Have a Drink in South Carolina and Taste a Sip of Local History and Tradition

By:Bob Gillespie

Date:2/11/2016

The South Carolina Satisfy Your Thirst Tour
See what’s on tap across South Carolina on the Satisfy Your Thirst Tour.

Maybe it’s the warm summer days or a natural desire to socialize, but South Carolinians have always had a thirst for their own unique beverages – whether sweet tea, cold beer or that well-known backwoods potion, “white lightning,” aka moonshine.

And there’s never been a better time to enjoy the current wealth of choices to quench a thirst – from homemade and bottled teas to local craft beers, spirits steeped in the moonshine tradition and more – right here in the Palmetto State.

Start with South Carolina’s (and the South’s) most traditional beverage: sweet tea. Tea plants were first grown commercially in the US by Junius Smith in Greenville from 1848-53 and in Summerville from 1888-1915. Nowadays, tea is grown and cultivated on Wadmalaw Island at the Charleston Tea Plantation, which produces American Classic Tea, grown 100 percent in South Carolina. South Carolinians like their iced tea anywhere from lightly sweetened to syrupy, and the brew is such a part of everyday life that a Charleston author, the late Ken Burger, titled his book of Southern musings “Baptized in Sweet Tea.”

On the other end of the potency spectrum, and dating back to Prohibition, are backwoods moonshine stills, where farmers turned corn and sugar into liquid gold. After laws changed to allow production of spirits in 2009, those stills have grown into more than two dozen micro distilleries across the state, producing bourbon, rum, vodka – and yes, modern-day “corn likker.” Many bear names suggesting their roots, including Dark Corner (from the moonshine stomping grounds in the state’s northwest “dark corner”), Copperhead Mountain and Carolina Moon distilleries.

The craft beer craze that has swept America the past decade or so has found a home in South Carolina, too, thanks to changes in the laws that allow local brewers to sell beer at their establishments and bottle or can it for sale in groceries and bars. More than 40 craft breweries from the Upstate to the coast are pumping out a tasty array of ales, lagers, pilsners, stouts and more. Some brewery names – Palmetto, Coast, River Rat, Swamp Cabbage – reflect the state’s regions and/or history.

The state also has a number of wineries, producing vintages using locally grown fruits, notably scuppernong and muscadine grapes, and a small but growing collection of cideries. Hub City Tap House and Ciclops Cyderi in Spartanburg claims to be the only combination brewery/winery/cidery in the US.

If you're looking for a softer drink to excite your taste buds, pick up a bottle of Blenheim Ginger Ale. These unique, spicy brews were developed in the South Carolina town of the same name in 1903 and are still bottled nearby. That makes it, according the company website, the “earliest, smallest and many say finest independent soda bottling company in the United States of America.”

So whether your tastes run to sweet tea, the “hard stuff” or, in the case of Blenheim, the hot stuff, South Carolina has a brew to satisfy everyone. It is, indeed, a great time to be thirsty in the Palmetto State.

Related Content

The Birthplace of Sweet Tea
As the birthplace of sweet tea and home to the first tea plants in America, this refreshing beverage is deeply rooted into our culture.
A History of South Carolina Moonshine
South Carolina moonshine has been shared amongst friends and families for generations. Satisfy Your Thirst for something out of the ordinary, and continue this Southern tradition at one of our many distilleries across the state.
South Carolina Brews: Sippin’ Sophisticated Suds in the Palmetto State
South Carolina is now home to 40-plus craft breweries, with nearly half that many more on the drawing boards.
Moonshine and its ‘Kin’ Now Part of South Carolina Tourism Scene
Across the state, local microdistilleries have emerged since a 2009 law legalized their entrance into spirits/hospitality industry.
Craft Beers of South Carolina
Flavor and variety are both signatures of the Palmetto State, and the same applies to its craft beer. With so many different flavors and styles, there’s something for everyone to enjoy!
Sweet Tea and Porches - It's a Southern Thing
Sweet tea and porches make a perfect pairing for an experience that is quintessentially Southern.
The Satisfy Your Thirst Tour App
Download the official Satisfy Your Thirst Tour app for iPhone or Android today!

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