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Drinks with the Mayor of Atlantic Beach

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CooperCampaign (1) AR Photo
Photos by JC Wootton

If you happen to be in Morehead City, North Carolina looking for a good craft cocktail, there is really only one place to go, and there is a good chance you’ll run into a mayor.

Nestled amid the downtown strip of Morehead City is a narrow, old building with exposed brick that houses the Arendell Room, a craft cocktail bar that would be at home in any cosmopolitan area. And as surprising as the Arendell Room is in what might seem at first glance a sleepy beach town, even more surprising is its origins: it was the brainchild of the town’s mayor, Trace Cooper, a lawyer, businessman and developer who happens to have a penchant for a well-constructed drink.

“I wanted it to feel a little more urban, which is why we picked an older building downtown. We wanted it to be just at heart a neighborhood bar that served good drinks that maybe had a little more style,” Cooper explains.

And style it has. The design is modern and cosmopolitan, with a nod to the South and a speakeasy feel of intimacy. Backlit mason jars line the wall behind the bar, and in the next room, red couches stand out against white, birch-tree print wallpaper. The feel is simple and tasteful, not unlike the bar’s menu, which Cooper and his bartender Denny Shrock have created with very specific intent.

“Our philosophy when it comes to making drinks is much more geared to some of the old classics in that they’re relatively simple. A lot of other cocktail bars out there are getting a little carried away. It’s like they are more interested in making an interesting drink than a good drink,” insists Cooper. “We try to keep things simple because once it gets contrived it loses some of what makes it great.”

Sounds simple, but not sleepy. Sip away.