Pine St
Orlando, FL 32801

13. Southern Craft

2405 E South St, Orlando, FL 32803

Right around the corner from popular gay nightclub Southern Nights (and by the same owners), Southern Craft has gained a rep for its affable barkeeps who mix a mean drink with humorous and creative flair. Order the “lumber sexual” with bourbon, Tuaca, maple syrup, cold brew, Angostura bitters and candied maple bacon for proof. Southern Craft’s happy hour goes until 9 p.m., so popping in for a nightcap is an absolute must, God willing and if the creek don’t rise. 

2405 E South St
Orlando, FL 32803

Related Maps