Cocktail Bars 

The Bar at Husk

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

Early on, the bar at Husk made a name for itself as a temple of bourbon, thanks to its selection of more than 50 premium bourbons and its own barrel of Pappy Van Winkle. Over the past two years, it has continued to evolve and mature, adding an impressive number of ryes and scotches to its brown water collection and incorporating them into an ever-expanding array of handcrafted cocktails. The same ingredient-centric passion and historical eye that defines Husk’s kitchen is in play in the bar as well. Fire-roasted apple juice and jalapeño jam temper tequila in the Burro and the Plow, while housemade celery bitters and beet juice give Ruby’s Radish a rosy glow. The punch list offers 19th century classics like Charleston Light Dragoon punch, along with contemporary inventions like the candy-sweet School House on the Rock. Located in a separate two-story outbuilding next door to the main restaurant, the bar’s century-old exposed brick and rough-hewn beams give it a rustic but elegant atmosphere that’s perfect for a historic drinking experience. —Robert Moss, Dish (Winter 2013)

The Belmont

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

The Brolin

With an elegant brown bar and an art deco clock hanging from a punched tin ceiling, the Belmont evokes a lost era of languid sophistication. Owner Mickey Moran is the consummate bartender, and he mixes some of the most impressive cocktails in town. Aged mezcal adds a touch of smoke to the Bells of Jalisco, while jalapeño-infused honey adds a zip to the grapefruit and bourbon of a Brown Derby. Four dots of brown bitters on a foamy layer of egg whites form the “paw” atop the Tiger Paw sour, while housemade bitters make the Belmont’s Manhattan deep and complex. If you get the munchies, Moran will carve off paper-thin slices of bresaola or lamb prosciutto with a stylish red Italian slicer or toast you a homemade pop-tart filled with Nutella and bananas. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

The Cocktail Club

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

Jonathan Boncek

Cocktail Club's Tropical Heat

The Cocktail Club occupies the second floor above its sister restaurant, the Macintosh. Taking a touch of inspiration from the old speakeasy days, the big room has an appealing blend of the rustic and the sophisticated, invoking a nightclub improvised in a Prohibition-era warehouse. But there are no bathtub gin martinis here. The cocktails have plenty of contemporary farm-to-shaker influences, employing beet juice and sweet potato puree along with an array of liquors infused with everything from black and red peppercorns to blueberries and thyme. Spicy, floral, creamy, smoky: the flavors are always fresh and inventive, making this a club very worth joining. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

The Gin Joint

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

Jonathan Boncek

Joe Raya’s passion for the craft of drink-making and tireless attention to detail has earned the Gin Joint a reputation as one of the country’s leading destinations for cocktail fans. It’s not just a matter of a guy making his own bitters and researching old pre-Prohibition drink recipes. We’re talking someone so dedicated he bought a Clinebell machine that makes ice in 300 pound blocks intended for ice sculptures, which he breaks down with a chainsaw and sledgehammmer. He smokes B-grade maple syrup to bring out its silky, buttery notes, then blends it into a smoked maple Manhattan that’s superbly rich and complex. The Gin Joint is a husband-and-wife operation with a small but dedicated crew. Joe mans the bar while MariElena Raya turns out an impressive array of small bites and treats. The warm soft pretzels with sriracha-laced cheese are always reliable, while the housemade beef jerky, tinged with ginger and chili, may well be the most intensely flavored bar snack ever. There’s a deep list of quality bourbons, scotches, and rums, but the real action is on the ever-rotating menu of cocktails that come straight from the Gilded Age. Wise imbibers turn to the “Bartender’s Choice” and pick two themes from the word bank — for example, sweet and strong, or bitter and smoky — and leave the rest up to the bow-tied gentlemen behind the bar. You never know quite what you’ll get, but it’s guaranteed to be delicious. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Proof

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

Old Fashioned

Upper King Street is becoming quite the cocktail mecca, and Proof more than holds its own against the stiff competition from its neighbors. The old fashioned is a proper old fashioned without any extraneous muddled fruit, and old reliables like Harvey Wallbangers, Tequila Sunsets, and gin and tonics are amply represented. This isn’t just a joint for drink snobs, though. The “real good beers” list offers plenty of cheap cans alongside crafty IPAs and sours. Plus, there’s a rotating selection of treats like mini donuts and boiled peanut hummus for snacking. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Seanachai Social Club

Johns Island - Cocktail Bar

This is a members-only bar on Johns Island that’s happy to let you check it out a time or two before you pony up for membership. It’s owned and operated by one of the coolest Irishmen in town, Gerry Kieran, a longtime bartender who is much-loved by his clientele, and for good reason. The specialty drinks use artisanal bitters, cherries pickled in-house, and plenty of true Irish whiskey. Gerry has a small barrel of the Dublin, his version of the Manhattan, which features Irish whiskey, Benedictine, sweet vermouth, and maple bitters. He also has what must be the best Irish whiskey list in town from blended whiskeys to single malt and a handful of single pot still whiskeys, like Middleton Very Rare from Cork that’s aged 25-27 years. It’s a true neighborhood watering hole, with no TVs, a low volume conducive to conversation, food trucks on Friday, and good live music from local groups like the Flat Foot Floozies, which should have you doing a happy Irish jig. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2013)

Thoroughbred Club

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

Ben Williams

1792 Ridgemont Reserve

The Thoroughbred Club serves as the lobby bar for Belmond Charleston Place, and it’s anything but your typical hotel bar. Dark-paneled walls, red leather-capped chairs, and deep sofas create a clubby atmosphere, while paintings of horses and framed racetrack memorabilia add a sporting equestrian feel. It’s the perfect setting for mixologists Mouzon Taylor’s and Malachi Topping’s ambitious pours, and the entire cocktail selection was recently overhauled to bring a more handcrafted focus. Muddled cucumber, basil, and mint add cool notes to the Infield while amaretto, Fernet Branca, and two scotches meet in the Islay Fog to create a splendidly smoky, chocolate-tinged sip. Barrel-aged old fashioneds steep in a small oak cask for three months to imbue them with oaky flavor. A slate of impressive tapas-style appetizers and good wines by the glass round out a top-shelf offering. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

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