Patricia Smith, 5Church Sommelier

Hidden F&B


Charleston is such a foodie town that food and beverage superstars are hiding in plain sight, out of the James Beard limelight, but still very much creating and serving amazing food and drinks. This series profiles Charleston’s “hidden F&Bs.”

Patricia Smith was 22 and straight from southern California when she moved to Charleston to figure out what she wanted to do. Turns out, she wanted to bring the relaxed California vibe to the Holy City’s beverage scene.

“Sometimes, sommeliers take themselves too seriously,” Smith says. “People get scared that we’re going to push them outside of their price point, or make them feel foolish. I’m all about approachability. If I can get them to try something they’ve never experienced before but really love, it can really change their way of thinking.”

Smith boldly told 5Church owner Patrick Whalen that she was out to run his whole beverage program. Before she knew it, he had printed business cards for her and she was finishing the education she began at Grill 225 and elsewhere. Now, she says, she can’t imagine being anywhere else. And she’s loving a grape called Furmint, a Hungarian grape that makes a cool crisp white perfect for Charleston’s scorching summers.

Favorite kitchen tool or gadget: A Coravin. It’s a bar tool that has a cartridge of argon gas and a needle that you put through the center of a cork. It lets you pair wines for tasting without having to open the bottle and the wine keeps forever.

Three things in my refrigerator: My Brita pitcher — I drink a lot of water; hummus; and mini peppers. I like to dip them in the hummus.

Three things always in my pantry: Pasta of some sort, olive oil, soup.

Favorite after-work hangout: I go to the O Bar a lot. The staff is so nice, especially to people in the industry, and they remember my drink.

Favorite Charleston restaurant other than yours: Charleston Grill. They have impeccable service, an impeccable wine list. It’s not trendy, but it’s classic.

Comfort food: Mac and cheese.

Favorite Smell: Laundry fresh from the dryer.

Favorite Drink: A Last Word. It’s a pre-Prohibition drink. It’ gin, Luxardo (a maraschino cherry liquer), lime juice, and Chartreuse. It’s a good benchmark drink if you don’t know the bartender.

Number of hours you work a week: All of them! I’m at the restaurant about 65 hours, but I’m trying to study for my advanced sommelier exam and I’m really bad about unplugging anyway. Even when I’m home, I’m working on my laptop.

Customer pet peeve: We have a saying here, “We did it for you.” We’ll do pretty much anything for a customer. So when someone is rude or disrespects my staff, I get angry.

Most under-rated ingredient: A good rye whiskey. I’m super-Irish and I know that Southerners like their bourbon, but rye is lighter and really spicy.

Favorite drink to make at home: I was just able to successfully make a Ramos Gin Fizz. You have to dry-shake it for like a minute and a half. That’s a really long time and your arms hurt. It’s so hard to make!

Best advice a mentor gave you: Patrick Whalen, one of 5Church’s owners, always told me that the way you treat your staff is so important. It’s the only way you’re going to inspire them and the only way you’re going to reach your guests.

5Church is at 32 N Market Street. Hours are lunch Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; dinner Sun.-Sat. starting at 5 p.m.; and brunch Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

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