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)

Cane Rhum Bar & Caribbean Kitchen

Downtown - Bar

Jonathan Boncek

Spicy Jamaican beef patties

Relentlessly festive and fun, this is no kitschy tiki bar. Rather, Cane Rhum Bar offers a chic, tropical vibe with Caribbean flavors on the menu and smooth-drinking cocktails with which to wash them down. Belly on up to the polished bar and order a zippy, ginger-infused Instant Vacation. Cool down on a hot Charleston night with their take on the crisp Mojito, made with both fresh mint and snappy mint bitters. If you’re looking for something upon which to snack, highlights include the Jamaican jerk chicken or coffee and brown sugar-rubbed steak, served sliced and cooked to order. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

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)

Henrietta's

Downtown - French

Billed as a Southern brasserie, Henrietta’s is the Dewberry Hotel’s flagship restaurant. The space itself is casual, with open-back bistro chairs and a black-and-white checkered tile floor, but the frequently-changing menu is decidedly upscale with a France-meets-New Orleans focus. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, recent menu highlights included buckwheat crepes with homemade ricotta, a decadent croque madame with house-cured ham, and delicate flounder grenobloise with kumquats and brown butter. The extensive wine list and full bar is certain to quench most any thirst. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

High Cotton

Downtown - New Southern

Jonathan Boncek

Rabbit loin with sausage and bacon

High Cotton may now be under the umbrella of Halls Management Group (owner of Halls Chophouse), but the same easy going Southern hospitality remains. Shawn Kelly helms the kitchen and offers up your standard fare — crab cakes and filet mignon, scallops and shrimp and grits. But the key is to go on a night when he’s working his magic on the specials. A recent visit featured a beautifully plated triggerfish with some of the best smoked clams we’ve ever had. A green pea risotto added a fresh pairing made even better with a crisp glass of Albariño. Don’t forget to consider the sides. Those gruyere potatoes au gratin make a perfect match if you do just want a steak. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

HĹŚM

Downtown - Burgers

Adam Chandler

HōM-Wrecker

HōM (pronounced home) is still slinging some quality gourmet burgers in its seventh year in business. The HōM Wrecker has been a menu staple since the restaurant opened, and there’s good reason for that. A juicy beef patty is topped with applewood-smoked bacon, pepper jack cheese, and a perfectly cooked sunny-side up egg. Besides the beef, HōM offers a wide array of burger patties such as lamb, turkey, falafel, and tofu. The hand-cut fries and garlic-chipotle onion rings go hand in hand with the burgers, and the crunchy fried pickles are fantastic. What we’re really digging right now are the sweet potato fingerlings tossed in roasted garlic, truffled herb aioli, and blue cheese — addictive. The bar sports some local craft beer and a few crazy cocktails, helping establish the ping-pong hall as a solid local favorite. —Eric Doksa (Dish, Summer 2018)

Ink N Ivy

Downtown - American

Jonathan Boncek

Set in the site of a former pawn shop, this hip three-story bar and restaurant features pop art-themed decor along with a crowd-pleasing menu. Trendy, Southern-inspired offerings have ranged from crispy chicken skins and carrot hummus to a cauliflower mac and cheese. Pull up a seat at the long wooden bar, where the creative cocktails run the gamut from funky to festive, including a gin drink made with edible glitter. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

Kickin' Chicken

Downtown - American

Oh Kickin’ Chicken, we loved you when we were in college and we still love you today — especially after a festive night on the town. This local chain’s five locations now service more than hungry CofC Cougars. But it’s what got the biz started, super tasty chicken sandwiches, that always lures us back. We’re suckers for the Johnny, a mighty meal of chicken, bacon, barbecue sauce, and cheddar cheese with an oh-so-necessary side of ranch dressing. When we’re rolling deep with friends, the wings always satisfy, particularly with an adventurous crowd willing to forego the traditional teriyaki sauce for the Thai chili option. This chicken is clearly doing something right. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

Ms. Rose's

West Ashley - American

Jonathan Boncek

Fresh swordfish from Cherry Point with butternut squash puree, brussels sprouts, pecan vinaigrette, and puffed rice

Ms. Rose’s Fine Food and Cocktails’ broad menu should have something to please anyone. Start off with fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and tomato ragout, warm pretzel sticks, or whole wings with a choice of three sauces. Their fried chicken sandwich is crispy and juicy and the 6 oz. house burger with Swiss cheese, apple wood smoked bacon, and fried onions hits the spot. The fish and chips are excellent — the fried cod splashed with malt vinegar is some of the best in town. Vegetarians can choose the cheese tortellini with cherry tomato, roasted red pepper, Manchego and Parmesan cheese, spring onion, and baby spinach. —Robert Donovan (Dish, Summer 2018)

O-Ku

Downtown - Sushi + Japanese

Yellowtail Carpaccio

You pretty much can’t go wrong with O-Ku. With the sushi chefs turning out half-price rolls and the well-appointed bar staff slinging marked-down cocktails during happy hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (not a typo!), the King Street hotspot has something for the California roll lover and the nigiri expert alike. To be honest, we rarely stray from the sushi. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like O-Ku’s twist on the venerable potato roll (shrimp tempura, avocado, shoe-string potatoes, eel sauce, and mango remoulade). Our favorites are the tuna tataki roll (seared tuna, tempura shrimp, avocado, eel sauce, spicy aioli) and the dapper snapper roll (red snapper, spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber, pickled red onion, sweet chili vinaigrette). From the bar, the crisp lemongrass gin and tonic and the sweet Saigon sunset always hit the spot. If you stick around after the lights go down, don’t be surprised if it feels more like a nightclub than a restaurant. —Sam Spence (Dish, Summer 2018)

Prohibition

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Lamb chops

The entrees are dazzling and change seasonally; summer offerings include an Anson Mills farro risotto, brimming with seasonal greens, wild mushrooms, and fresh peas, or a burger crammed with maple-bourbon bacon jam, garlic aioli, crisped onion and cheddar cheese, and the requisite “local catch” which changes with more frequency. Those prone to the decision making paralysis that often comes along with such a robust entree menu should take note of the hidden gem of the menu: more than a half-dozen artfully crafted appetizer and shareable plates born out of a love of local produce, much of it sourced from Ambrose Farms. Stand-out offerings include an heirloom tomato salad drizzled with cucumber sumac and Lowcountry Creamery yogurt, dotted with Sea Island red pea falafel; Brussels sprouts tenderly crisped in a chili-lime sauce, tossed with pickled carrots; and warm Diver scallops brushed with brown butter and citrus. —Sarah Reynolds (Dish, Summer 2018)

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)

The Royal American

Downtown - Bar

The Royal American has been one of our favorite bars for a long time now. Some of our best memories have been at concerts at the dive right next to the train tracks. But Royal has is now not only a great bar, it’s a pretty solid restaurant too. In fact, they have a new menu with quality eats that belie the dive bar rep — from daily specials like a fresh chicken shawarma salad to menu staples like the crazy good dry-rub magic wings (not too spicy, but with a subtle sweet kick). Sounds like just what we’d like with Royal’s Rum Punch. —Mary Scott Hardaway (Dish, Summer 2018)

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)

South Seas Oasis

Downtown - Bar

Jonathan Boncek

From its high, flowery paper parasol-covered ceiling to the playfully named dishes coming from the “Ooh-Mami Bar,” there’s an inference that a good time will be had at South Seas Sushi, an expansion of the South Seas Tiki Lounge. Service is friendly and attentive, and I followed my waitress’s enthusiastic endorsement of the chicken yakitori ($10). Here, three chunks of white meat chicken are served on skewers and lightly drizzled with teriyaki sauce. The meat was tender and there’s a subtle grill flavor. The shrimp crackle pop ($10) delivers a dozen tempura-battered shrimp piled around a ramekin of sriracha mayo. This would make an ideal accompaniment to some of the restaurant’s relentlessly creative cocktails, like the Jade Garden ($11) made with tequila, coconut, and matcha green tea powder or the MSG ($11), which offers a fanciful mix of maraschino, sake, and gin, along with smoked mushroom and orange bitters. It’s mixology on overdrive, and the sheer originality is impressive. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

Taco Boy

Folly Beach - Mexican

Jonathan Boncek

The infectiously upbeat trumpets of mariachi music blasts as you enter the doors of Taco Boy, instantly setting a festive mood. As far as “concept” restaurants go, this place nails it, with its yellow ochre and burnt sienna hued walls hung with painted Oaxacan masks, stripped wooden ceilings, oversized colored Christmas lights, and rusty chandeliers. Even its bathroom walls are lined with vintage Mexican movie posters. None of this eye for detail would matter if the food weren’t as good as it is. Fresh guacamole makes a great start, and taco choices are endless, such as chipotle marinated grilled Mahi Mahi, kimchi beef with sesame seeds and Korean barbecue sauce, or the Al Pastor with thinly shaved spit fire pork and roasted pineapple salsa, all served in your choice of corn or flour tacos, or Bibb lettuce wraps for the virtuous. With taps flowing, margaritas galore, and a boozy, creamy tres leches dessert to finish off your meal, you’ll be bowing reverently to our Lady of Guadalupe as you exit. —Allston McCrady (Dish, Summer 2018)

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)

Voodoo Tiki Bar and Lounge

West Ashley - Tapas Bar

Jonathan Boncek

Voodoo and Polynesian may not be the first combo you think of, but the Avondale tiki-themed restaurant makes it work. That’s probably because they don’t let the decor dictate the menu. Instead they serve upscale bar food, think fondue and tacos filled with barbecue duck, red curry chicken, baja shrimp, and cashew-encrusted tuna. They even create specialty pizzas every week, like the Philly Cheese Steak Pizza with garlic-mozzarella cheese sauce topped with steak, onions, peppers, and more mozzarella. The cocktail list is where you’ll really find the tiki influences, with punches and cocktails served in kitschy tropical tumblers with as much flare as they can fit poking out of the top. Many of the concoctions are made with delicious in-house liquor infusions, like peach cobbler vodka, strawberry-jalapeño tequila, and watermelon-basil tequila. And if the punches pack too much of a punch, a serving of Voodoo’s truffled tots served with garlic and green curry aioli will do you a world of good. —Melissa Tunstall (Dish, Summer 2018)

Zero Restaurant + Bar

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Hamachi collar

Chef Vincent Petrillo preps around the clock, quite literally, in a tiny open kitchen set into the old carriage house of this historic venue. Greet him as you enter, then take a seat in the cozy, romantic dining room (seats are limited, so reservations are key), or on the enclosed garden patio in warmer weather. With its proximity to the new Gaillard Center, Zero George is ideal for pre-theater cocktails, exotic appetizers (Petrillo’s signature octopus dish won him “Best Young Chef” at an international cooking competition in Milan), or post-theater nightcaps. But don’t stop there. Dinner is a must for foodies, especially if you can plop down change for a tasting menu with pairings. Petrillo’s molecular gastronomy wizardry keeps you guessing as to how on earth he pulls off little touches like puffed anchovy crisps, citrus infusions, perfectly coddled three-minute duck eggs, crushed lobster shell broth, or a “nest” of dehydrated veal, all mere accents to well balanced dishes. The menu changes weekly. Some diners may recognize Petrillo from his success on Food Network’s Chopped!, but here in Charleston, the chef makes his streamlined boutique kitchen center stage. Ballin’ on a budget? Zero has recently rolled out a new Wine and Cheese happy hour. Every day from 5 to 6 p.m. order a cheese board and two glasses of wine for $25. —Allston McCrady (Dish, Summer 2018)

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