An old Southern joke says our seasons consist of summer, college football, more summer, hurricanes, summer again, termites and one more summer. My favorite time of year, however, is concerts at The Wharf season. Beginning in May and lasting through September, Orange Beach’s outdoor amphitheater hosts high-energy, mostly country headliners such as Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett (who are all making appearances in 2021).
And because The Wharf (23101 Canal Road) offers dozens of specialty shops, restaurants and bars to peruse, you can make a day of your Intracoastal Waterway musical excursion. Even better: The Wharf is considered an “entertainment district,” so drinks are available to-go. Here are my picks for the most reliable places to catch a buzz before and after the show.
Southern Grind Coffee House
Jumpstart your day with a nitro draft at Southern Grind. This coastal-chic cafe has two locations at the beach and offers pastries, gelato and house-branded beans with flavors like Southern Pecan, Turtle (chocolate, caramel and pecan), Bananas Foster and Bushwacker (coconut, chocolate, Kahlua and rum). Or, for those ready to rage, try a glass of their Dublin cold brew: cold brew coffee mixed with Guinness and cream.
Red or White
This outpost of Red or White, a local chain of wine bars, offers a sophisticated respite from the bustle of Wharf Parkway. Sample more than a dozen wines by the glass or as 2-ounce pours. The menu changes frequently, but includes Old and New World reds, whites, roses and sparkling. While sipping and snacking on a cheese plate, peruse the hundreds of bottles available in the retail shop, which range from Napa Valley Sauv Blanc to South African Pinotage. If you’re not looking to splurge on something you’ve never tried before, no problem — Red or White has a very reasonable $10-and-under bottle table by the front door.
Kentucky Mist Distillery
Last year, eastern Kentucky’s Kentucky Mist Distillery moved its Lexington operations to Orange Beach. The craft distillery produces small batches of moonshine and vodka, and its location at The Wharf sells flights, cocktails and slushies spiked with its most popular flavors. Think: lemonade, cherry and apple pie. Like what you taste? The retail shop also sells merch and bottles that you can purchase for at-home consumption.
Pour Smart Bar
If you want to cosplay as a bartender for an afternoon and drink some hard-to-find suds, check out the new Pour Smart Bar. Pour has a wall of 39 taps — that you get to pour from yourself. The automated bar is unique for this area. You are given a smart card to keep track of your pours and then you can dole out as much or as little as you’d like; the price is determined by the ounce and you pay on your way out the door.
The beer and cider list changes frequently, but there are some standard offerings like Bud Light (26 cents an ounce), local brews from Braided River, Serda and Fairhope, plus unique beers from around the South such as a sour Lemon Tea from Red Clay Brewing in Opelika (44 cents an ounce); Truck Stop Honey English brown ale from Back Forty Brewing in Gadsden (40 cents an ounce); and the Peace, Love and Hippieweizen Hefeweizen from Goat Island in Cullman (42 cents an ounce). Just be cautious with your pouring technique. You don’t want to spend all your money on foam.
Island Time Daiquiris
Once you’ve committed to Island Time Daiquiris, your day is over. Because they don’t serve the Hemingway kind of refined daqs here; they serve the New Orleans-style frozen ones, in big Styrofoam cups with colorful straws shoved in. They go down a little too easily. Drink machines are stocked with flavors like margarita, strawberry, pina colada, Bushwacker, Hurricane and the most popular, OBAttitude 190, a bastardized take on a Creamsicle featuring Everclear, whipped cream vodka and orange flavoring. And you can’t get one without topping it with an extra shot of Everclear or 151. Be sure to pair your drinks with some wings or pizza. Otherwise, you may forget why you came to The Wharf to begin with and waste a $100 concert ticket. Not that that’s ever happened to me before.
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist. Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
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