The Exciting Cocktail Bar Hidden In Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

While many Walt Disney World Resort bars and restaurants require reservations before you even think about stepping foot inside, there are some spots on Disney property where standing in line is your only option. One of those places is Trader Sam's Grog Grotto in Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, aka the most exciting Disney cocktail bar you've never heard of.

The location opens its waitlist at 2 p.m., and the queue only lengthens after that. The interactive, experiential bar is fun for everyone whether you imbibe or not. With cocktails and mocktails in showstopping ocean-themed tiki vessels (including limited edition souvenir mugs and glasses), bartenders put on a show for guests of all ages, except after 8 p.m., when the bar becomes a 21-and-older venue until closing at midnight.

The open-air Tiki Terrace just outside of Trader Sam's is a stunning spot to sip a drink under the starry sky or watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks over the Seven Seas Lagoon. Trader Sam's is easy to get to even if you're not staying on the property.

Trader Sam's fits into Disney's experiential storytelling

The bar is tucked away from the hotel's main thoroughfares like a piece of hidden treasure and is inspired by Trader Sam from the Jungle Cruise attraction at Magic Kingdom's Adventureland. The story goes that Trader Sam was "bitten by the bartending bug" and since then has searched for special ingredients to mix into his magical libations.

The décor and atmosphere at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto include tiki torches, puffer fish lamps, the flashes of "lightning" and cracking "thunder" of a brewing storm, tiki totems, other "ancient artifacts," as well as hidden Disney Easter eggs throughout the space. Out of the faux window (which is actually an LED screen) guests can see a rumbling volcano in the distance, while warm overhead lighting made from ocean buoys and crab cages creates the feeling of an intimate hideaway.

"It's exciting to find something new that you've never heard about, tasted, or experienced," says Dianna Pillow, proprietor at the Walt Disney Company. "We created an atmosphere and flavors that most guests haven't been exposed to. Add to that the Disney storytelling element — it is a total experience."

Like many other Disney milieus, the space is fully immersive and has a story to tell, right down to the impossibly Instagrammable beverages. 

Trader Sam's offers expertly-crafted photo-worthy drinks

Bright colors and fun garnishes are only part of the fun at Trader Sam's, though. The bartenders are slinging some seriously delicious, well-balanced drinks.

"We put a twist on our tiki cocktails by taking a classic recipe and [we] add or substitute various syrups, liquors, and rum so we can introduce a little depth and make a unique flavor profile," says Mathew Degelman, the guest services manager at the hotel. "We have a unique blending of rums that cater to every spirit connoisseur."

While kids are invited to join their families during the first six hours of operation, these cocktails aren't child's play, and the recipes don't skimp on the spirits. For example, the Spiced Island cocktail features Knob Creek Disney Select Single Barrel Reserve bourbon, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, almond orgeat, and pineapple juice, while the Polynesian Pearl is made with creamy RumChata cream liqueur, Grand Marnier, and cinnamon with a splash of tropical juices served in a pearlescent tiki mug that's the guests to keep.

Little ones or alcohol abstainers don't have to miss out on the beverages either. Fun mocktails like the Skipper Sipper, made with tropical fruit juice, agave nectar, falernum, mint, and lime juice, sparkles with a little soda water while the Polynesian Punch combines Sam's Gorilla Grog with hibiscus grenadine.

Ordering a cocktail is a surprisingly delightful experience

The experience isn't just about the flavors and ingredients the no-reservations bar uses. Several cocktails encourage guests to participate in the finishing touches, like the Uh-Oa, meant for two or more guests to share, which arrives set on fire with cinnamon for guests to throw into it and make sparks. When guests order the drink, the statue on the back wall reacts and triggers a thunderstorm in the bar. After all, the drink is named for the goddess of disaster. 

The Uh-Oa isn't the only drink that gets the bar (and the bar staff) involved. Opt for the Nautilus — named for the fictional submarine in the novel and film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — and the entire bar glows blue as if it was suddenly submerged. While ordering certain cocktails from the menu might just get you a playful squirt from one of the bartenders' water pistols. We can't tell you which ones — that would ruin the fun.

"Our Cast Members are truly what make Trader Sam's Grog Grotto very special and unique," says Dianna Pillow. "Our team infuses Disney storytelling throughout the experience, creating fun magic that brings back guests time and time again."

If you want to be one of those guests (either visiting for the first time or the 100th), queue up early for a spot at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto for a cocktail bar experience you won't soon forget — depending on how many drinks you have — and take home one of your cocktail mugs as bragging rights for the effort.