As conventioneers arrive in Raleigh, they're going to need a drink. And while local bartenders will certainly be happy to serve them up the usual ecumenical cocktails or perhaps even a local beer, we decided it was time for Raleigh to have a drink of its own for the new occupational tourists. We asked 10 area bars to do their best to design "a signature drink representative of the city."
The drinks were awarded points in three categories: 1) Originality and appearance, together worth 10 points; 2) Taste, worth 10 points; 3) Name, worth five points. In the event of a tie, the winner was to be decided after voting tasters considered the practicality of the drink, or whether or not its ingredients and processes could be easily adopted by other Raleigh bars. In fact, our winner—The Borough's Pretty Talk—is so easy, you could and should make it at home.
WINNER#1 Drink Pretty Talk
The Borough 317 W. Morgan St.
Bartender Liz "The Rocket" Masnik
Ingredients Muddled fresh mint, muddled lemon, Southern Comfort, sweet tea, tall glass of ice
Comments Named for Raleigh author David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day (and a clever poke at the city's politicos?). Restrained use of classic ingredients and combinations produces a practical, sublime drink that goes down almost too easy.
Average Score 20
HONORABLE MENTION#2 Drink Cardinal Sin
Solas 419 Glenwood Ave.
Bartender Johnny Williams
Ingredients Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine, apple pucker, Cheerwine, Raleigh Tupelo Honey, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry puree, Riesling wine
Comments Named for the state bird. Well-researched ingredients; complex preparation and nuanced fruit flavors produced a drink that went down easy, if a tad sweet.
Average Score 20
REST OF THE FIELD#3 Drink The Painted Lady
The Raleigh Times Bar 14 E. Hargett St.
Bartender Jay Winfrey
Ingredients Muscadine red wine, peach bitters, Sazerac Rye Whiskey, strawberries, blackberries, soda water, lemon peel, simple syrup, ice
Comments Named for Raleigh's Victorian-style homes. Ornate, timely preparation produces a complex flavor that's light but rich.
Average Score 17.667
The Players' Retreat 105 Oberlin Road
Bartender Bert McMillan & Jared Gartner
Ingredients house bourbon, Sundrop, splash of maraschino cherry syrup, three shakes of bitters, ice
Comments Named for Isaac Hunter's Tavern, the watering hole that, in 1788, was used as the landmark for locating the state capitol. Served in a small Mason jar. Slightly medicinal at first (perhaps from the cherry juice), but balanced out nicely as the ice melted.
Average Score 17.333
Jackpot 1303 Hillsborough St.
Bartender Josh Bryant
Ingredients Muddled cherries, Malibu rum, Sailor Jerry's rum, sour mix, cranberry juice, sloe gin, pineapple juice, champagne, ice
Comments Smooth, rich flavor and nice color; champagne adds flair.
Average Score 15.667
The Big Easy 222 Fayetteville St.
Bartender Justin Banner
Ingredients Muddled cherries, muddled orange, sugar, Southern Comfort, Maker's Mark, splash of Sprite, ice
Comments Like an Old Fashioned-plus. A good Southern drink that's fairly close to the standards.
Average Score 14
Riviera's Loft 135 135 S. Wilmington St.
Bartender Louie Cova
Ingredients Vodka, raspberry Schnapps, wine, grenadine, soda water, cherry, ice
Comments Alternately too punchy or too passive; tasted like any old cocktail at any old bar in any old city.
Average Score 10.667