Dig In & Drink Up: Moonlight Liquor Lounge

The curated menu of cocktails at Moonlight Liquor Lounge features fresh ingredients, seasonal flavors, and a touch of whimsy by the bartenders. Seen here: Espresso Martini, Banana Bread Old Fashioned, and bartender special Purple Rain.

Moonlight Liquor Lounge — a moody cocktail bar with a touch of Mad Men-esque mid century style — opened in the Varina downtown district last September.

“The area here clearly has beer handled,” says Moonlight owner Ken Yowell, who also owns Oak City Meatball Shoppe in downtown Raleigh. “The building had the bones of a great bar. We felt like — hoped — a nice cocktail lounge would fill a niche.”

With charcoal paint on the walls, comfortable seating in intimate groupings, and a glittering, well-stocked bar, Moonlight draws in friends, couples, and happy hour seekers from 4 p.m. on.

“We’re constantly changing the menu,” says Yowell. “We want everything to include really fresh ingredients. And we’ve got our takes on some of the classics.”

Like the Banana Bread Old Fashioned, their most popular offering, made with walnut bitters and a brûléed banana garnish. Wednesday nights feature a “breakeven bottle” promotion, aptly titled Whiskey Wednesday, during which customers can sample a top-shelf whiskey or bourbon at cost.

“It gives people an opportunity to try something they wouldn’t otherwise,” says Yowell. Featured bottles have included WhistlePig 15 year Estate Oak Rye, Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Bourbon, and Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon.

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