AC Lounge at AC Hotel, Spartanburg
When the train whistles at 5 p.m., bartender Sarah Mitchell crafts a batch of the hotel’s signature cocktail, The Crescent. The Crescent was one of the first trains designed to carry passengers in luxury accommodations, and it stopped in Hub City on its crescent-shaped route from New Orleans to New York. The smoked version of Mitchell’s drink is available at the kickoff to happy hour.
The cocktail employs a bevy of clear spirits from local distillery Motte & Sons, as well as a bit of Izze peach soda and lime. It is smoked in a large decanter with hickory and the sound it makes echoes the train. The drink is juicy and delicious with a nutty nose. It preps the palate for one of this quaint town’s locally-driven dinner stops.
Order: The Crescent
Vibe: Beautifully designed and sun-drenched, gorgeous photos occur naturally here, surrounded by the hotel’s priceless art collection.
Crowd: On your left a German car executive. On your right a blue-blood Southerner.
The Living Room at The Dewberry, Charleston
This may be the most well-designed lobby in South Carolina. With its gold-clad bar and mid-mod furnishings, The Living Room at The Dewberry is a chic place to sit and sip. Beverage Director Ryan Casey designed a cocktail program that reflects on cocktail culture but also looks ahead to what’s next.
The Golden Hour is a resplendent drink, refreshing with floral and citrus notes. A mixture of Reposado Tequila, Aperol and orgeat, it’s lemon that adds acid on the finish. It is misted with an atomizer of citrus extract, which is grown all over the footprint of the hotel including Calamondin orange, pink-striped lemon, lime and kumquat.
Order: The Golden Hour
Vibe: A dreamy living room from a bygone era.
Crowd: Essential downtown Charleston with its mix of posh locals, discerning travelers and the libation obsessed.
Kat Hunter is at the helm of this craft cocktail bar, which boasts more than 400 bourbons. Her signature cocktail, The Heart of Darkness, is the only drink that can outsell their Old Fashioned. Bourbon opened just steps off the State House grounds and enjoys a mix of regulars and visitors for its fantastic plates and celebrated cocktail program.
The Heart of Darkness was designed for Bourbon’s cigar enthusiasts. Hunter says when you get to the bottom of the glass, it should be just as good, which it is. As the drink gets closer to room temperature some of its flavors intensify whereas others move into the background. Its four ingredients—New Southern Revival Rye, Krupnik made with local honey, bitters and a smoke blend of hickory and clove—are stirred exactly 22 times.
Order: The Heart of Darkness
Vibe: Wood-clad and convivial, the Main Street District eatery is designed to chat with your neighbors.
Crowd: Spirited mix of state politicos, locals and foodie fans of proprietor Kristian Niemi.
Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar, Hilton Head Island
Proprietor Clayton Rollison opened Lucky Rooster as a place he’d like to frequent. The celebrated chef can cook a fish like no other, and he tuned the bar program to meet his standards as well. Lucky Rooster was one of the first restaurants in the South to accomplish craft cocktails on draft (and a spirits list that’ll make most collectors blanche).
The Darjeeling 1888 Punch is a testament to the chi of the heart-shaped state. It’s milk-washed, an arduous process that allows the cocktail to remain in a mixed state and not separate. Four roses bourbon, amontillado sherry, chamomile grappa, black tea and aromatics create a drink that’s strong but balanced. It’s a pirate’s cup with a Gucci sensibility and isn’t afraid to say, “How lovely am I” to the Hilton Head vacationer.
Order: The Darjeeling 1888 Punch
Vibe: Consummate neighborhood eatery with the stocked bar of your bucket list.
Crowd: The ever-curious and well-informed imbibers, with a golden tan.
Art Burger Sushi Bar, Myrtle Beach
At ART, liquid nitrogen stunts libations into a frozen state. Watching the team accomplish this is nearly as fun as ladling the soft-serve into your mouth. Their chai latte is made with horchata and chai tea concentrate. Served over a snifter of dry ice, the cocktail continues to smoke, attracting bargoers and diners alike.
Managing partner Daniel Becker is a testament to involved ownership. His team is giddy to scratch below the menu’s surface (there’s dry-aged grass fed beef for burgers and fried-chicken sushi topped with gouda mac). The long narrow restaurant is filled with local art, produced on site, with an open kitchen and a chic bar. It’s a spot primed for date night.
Order: The Chai Latte (Liquid Nitrogen) Cocktail
Vibe: A galley lane with distinct lighting, eclectic local art and a sit-and-stay attitude.
Crowd: A come-for-the-cocktails, stay-for-the-food mix of smart locals and beach tourists.