Hello Epicurean Readers! Every issue I will be on the hunt to find the perfect cocktail, just so you don't have to! Check in to find out what's new in Charlotte, learn more about my favorite finds and the must have cocktails of the season.
Cheers & Enjoy!
May/June Pick: Montepulciano Riserva
Goodbye winter, and hello spring! Fresh flowers, blooming buds, chirping birds, and blissful temperatures ... arguably, this season embraces the essence of all things wonderful. But this spring is particularly special for me, as I ring in my first Mother’s Day since becoming a new mom. And what better way to celebrate than by finding the perfect drink to toast with? Well, this month’s pick will whisk you away to a far off place.
Just 70 miles outside of Charlotte, an adventure awaits you. As you take your final turn onto a dirt road, you’ll spot a little slice of heaven—a Tuscan-style villa perched upon a rolling green hill—as you’ve arrived at Raffaldini Vineyards. Wander into the tasting room and indulge in a glass of the Montepulciano Riserva. This red will satisfy just about any palate. Each sip offers simplistic hints of fruit and subtle earth flavors with a full-bodied finish. Stroll out onto the patio and be transported to a faraway place. Deep views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, green grass, rustic picnic tables, and lines of flawlessly planted vineyards create a setting so beautiful that it’s hard to believe you’re only 90 minutes outside of the city. Need I say more?
No matter what you’re celebrating this spring, allow yourself to be carried away to a little slice of Tuscany in your own backyard. Until next time, cheers and enjoy!
March/April Pick: Guinness
To kick off our spring issue, I wanted to go with a classic choice just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. This season, ring in the Irish holiday with none other than a Guinness Beer.
My selection is an obvious one, but the place to get it is not. When it comes to an authentic pub for St. Patrick’s Day, it doesn’t get much more authentic than Sir Edmond Halley’s Restaurant & Freehouse. Nestled in the back court of Park Road Shopping Center, Sir Ed’s has all the appeal of a classic pub. Dim lighting, a traditional wooden bar, and a “regulars’ table” that serves as a centerpiece. Inside, the environment is relaxed, cozy, and effortlessly comfortable. The feeling is just as it should be; you can tell this place has roots and offers up the ideal setting to indulge in an classic cold one. The Guinness is served just right—perfectly chilled with a thick, creamy head. It’s velvety, smooth, and rich in flavor. Deep in color but not overpowering in taste, each sip has a bit of coffee undertones with a refreshing bite. Each and every brew is poured to perfection, and the folks at Sir Ed’s take pride in knowing how to do it right.
As I sit on an traditional wooden bar stool, out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of an old, framed advertisement that reads “Lovely Day for a Guinness.” I smirk as I take my final sip, and I can’t help but feel that there is no better place in town to order up an old favorite. Until next time ... cheers and enjoy!
January/February Pick: ‘Fig’r It Out
It’s a New Year, and that calls for a new cocktail! On my hunt for how to sip in 2017, I stumbled upon a new, innovative, cocktail creation whipped up right in the heart of SouthPark. Look no further than the creative, ingenious choices at Corkbuzz.
While it was my quest for an original wine bar that initially led me in, it is their one-of-a-kind, seasonal cocktail menu that made me stay. Start the year off right by indulging in the ‘Fig’r It Out.’ This fig inspired whisky sour has a bit of everything you need. Old Overholt Rye is intermingled with a homemade fig shrub and sour mix consisting of fresh lemon, lime, and cane sugar. Topped off with an egg white meringue and dry shaken, it’s served up over ice with a bright slice of orange on top.
Every sip is full of spice accompanied with a splash of citrus flavor. Each mouthful offers up a taste featuring all the deep, dark flavors in the whisky without the bite, while the fresh fig adds a touch of sweetness making this cocktail choice an easy one. The egg whites serve up a silky texture while the soft shake creates a fluffy foam on top—beautiful to look at and even better to taste. All of the elements of this seasonal feature work together to make each and every drop better than the last. So start this New Year off right by trying something new and experiencing a cocktail that will make you feel nostalgic while reflecting back on the years past. Here’s to new adventures in 2017 ... until next time, cheers and enjoy!
November/December Pick: Ayala Brut Majeur Champagne
Cooler temperatures, windy weather and winter vibes are in full swing. Another holiday season is here, and it’s, without a doubt, my favorite time of year to be in the Queen City. The only thing that could make it any better is the perfect drink and the perfect spot to go along with it.
Well, Epicurean readers, not to worry, because I’ve got you covered just in time for the holidays. Nestled on East Boulevard in Dilworth, you’ll find Foxcroft Wine Company, one of the few true wine bars in Charlotte. Foxcroft sets the ideal tone for sipping, tasting and indulging in all things delicious. Pull up a chair, and don’t bother looking at the menu … order a glass of Ayala Brut Majeur Champagne. This French Champagne hits all the marks—well balanced, decadent in taste, glows gold in color and needs no help going down. Oh, and did I mention that it’s the only place in town where you can order it by the glass?
As you sit back among the wine-filled walls surrounded by rustic reclaimed wood, be whisked away to all things winter and burrow into this intimate, cozy spot. Whether you’re looking for the perfect night out with some friends or a relaxing date night, Foxcroft has you covered. And just in case Champagne isn’t your thing, there’s no need to worry, as the wine list doesn’t disappoint. So pop open the champs or cheers with your favorite juicy red and ring in the holidays. I’ll be toasting you from afar! Until next time … cheers and enjoy!
September/October Pick: Doc Porter's Distillery
The growing craft scene in the Queen City is making its mark all over town. This issue, I was on the hunt for something more than just a creative cocktail ... I wanted an innovative experience. Well, Epicurean readers, you’re in luck, because I’ve found it. A refreshing new competitor has come to town that is clearly here to stay.
Introducing Doc Porter’s Distillery in South End. A grain-to-glass operation that boasts all things local, Doc Porter’s is setting a new standard when it comes to gin and vodka. The vodka is made from North Carolina wheat that’s milled on-site at their local distillery. Doc’s gin follows suit without skipping a beat, made with a 100 percent North Carolina wheat grain-to-glass base. The gin is then vapor infused with hand-selected spices and herbs. Boasting flavors of chamomile, cucumber and grapefruit, this spirit is much more than your average joe. There’s nothing traditional about it; each offers flavors of vibrancy accompanied by a silky, smooth finish.
Recently, I ventured on a tasting tour at Doc Porter’s, and the experience—from beginning to end—was one of a kind. You enter into their dimly-lit tasting room lined with reclaimed wood along with accents of fresh spices and herbs, same that go into each and every batch of their spirits. The feeling is intimate, cozy and accompanied by a view of barrels working on a high wheat bourbon that will be ready just in time for the holidays. This is a family run operation, and you can feel the importance of the local flare that it offers. This distillery prides itself on being under 40 miles away from their local growing grains and working to making a difference. One thousand gallons of mash is sent back to local farms each month to feed livestock, but that’s just one of the many things you’ll discover. Doc Porter’s is all about tasting the local difference and indulging in a spirit that is full of Charlotte flavors. And boy, if I do say so myself, drinking local never tasted so good! Until next time … cheers and enjoy!
July/August Drink Pick: Basil Smash
Rising temperatures, glowing sunshine rays and summertime vibes calls for the ultimate cooling cocktail to top off the season. There’s no denying that the competition among cocktail choices is stronger than ever, but not too worry, this issue’s pick not only proves to be the number one contender in choice, but also scenery.
There truly is no better spot to sit back and enjoy this season’s finest than Fahrenheit Restaurant. Situated on the 21st floor above the Skye Condos in Uptown, Fahrenheit serves up the perfect palate to take in this summertime season. While their seasonal cocktail menu offers an abundance of choices, look no further than the Basil Smash. A delectable combination of local lavender-infused TOPO Gin, fresh lemon, a splash of house simple syrup … all topped off with fresh basil. And by fresh basil, I, of course, mean picked straight from Fahrenheit’s rooftop garden. Each sip is full of refreshing zest, vibrant flavor and a hint of sweetness. The garden-fresh basil screams summer, and each mouthful is truly invigorating.
So this summer, kick back, take in the breathtaking Charlotte skyline backdrop and get in the mood with the Basil Smash. It’s nearly impossible to just have one! But, the good news is, no matter how many you indulge in, there is virtually no better setting by which to be whisked away. Until next time, cheers and enjoy!
May/June Drink Pick: Juicy Jay
Spring has sprung, and with warm weather comes a slew of blooming cocktails all over the Queen City.
The warm temperatures have my taste buds craving a craft delight, and with so many breweries popping up all over Charlotte, the decision wasn’t without competition. The choice was effortless, however, as I stepped on the scene at Legion Brewery. One of Plaza Midwood’s newest hangouts, this brewery boasts the very essence of the craft beer scene. Legion has amassed 28 seasonal brews since launching in December, so you can always expect something new on the menu. But don’t worry, my pick is a staple that’s always flowing from the tap. Soak up the sun, sit back and sip on the Juicy Jay. An American IPA that features Mosaic, El Dorado and Cascade hops, the combination flows together fluently while boasting distinct flavors of tropical tangs, citrus hints accompanied by a dry finish. This IPA is full of the unexpected, easy drinking and a seasonal staple.
So sit back, relax and be whisked away by the tropical IPA. This treat will get you in the mood for summer, and I promise you’ll be back for more. Even among one of the busiest, most booming craft beer scenes around, my hat is off to Legion, proving to be a true contender that needs no introduction. Until next time … cheers and enjoy!
March/April Drink Pick: NKH Cocktail
Warm temperatures, spring air and several broken New Year’s resolutions had me on the hunt for a cocktail that is, once and for all, truly ‘guilt free.’ It’s not always an easy task when it comes to craft infusions, but not to worry Epicurean readers, as I’ve found the ultimate indulgence that’s worth each and every drop.
From mid-March through April, select restaurants throughout Charlotte will be serving up the NKH Cocktail. I was lucky enough to sip mine at Mimosa Grill alongside Tripp Cagle, restaurant proprietor and creator of the delectable drink. As Cagle puts it, the NKH is a creative twist on a classic margarita. A fusion of Herradura Reposado Tequila, Campari, freshly-squeezed orange lemon and lime juices and a touch of agave nectar is shaken, poured over ice and topped off with San Pellegrino Aranciata. Served up in a classic Collins glass, this concoction is bright, booming with flavor and florescent in glow. Each mouthful features an accent of tang accompanied by a hint of sweetness.
Still, the best part of this divine cocktail is the cause behind it—the fight against childhood hunger. For the last 21 years, Charlotte’s Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry has brought together local restaurants and mixologists to raise funds to end childhood hunger. One in five children in America will face hunger this year. For every NKH Cocktail ordered, 10 meals are provided for a child. And if that isn’t reason enough to indulge, I don’t know what is. So, this March and April, don’t bother looking at the drink menu or hearing the specials; order the NKH and savor every sip of something that is truly worth it. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to hashtag #NKHCocktail to show your support. Until next time… cheers and enjoy!
Find the NKH Cocktail at Harper’s South Park and Carolina Place locations, Upstream and Mimosa Grill. For more information on the 21st Annual Taste of the Nation event on April 18, 2016, visit ce.strength.org/charlotte.
January/February Drink Pick: Apple of My Eye
Brisk temperatures, whispering winds and dark nights had me on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind cocktail. With Valentine᾿s Day just around the corner, I was craving something outside the box, something eccentric, something memorable. Well, I found it!
Fifteen floors up, tucked away inside the Ritz-Carlton, you’ll stumble upon The Punch Room. If you᾽re looking for the ultimate romantic experience this Valentine’s Day, look no further than the ‘Apple of My Eye,’ created by creative cocktail genius Bob Peters. This cocktail features cardinal gin, apple infused tea, Riesling and simple syrup. Served up in the most stunning, hand blown glass featuring two glass straws for you and your sweetheart to share. Can you think of anything more perfect than a glass for two? Topped off with dried hibiscus flowers, the beauty of this drink in undeniable. With each and every sip, the hibiscus flowers melt, continuously changing the color of the cocktail. Each sip is full of flavor, decadent in taste and accompanied by a bit of sweetness. You can taste the freshness of the gin, which is made just 35 minutes away in Kings Mountain. Looking around, you can’t help but be immersed in the feeling of exclusivity. The dim lights, deep velvet cushions and floor-to-ceiling windows boast a true feeling of intimacy. With only 37 seats available, this is one experience that you won’t forget.
Until next time … cheers and enjoy!
November/December Drink Pick: Cranberry Souse
Just in time for cool temperatures and cozy weather, I’ve found the perfect cocktail thanks to one of my favorite spots tucked inside the Mint Museum in Uptown. True to their seasonal motto, Halcyon masters the ultimate fall cocktail; look no further than their very own “Cranberry Souse.” This concoction starts with a mason jar full of homemade cranberry jam. Inside, you’ll find vibrant, juicy, fresh cranberries, Zinfandel, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, a touch of cloves and orange zest. Need I say more? Combine this decadent delight with a few ounces of Cardinal Gin and half an ounce of Grand Marnier, shake it over ice and top it off with a lemon zest peel and fresh ginger shavings. Not only does this drink boast a taste of the holidays with each and every sip, but it also resembles it in color. Deep ruby red accents from the jam brighten the ice-cold martini glass. Each drop is accompanied with a hint of citrus flavor. Halcyon means calm and tranquil, and that’s exactly how you’ll feel after this cocktail. Embrace the cold weather, bundle up and treat yourself to the perfect seasonal treat! Don’t miss out, as this cocktail is only available as long as cranberries are in season.
Until next time … cheers and enjoy!
September/October Drink Pick: Little Sister
The triple digit temperatures this summer have had me on the hunt for something refreshing, fruity and, most importantly, something on ice.
My summertime “go-to” choice has always been a nice, cool glass of Rosé, though that can get old, fast. My hunt for something different led me to a new, unexpected spot tucked away behind Park Road Shopping Center in Myers Park called RockSalt. While they’re best known for their killer oysters and fresh seafood, RockSalt’s cocktails are what blew me away. As a result, my pick for this issue is their ‘Little Sister’ cocktail. This is a must-try-to-truly-appreciate kind of cocktail. The process begins with a handful of fresh blueberries that are popped to perfection. The blueberries are mixed with Triple Sec and Lefage Rosé (who would have guessed … more Rosé!) and gently poured over chunky, frigid ice cubes. This simplistic mix of ingredients is pure bliss. The blush pink Rosé mixed with the Triple Sec creates a soft, clear color with a pop of bright blueberries that slowly drip out hints of sweetness with every sip. This cocktail is easy drinking and delicious. Each sip is accompanied with hints of strawberry and cherry flavors from the Rosé, and the Triple Sec balances out the depth of Rosé flawlessly. Each taste is truly better than the next. The Little Sister will be the perfect end to your summer!
Until next time … cheers and enjoy!
July/August Drink Pick: 2009 Nebbiolo
Summer is here and it’s the perfect time for a weekend getaway. I recently ventured on a wine tasting trip to the Yadkin Valley, or as I like to call it, the Southern-Style Napa, to find something new for this month’s drink selection.
Just an hour and a half’s drive from Charlotte, lush vineyards and acres of wine country await you. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find Round Peak Vineyards. Known for growing and producing Italian and French varietals, this vineyard has several notable features for any wine lover. Wander into the quaint tasting room and look no further than the 2009 Nebbiolo. Order a glass of this vino and be whisked away to the Italian countryside. It won’t be a difficult task, as this particular glass of wine uses the same grape that’s found in Italian Barolo wines. With each and every sip, this wine boasts flavors of cherry, raspberry and licorice. It’s dry, easy drinking and worth the trip. Stroll the gorgeous grounds of the lavish vineyards or relax away from the glowing sun in the gazebo. The scenery will whisk you away to a far off place, and a weekend getaway will feel like a summertime vacation. Until next time… cheers and enjoy! Or as they say in Italian, Salute!
For more drink picks and wine tasting tips, check out my article on the Yadkin Valley in this month’s issue.
May/June Drink Pick: The Salty Coconut Red Ale
Spring is here, and it truly is my favorite season to get outside and try out some tasty new beverages in Charlotte. Sunny days and temperatures in the high 70s have me reminiscing about clear blue water and warm sandy beaches. But since we’re a bit far from the beach, my second favorite spot is one of the many craft breweries in Charlotte.
My personal favorite is Sycamore Brewery. Nestled in the heart of SouthEnd, this brewery brings big competition to the growing local craft beer scene. Wander inside and pick from one of the 20 house taps that host an assortment of seasonal crafts. If you can’t decide, however, and only have time for one, go with my pick of the month: The Salty Coconut Red Ale. While it may be brilliantly red in color, it’s definitely not your typical red ale. Brewed with 10 pounds of coconut per barrel along with a splash of sea salt, this ale is unexpected, delicious and refreshing. The ale arrives with a perfect, sliver of white froth that coats the top of the beer. Immediately, your senses are overwhelmed by the scent of coconut, but don’t mistake this for a Piña Colada. Each sip leaves you with a decadent aftertaste that features flavors of toffee, caramel and toasted coconut.
The taproom opens up to an adjoining garden full of picnic tables, games and live music. As the sun beats down, the music serenades you, and with each sip of your coconut ale, you are whisked away to summer life in far off places. And just in case beer isn᾿t your thing, Sycamore also offers wine on tap. There᾿s truly something for everyone! Sycamore’s motto is “Drink Carolina Proud,” and that᾿s just what each and every person does when they visit. Don’t miss out! Until next time... Cheers & enjoy!
March/April Drink Pick: The VIP
Signs of warm seasons are swooping in and getting me in the mood for a refreshing cocktail. This issue’s choice is one that you don’t want to miss. Inside Piedmont Row, you’ll find a classic Steakhouse favorite: Del Frisco’s. But it’s not the steak that I’m craving.
Wander inside, and you’ll find my go-to cocktail and steakhouse secret glowing inside an illuminating glass jar at the end of the bar. Bright, yellow stacked Hawaiian pineapple slices fully immersed in Clementine Vodka radiate through the glass. Epicurean readers, I introduce you to ‘The VIP.’ A personal favorite that does not disappoint, this signature cocktail is a labor of love. The golden, rich pineapple is infused in vodka for 14 days and delicately strained. Each delicious drink is shaken on ice, creating a sleek layer of froth on top and served up in a martini glass draped with an orange spiral over the rim. Grab a seat at the bar and indulge. This cocktail is smooth, silky and delicious—not too sweet and not too strong, but just right. The top layer of foam adds a pinch of creaminess to each and every sip. Radiant in color and decadent in taste, this cocktail is one worth savoring. Trust me, it’s hard to beat. Until next time... cheers & enjoy!
(Tip: Wednesday night is a special price for The VIP!)
January/February Drink Pick: The Alternative Cocktail
Winter is in full swing, and cold temperatures and windy weather have had me on the hunt for a warming cocktail. This issue’s choice definitely doesn’t disappoint. Nestled behind a busy road in Myers Park is an old mansion. Wander inside, and you’ll find one of my favorite spots in Charlotte...Stagioni. One of their best kept secrets? Stagioni’s decadent drink menu. Dim lighting, historic details and exposed rustic wood ceilings all work together to create a snug, cozy atmosphere and fuel that craving for a wintertime drink. Grab a seat at the bar and indulge in ‘The Alternative’ cocktail. A mix of Bulleit bourbon, muddled oranges, Cointreau, Carpano Antica, aromatic bitter and agave, it’s topped with a slice of orange and a bright red cherry. By trade, it’s a modern-day Old Fashioned. Sipping on The Alternative in this 1920s mansion full of history and character will take you back in time, or at least have you feeling like you’re in the latest episode of Mad Men. The creamy bourbon and sweet agave mixed with a splash of bitters is proportioned impeccably. The bourbon is silky, smooth and needs no help going down. On a cold, winter night, it will truly warm you to the core, making this cocktail the ultimate winter indulgence. Don’t miss out! Until next time... Cheers and Enjoy!
Drink of Choice: Mama's Eggnog
This month I had the chance to chat with the Queen of Culinary Delight, Paula Deen. When its comes to indulging in a Holiday cocktail, look no further than Mama's Eggnog. Courtesy of no other than Paula herself- this Eggnog does not disappoint. I whipped it up in just under 20 minutes and boy, did it blow the socks off of any other Eggnog recipe I've tried! It is decadent, delicious, savory and a true-crowd pleaser. Whether you're hosting a small gathering of close friends or pumping up for your yearly holiday party this Eggnog will leave each and every guest talking for the entire season. See recipe below!
Ingredients: 1/2 pint Bourbon , 1 pint heavy cream, 4 pints milk , 3/4 cup sugar, 6 eggs, separated, 1 tablespoon Vanilla & Nutmeg.
Directions: In a bowl beat the egg yolks with the 1/2 cup of sugar until thick. In another bowl beat the egg whites with 1/4 cup of sugar until thick. In a third bowl beat the cream until thick. Add the cream to the yolk, fold in the egg whites, and add the milk, Bourbon, Vanilla, and a pinch of nutmeg if desired. Chill in freezer before serving.
Serve Eggnog in a large punch bowl.
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen