To me, drinking at Disney is an exercise in discerning what defines a good place to drink. Should you always expect craft cocktails? Not really, but innovative bartending isn't the only thing that makes a pleasant experience; for me, atmosphere is also a big component. For example, I don't care how good a certain bar's cocktails are if it's generally populated by frat boys or is too loud to hear yourself think.
Well, while Disney World can't always deliver on value for money, it almost always delivers on atmosphere. I'm no bar reviewer, but I will share a few positive experiences that I do recommend, should you choose to embrace your inner child so stubbornly and ceaselessly as I.
I've loved geography ever since I was a child, eventually getting a degree in it when the time came to graduate from college. And so, Epcot is easily my favorite Disney World park. In Epcot's World Showcase, particularly in the country of Mexico is what's called the Mexican Pavilion. On the outside, it appears to be an enormous Mesoamerican temple. Inside it you will find one of the greatest spaces in all of Disney World. Its interior is designed to look like a lively Mexican market at night. You enter to the sound of festive Mexican folk music with guitars and trumpets. It's very dark, but the center is lit with a warm orange glow. To each side are what appear to be store fronts, and there are kiosks in the center. Toward the rear of the large room is a pyramid with a beautiful mural on the back wall of a lush tropical forest with a lazily smoking volcano in the distance. The mural is lighted and parts of it are animated by effects.
Toward the back near the temple is a lagoon, which happens to be the last leg of the pavilion's attraction, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. On a lower level next to the lagoon is the main dining area of the restaurant San Angel Inn. For years I've always wanted to dine there, and so I finally did this time around.
The drinks at the San Angel Inn were not bad. I and my lovely lady ordered two Margarita variations. (I later also took advantage of getting a bit of the Mezcal they had on the menu.) I got the Blood Orange Margarita, and she, the Pineapple version. (While I don't expect to get a Classic Margarita basically anywhere, I do welcome a "modern" one occasionally when it looks like it's made with good ingredients.) Both of them were good, not great, much like the food. But the atmosphere of the place is what would have me return; you dine in relative darkness, your faces lit by a small lantern on your table... all with the gentle music of marimbas in the background mixed in with the sounds of the erupting "volcano" in the distance... these combined with the pavilion's indescribable pleasant "water ride smell" makes this an experience I would recommend to anyone.
Another place at Epcot worth stopping by is the Coral Reef Restaurant, tucked in a corner of the park next to the Finding Nemo ride. The restaurant consists of a large dining room, one wall of which is the glass of the enormous aquarium that is part of the adjacent ride. The dining room is dark, and most of the light in the room comes from the fish tank. We were able to get a table right next to the glass.
I ordered one of the few drinks on the pan-Disney drink menu (which is surprisingly large) that looked decent called the Eco-tini. I know, the name doesn't really scream "quality", but it had what looked like to be decent and natural ingredients. It uses an Acai spirit called VeeV, lemon juice, ginger, and agave nectar. Sounds good, right? Well it wasn't. It was way too tangy, the kind that hurts your cheeks. I ordered a shot of vodka and added it to the drink, and it still was overpowering. (The drink came with a cute bracelet made of dried acai berries though...)
What the lady got, however, was much better. She got the Magical Star cocktail, which is one of the signature Disney drinks. Is it a balanced cocktail that is complex, interesting, and shows off the best traits of whatever high quality spirits were used to make it? Not really. But is it delicious? Yes. So delicious that I ordered one later at another Disney drinking establishment. It's served on the rocks, and has pineapple juice, Parrot Bay coconut, and X-Rated liqueur, garnished with a pineapple crown leaf. It sounds like a complete disaster, but it's actually interesting and delicious. What's more, the drink comes with a campy LED "ice cube" that sits in your drink and glows different colors. You can turn the cube off at will and take it home with you for use in your own bar. For the effect to really shine, however, you need to use it in a drink that's semi-opaque, so that the whole damn thing glows.
Finally, an honorable mention is the bar at Citricos, a classy joint located in the Grand Floridian Disney Resort. The bartender was friendly, their spirit selection was better than most bars I saw at Disney(including 2 different premium Grand Marnier vintages), and they have adorable little lamps bolted right onto the bar surface. I can't speak to the cocktail service, as we just got dessert wines (their wine selection is very impressive). Go there if you want to feel classy.
If you're a blogger and you have Disney drinking experiences, please post about them. If you're not a blogger, post about them in the comments below! :)