Today, we’re going to a very special kind of kingdom: the Magic Kingdom. Before you roll your eyes, let’s get this out of the way: I recognize that out of all the wonderful places to visit, Disney World would probably be ranked dead last by most of you, dear readers.
Believe me, I understand. I have a complicated relationship with Disney. Having formerly worked as a cast member—as the park’s employees are known—I view the beloved company with a healthy dose of cynicism.
However, it is probable that, due to familial obligations, the frequent presence of industry conferences in central Florida, or the successful persistence of your children, you will find yourself in the midst of the house of mouse. The most kid-centric and popular park, the Magic Kingdom, is the most-visited theme park in the world. Over 56,000 guests storm the gates daily at the property’s smallest park. Factoring in all four theme parks and resorts, you have 40 square miles—an area the size of San Francisco—to navigate.
The last thing you want should this situation arise is to be ill-prepared for what lies ahead. Screaming kids, annoying parents, and the worst offenders of all: overzealous, self-proclaimed Disney freaks await. This reign of terror can only be endured with the help of some strong hooch. Unfortunately, horribly saccharine and overpriced drinks dominate most of the menus across the property, which includes the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, the Animal Kingdom, and Epcot.
For this reason, I will do my best to share inspired drinks in all four parks beyond the standard sugar-water-with-a-shot. Think of me as your intoxicant informant.
Let’s begin our journey at the Magic Kingdom, which is usually what comes to mind when people say “Disney.” For decades, it was also widely known as a horrifying alcohol desert. Until 2012, alcohol was outright banned from the Magic Kingdom. But leave your “water” bottle at home, because there is hope for finding libations here, although it is the most difficult in which to imbibe of all the parks. Sadly, if you are a fan of liquor, you are simply out of luck, but for the beer and wine enthusiasts, you’ll have a few decent picks.
You should assume, from this point on, that every Disney restaurant is in high demand, and that it will be difficult to secure a reservation. Even by those standards, the Be Our Guest restaurant—which quietly added a beer and wine list to the menu after the 2010 to 2014 Fantasyland refurbishment—is incredibly popular. However, it’s not impossible to get a table. If you are able to dine here in the evening (alcohol isn’t served during the day), skip the ubiquitous Cliquot and go for a non-sparkling option like the Helfrich Pinot Gris, or stick with a more budget-friendly yet highly rated Saison Dupont beer.
If dining in a room dedicated to a Stockholm syndrome-suffering princess isn’t for you, you’ll be happy to know that as 2016 spiraled deeper into the depths of hell, Disney decided to bestow a gift: four more restaurants began serving booze.
Tony’s Town Square on Main Street U.S.A., Cinderella’s Royal Table in Fantasyland, Skipper Canteen in Adventureland, and Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square are your marks. I can tell you right now that a seat at Cinderella’s Royal Table is near impossible, even 180 days in advance, the furthest in advance that reservations are open to the public. Also, no beer is served here, with the menu favoring sweet, overpriced, sparkling options. Splurge on the $110 bottle of Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial Rosé to drown your sorrows after forking over $75 for a notoriously awful prix-fixe menu.
Disappointedly, Skipper Canteen, a campy companion to the Jungle Cruise, catering to world travelers, has only Stella and Blue Moon on its beer list intended for explorers, and sadly, doesn’t get too adventurous with its wine list, either. Your best bet is the King Estate Pinot Noir from Oregon, or the Franciscan Chardonnay from Napa Valley.
Photo by: Gina Zammit.
Tony’s paltry beer offering is just the uninspired Birra Moretti Lager, but their wine list is packed with Italian favorites, like the refreshing Benvolio Pinot Grigio Grave or Luce delle Vite ‘Lucente’ Super Tuscan. Unsurprisingly, the colonial themed Liberty Tree Tavern offers Sam Adams and Angry Orchard hard cider along with a few forgettable California wines.
If you just can’t bear the day without hard liquor, hop on the monorail for a short ride to the Polynesian Resort. Tucked away in the back of the hotel is Disney’s best themed bar, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. Californians have enjoyed this kitschy tiki bar for years at Disneyland, and Disney World has finally caught up. Dark and intimate, the drinks are strong and favor rum. You can even enjoy an adult version of the incredibly delicious Dole Whip called the Spikey Pineapple for about ten bucks. Need I say more?