With all the wonderful places to wine and dine popping up all over town, Raleigh has no shortage of places to go grab a specialty drink. What is your favorite cocktail around town? Does anyone have a drink they love outside of the downtown area? Here are a few of our favorites…
I was sitting at the bar at The Borough one day a couple of years ago. Bartender Smitty and I were having a conversation about either music or bicycles. I was drinking a PBR. The conversation started to morph from one of those subjects to the packs of Splenda I was thumping around the bar like a paper football. Splenda is about as artificial as it comes. What if we were to put it into PBR like people put it in their unsweet tea here in the South. What would that taste like? The initial thought was disgust, but it began an experiment. Is there anything you could mix into PBR to transform it from the cheapest beer on the menu to a royal cocktail?
The initial test involved only three items: splenda, butterscotch schnapps, and pomegranate (POM) juice. Splenda and PBR don’t mix well. Remember the vinegar/baking soda volcano from middle school? Yup, Splenda and PBR create a similar chemical reaction. The shot glass overflowed on the bar. Next up was butterscotch schnapps. While this was unexpectedly okay, it tasted like dropping a Werther’s Original in a beer. I could see this being a desired cocktail in rural England pubs, but it wasn’t for me. A bit too sweet. But, speaking of sweet, last up was the pomegranate juice that Smitty used in a few of her in-house cocktails. We thought this would taste the best and we had obviously saved the best for last. The PBR with Pomegranate was born and like any great cocktail, it needed a name. P(om)BR it became and word of mouth led to its popularity and eventually being introduced on the menu. To this day, it is one of the more popular concoctions on their list.
The bloody mary at Poole’s is the best in town. The mix is homemade and they are constantly tweaking the recipe. When you think it’s perfect, you have another one and it’s even better. It has a cool spice to it, and isn’t really tomato-y. The drink uses cucumber puree and other veggies (like a pickled carrot!) to give it a freshness that lightens up the spice and makes you feel like you’re doing something good for your body. Any cocktail that pulls that kind of double duty is awesome, but this one is really special.
Depending on mood, time of night, season, and general instinct, I have two drinks that tend to be the cocktail of choice. If I want something that’s a little sweet, the Tarheel at Foundation is perfection in a glass. Mixed with sorghum molasses rum and their own homemade cola, it ends up tasting slightly like a pancake (which sounds a little strange for a drink, but trust me, it’s fabulous). If I’m in the mood for something with a little bit of a spicy kick, then it’s the Sting at the Busy Bee. This one is made with Sky passion fruit vodka, cilantro, soda, and the kicker, slices of jalapeño peppers. By the time you get to the bottom your mouth is burning a little bit, but it’s delish.
Landmark’s Dark & Stormy. Some dark rum, some ginger beer and a little lime- one of my favorite drinks. To get this one right you need ginger beer, not ginger ale- and many of the bars in town don’t seem to understand this and serve it with ginger ale. Landmark has the proper ginger drink and mixes it just right. Gary Poole, drummer for The T’s, and landmark bartender made me my first one that was just right. I was so pleasantly surprised by the balanced cocktail Poole put down in front of me. Poole could probably tell you the whole history of the drink - but I know it comes from the Caribbean and as summer closes its one way I can make it last just a little longer.
And special guest drinker, Grayson Currin
Let’s count ourselves fortunate that Foundation’s Root Beer Flip—a simple but plenty-rich blend of vodka, root beer and whipped egg whites—costs $9 ($11, at least, with a tip). Smooth and capped with a touch of perfectly dense froth, Foundation’s flips wash down much lighter than an actual float, meaning you might drink two or three without considering the consequences. That is, a night with these could get expensive quickly, and because of the fairly generous amount of vodka supplied, three of these might alter the meaning of flip for you by last call. Also, get rid of the black straw, and sip it like lemonade: Sure, it’s quaint to pretend you’re actually poking through ice cream, but the flavors simply blend best without it. And if you’re into second place, The Remedy has a New Orleans-trained bartender who makes an untouchable Sazerac and doesn’t mind brandishing his bottle of Peychaud’s tableside.