The City Magazine Since 1975

Taste the Top Cocktails!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Left to right: Jim McCourt of Prohibition and his “Itty Bitty” cocktail featuring Grey Goose vodka; Jonathan Calo of Burwell’s and his Herradura Tequila creation, the “Cheongsam Cocktail.” Photographs (4) by Ruta Elvikyte

March 19, 2014

Taste the Top Cocktails!
Charleston Fashion Week serves up the city’s most fashion-forward drinks and their makers

Last night, Charleston Fashion Week kicked off under the tents in Marion Square, and what’s a celebration of style without creative cocktails? That’s why 25 local bartenders were invited to take on Ben Arnold Beverage Company’s CFW challenge: create a drink based on either Grey Goose vodka or Herradura Tequila to complement the fashionable fêting.

After an online vote at last winter, 10 contenders moved on to a live competition at the tony Cocktail Club on King Street. There, thirsty partygoers sipped cocktails, while our panel of judges sampled the competitors’ entries, scoring them according to originality, taste, and presentation. Meet our winning mixologists in the Style Lounge tonight and tomorrow night, and try the 2014 Top Cocktails for yourself.

Grey Goose Winner:
“Itty Bitty” by Jim McCourt, Prohibition

Irish native Jim McCourt came up with this sassy citrus drink while bartending in New York. After a liquor rep dropped off a bottle of Cocchi Aperitivo Americano (pronounced “COKE-ey”), McCourt started experimenting with the Italian aperitif that’s made from a base of muscato with herbs, spices, and citrus. He added it and some basil to the classic Prohibition-era Bee’s Knees cocktail (gin, lemon, and honey syrup). “It wasn’t bad,” says McCourt, “but when a fellow bartender asked for vodka instead, it was perfect.” As he poured the concoction into small cordial glasses for some patrons to sample, one woman remarked on the tiny size of the drinks, and the “Itty Bitty” was born.

McCourt will be serving the “Itty Bitty” in the Style Lounge tonight, March 19, from 6-7:30 p.m.

Herradura Tequila Winner:
“Cheongsam Cocktail” by Jonathan Calo, Burwell’s

When a group of ladies asked for a unique, light cocktail last summer, Burwell’s bartender Jonathan Calo played off an interesting idea. “I’d been wanting to combine tequila and Scotch to make a distinctly sexy drink,” he explains. The Scotch, he says, brings out a nice smoke flavor in the tequila. So he blended that with calamansi and yuzu juices, which provide acid to help balance the cocktail. As for the name? “A cheongsam is a traditional Chinese form-fitting dress,” notes Calo. “Since the fruits originated in Asia, the name brings in fashion and ties it all together.”

Calo will be serving the “Cheongsam Cocktail” in the Style Lounge tomorrow night, March 20, from 6-7:30 p.m.

To find the recipes for each drink, click here.

To buy tickets for Charleston Fashion Week (Wednesday’s already sold out!), click here.

To get full details on all the happenings under the tents, click here.