Although Charleston has long been a media darling in the culinary world, the city has fast become a rising star in regards to libations. It's easy to see why - Chucktown sports multiple craft breweries, bars with massive beer lists, the Firefly Distillery, high-end cocktail bars, Irvin~House Vineyards, and three soon-to-be-open craft distilleries.
The popular Charleston Culinary Tours took note and recently launched a Mixology Tour that introduces tourists and locals to some of the Holy City's best cocktail makers.
"In a city full of great talent behind the bars, it was just a natural fit to complement our culinary tours," said co-owner Oscar Hines.
Each tours stops at three downtown restaurants or bars where guests will mingle with each other, meet the bartenders, hear some Charleston history, learn how the specialty drinks are made, and sample the cocktails.
I recently attended a Mixology Tour and had a very memorable experience. Although most people would think these types of events are for tourists only, that was not the case at all. Each venue offered up brand new or seasonal cocktails featuring fresh, local ingredients to ensure any participating locals were able to try something new or rarely available.
Our first stop was the rooftop at Stars Restaurant where we were served a cocktail that was created earlier in the day. The unnamed drink was a spicy treat that included heirloom tomatoes straight from Ambrose Farms, jalapeños, ginger, St. Germaine, lemon, sea salt, and tequila. The heat from the jalapenos was immediately present but my mouth was quickly cooled down by the flavor from the fresh tomatoes. Tour-goer Topher Cassidy said the cocktail reminded him of drinking a deliciously spicy gazpacho.
The next stop was The Cocktail Club which was showcasing the Russian Matinee, a refreshing blackberry-based vodka drink. It was made with fresh blackberries, citrus vodka, honey, a house-made ginger syrup, lemon juice, soda, and Angostura bitters. This libation provided a much needed cool-down after the spicy offering from Stars.
Our final destination was Coast Bar and Grill where the drink-of-the-day was the Melon Mule. The bartender also referred to the cocktail as being like a cucumber melon mojito. It consisted of freshly-picked apple mint, simple syrup, soda, melon, key lime juice, cucumbers, Midori, and Bacardi. This was my favorite cocktail of the three we tried and many of my tour mates agreed. It was light, full of flavor, and perfect for a hot summer day.
Whether tourist or local, I recommend attending the Mixology Tour. The venues and drinks frequently change and you have the chance to try cocktails you wouldn't normally order.
If you are interested, the tours run on multiple days and cost $40 per person. Tickets are available here.