With warmer weather on the horizon, we’re planning where we’ll spend our spring and summer evenings sipping on refreshing beverages with friends (plus we really like to be in the know and impress everyone with our knowledge of cool stuff to do around the city — because the more you know … ). That said, we’ve been on a mission to find some of the best cocktails in Charlotte, and we have to say, during our “research” (and we use the term loosely) we discovered there is definitely no shortage of incredible craft cocktails throughout the city, and each is as unique as the restaurants, bartenders and mixologists that serve them. From flower-filled ice cubes to twists on classics, we were quite impressed at the high levels of creativity that were used to create these drinks, and we bet you’ll agree. Cheers!
Drink: The Essex Gingerberry
Restaurant: Essex Bar and Bistro
Main ingredient: Absolut vodka, fresh lemon, berries, house-made ginger, simple syrup
Why we love it: If you like ginger, you’ll love this drink! And while we aren’t typically huge ginger fans, (don’t hate us, but we’d never order a Moscow Mule), this drink really surprised us! The ginger in this drink is certainly noticeable, but surprisingly not overpowering. The fresh lemon and berries cut the sharp flavor nicely. It’s a refreshing twist on a classic strawberry cocktail and isn’t too girly for gentlemen to drink. Our bartender also mentioned that all the ingredients they use in their cocktails at Essex are made fresh and in-house — you won’t find pre-made bottles of syrup anywhere.
Drink: Love Potion #10
Main ingredients: Strawberry rose syrup, champagne, vodka and lemon
Why we love it: This is seriously the most beautiful drink we’ve ever seen! Not only is the beverage a pretty pastel pink, but it comes with a flower ice cube — yep, they have ice cubes with colorful flowers in them (see below). We’ve never seen anything like it and love the originality of the idea. It will certainly be one of those drinks that gets a lot of play on Instagram as soon as people find out about it. We bugged the bartender to let us in on the secret of how they get the flower in the ice and were surprised at how scientific the process was. We don’t want to give away too much, but to get the cubes clear enough to really display the flowers, they have to freeze the water at just the perfect temperature — it cannot be one degree higher or lower! While the Love Potion #10 is absolutely lovely, it also tastes great, which is what it really comes down to. Am I right?! You really can’t go wrong with champagne, vodka and berries! Plus, it’s not overly sweet, so we could definitely drink a few throughout the night with dinner. And who knows, maybe there’s something to the drink’s name that might help you meet there person you’ve been looking for …
Drink: Hibiscus Honey Punch
Main ingredients: Pimms, vodka, krupnikas, soda lemon, strawberry and hibiscus syrup
Why we love it: So admittedly we went to Haberdish to try the Love Potion #10, but enjoyed it so much we had to try something else on the menu that caught our attention and we are so glad we did. The bright red color is just divine, and the fresh mint leaves add the perfect color contrast making it not only incredibly beautiful, but it also adds a refreshing addition to each sip. The name is perfect because it really reminded us of the type of punch you typically drink at a Southern bridal or baby shower, but with alcohol! The hibiscus syrup gives off just the right amount of floral notes without tasting like your drinking a bouquet of flowers.
Drink: Strawberry-Basil LemonAde Spritzer
Restaurant: Pike’s Old Fashioned Soda Shop
Main ingredients: Fresh lemon juice, crushed basil and puree, strawberries and prosecco
Why we love it: What’s not to love about an $8 specialty drink? Besides the great price, this drink is so smooth it’s scary — like drinking a glass of red Kool-Aid smooth. Typically we don’t love basil in our drinks, because the leaves get all caught up in the straw, but the bartenders at Pike’s do a great job of muddling the leaves enough that it’s not an issue. We honestly liked it so much there may have been more than one round ordered. It’s the perfect porch sipper, and Pike’s has a great outdoor patio (hint, hint). This will definitely be our go-to drink during the summer months when we need a break from the Southern heat. Pike’s might be known for their old-fashioned floats (we actually didn’t know that they made alcoholic beverages — it was a nice surprise!), but we have a feeling once people get a taste of this, they’ll be making a whole lot more.
Drink: Matilda Wong
Restaurant: 300 East
Main ingredients: Gin, rum, triple-sec, wild cherry brandy, citrus juices
Why we love it: Like 300 East, the Matilda Wong has become somewhat of a Charlotte staple. It’s the restaurant’s signature drink and one of those things that’s so unique that if you live here, you’ve either heard all about it or have actually had one (or more) for yourself. The drink’s reputation precedes itself, because it tastes just like sweet tarts and it comes in a pitcher. Yep, you read that correctly. The Matilda Wong comes in its own pitcher, so if you ever need to stick to having “just one drink” (been there) then this is what you need to order, because it’s technically “one drink.” But because it is served in such a large portion, tables are limited to ordering only a maximum of two.
SB TIP: Go on a Thursday and get a Matilda Wong for $7.50!
We’d love to hear about your favorite specialty cocktail in the Queen City — e-mail us at [email protected].
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