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Special Post: Drinking in Disney World

Loyal followers of Cinema Sips may have noticed it’s been a while since my last movie/cocktail pairing. I wish I could say I had a good reason for this, but the sad truth is… I’m burned out. Between my full-time job, pre-production on my upcoming novel (did you know my book is being published by Random House Canada in June 2023??? Well, now you do!), construction on my house, and holiday stress, something had to give, and that something was the blog. I haven’t had time to watch movies or make interesting cocktails; lately, it’s all I can do to collapse on the couch with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a Frasier rerun. If you’re thinking to yourself, “This woman needs a vacation!” you are correct. And last week, I got to take the ultimate vacation for a person who loves planning, retro futurism, and themed restaurants…Disney World!!!!

While my days consisted of a rides, a lot of walking, and a fair amount of junk food, I also managed to sample a smorgasbord of cocktails. Kudos to Disney for raising the bar on creative mixology, and if you’re looking for the recipes to some of their wildly inventive cocktails and mocktails, you can find many of them in The Unofficial Disney Parks Drink Recipe Book by Ashley Craft:

Here are the top five from my trip, in no particular order.

(*NOTE* You will not find anything from Hollywood Studios on this list because they are officially dead to me after tearing down The Great Movie Ride. I’ve drawn my line in the sand, and that line was a yellow brick road.)

1. The Northwoods, Territory Lounge, Wilderness Lodge

I decided to stop by the lodge for a peek at the Christmas decorations (which were unfortunately not up yet at the time of my visit), but lucked out in finding a new favorite bar, the Territory Lounge. This bourbon cocktail called “The Northwoods” had flavors of maple syrup and rosemary, and was quite tasty paired with a charcuterie plate and bowls of fancy popcorn. Who needs noisy restaurants with kids bouncing off the walls when you can relax into comfy armchairs and make a meal of small plates and booze? Repeat after me, fellow Childless Millennials- LOUNGES.

2. The Big Tang, Space 220 at EPCOT

I don’t even want to go into the full story of how I managed to snag a reservation at one of Disney’s most sought-after restaurants, on one of the busiest holiday weeks of the year. Let’s just say, as with all things Disney-related, it was expensive and time-consuming. Was it worth it? For a Tang-infused Margarita with a piece of astronaut ice cream on top? Absolutely!!! In all fairness, my opinion may have been skewed because I arrived shaky and disoriented after nearly losing my breakfast on the Guardians of the Galaxy ride, to the tune of “Disco Inferno”. Any alcoholic beverage would have been welcome by that point. This one was perfectly themed, if not perfectly balanced, but not to worry- my husband’s mocktail came with a pipette of Butterfly Pea Tea that I used to transfer some of his extremely sour lemonade into my drink, to balance the sweetness. I felt like Jim Lovell, working the problem at 220 miles above Earth.

3. Annapurna Zing, The Nomad Lounge, Animal Kingdom

This was my first trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it definitely won’t be the last! I had a blast on Avatar Flight of Passage (terrible movie, fantastic ride), and saw a real, live flock of pink flamingos. Worth the price of admission, right there. But then I stepped into the Nomad Lounge and found nirvana in the form of delicious small plates, overstuffed armchairs, quiet ambiance, and a huge cocktail list. It was a tough choice, but I went with the Annapurna Zing, a tasty gin/passionfruit/ginger beer concoction that came with a glowing lotus flower. I’ll admit, I was mainly in this for the flower. But the drink was excellent, the conversation even better, and I now have a fun souvenir for my home bar!

4. Cosmopolitan, Steakhouse 71 at The Contemporary Hotel

The Contemporary is one of my favorite hotels on property, and their new steakhouse is retro perfection! This Cosmopolitan was off-menu, but the bartender did a phenomenal job of getting it just right. A cheeseburger and a cocktail in the middle of the day, while Mary Blair’s ghost smiles down on us? Don’t wake me, I’m dreaming.

5. Blood Orange Margarita, San Angel Inn at the Mexico Pavilion, EPCOT

Although tempted by the Neil Patrick Harris-designed margarita prominently displayed on the menu, I opted instead for a simple Blood Orange marg (sorry, Neil). It was tough to find anything without agave in it (why, Disney, do you insist on ruining your margaritas by making them too sweet???), but this one had a nice spicy rim to distract me from the fact that it wasn’t 100% up to my Austin standards. For romantic dining ambiance at Disney, you really can’t beat the San Angel Inn, and if you haven’t ridden the Three Caballeros boat tour slightly tipsy at least once, have you even lived?

I hope to be back in the coming weeks, rested and armed with some holiday flicks and cocktails, but in the meantime, I’ll quote the mouse and say, “See ya real soon!”