Drinking in Disney

Mousetail-SplashI, the PeguWife, and the Pegulings have just returned from another pilgrimage to Walt Disney World, and even a massive, weather-related set of delays and gate changes during the 14-hour return trip cannot harsh my mellow.
I can’t say why I love the place so much, but for all that cocktails are my hobby, the thing I drink the most at Disney World is The Koolaid….
That said, Disney does not have the best reputation among boozehounds. I can still remember my first trip to Disney as a child, and my father’s dismayed incomprehension at being informed that there were no alcohol sales inside the Magic Kingdom. And, with the sometimes grudging exception of Blair, I seldom hear much love for any of Disney’s drink operation in the rarefied air of the cocktailosphere.
I decided therefore to take a closer look at how Disney slings booze on this last trip. There really are some things that they do very well. They fall short too, in lots of ways. Finally, I have some ideas that I think they could adopt to do better. You know, if they want to make many guests happier and score some more money….
In this first post, I’ll concentrate on what Disney does pretty well: Wine. At any DW restaurant or bar that serves wine, the selection is fairly broad. The offerings are mostly mid-range wines, with a few higher-end bottles mixed in. And the prices are no more exorbitant than for anything else offered up by the Mouse. What is very nice, unlike with many other multi-venue environments, is that the wine lists vary fairly dramatically from one place to the next. The selection is always fairly representative of the style, or especially the supposed ethnicity, of the venue. France, in EPCOT, has a wonderful selection of wines in the restaurants and shops that make an good introduction for those who haven’t seen a bottle that doesn’t come from California. This last visit, we tried Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which offers about as wide a selection of South African wines as you will find in North America.
Something that we had not experienced before is the annual EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, which will be running until November 8th this year. During this festival, there are scores of small buildings erected around the International Showcase offering food and drink from around the world. While the host nations dominate, there are representatives from lots of other nations you don’t see in EPCOT the rest of the year.
Most of the drinks on offer are wines from around the world, and you can sample them for a couple of bucks each for a decent pour. There are a few liquors to be had as well, with brands like Bacardi, Leblon, and Chopin showing the flag. I could have sworn I saw Jameson’s there too, but I don’t see it now anywhere in my brochure. My memory may be hazy on this….
There is a concert series with acts ranging from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Spyro Gyra to Boyz II Men and Kool & The Gang. And there are lots of seminars on cooking and drink pairings from Disney chefs and some big names from beyond the House of Mouse.
The whole thing is very cool, and if you can’t make it this year, I’d suggest you consider timing a future foray to Orlando in October. I’ll leaving you with this insider tip from my nephew who works there: One of the most beloved aspects of the Festival for locals and employees is the opportunity to get the cheddar cheese soup from Le Cellier without springing for a whole meal.


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