Seven cooling cocktails crafted by the region’s top mixologists
By Jason Oliver Nixon • Photographs by Amy Freeman
With the world quickly returning to normal — well, a new normal — why not throw an impromptu cocktail to-do with those fun neighbors you haven’t seen since 2019? But let’s say you lack for creative inspiration. Maybe you’re bored with the usual liquor-laden suspects or embarrassed to serve that same old unremarkable rosé.
And let’s admit it, your martini is mediocre.
Lucky for you, we asked a handful of local mix masters to spill their easy-breezy summer favorites. The result? Seven tantalizing tipples sure to whet your thirst and spark your creativity.
At MACHETE in Greensboro, savor the gin-laden Golden Throne, a seductive mix of gin, lemon, honey syrup and chamomile bitters finished with a kicky burst of lemon oil. Sound complicated? It’s not. Charismatic bartender Andy Schools says, “It’s simple, and the crowd will go nuts. Just be sure to use a good gin such as English-import Sipsmith or Sutler’s Gin from Winston-Salem.” Per Schools, the Golden Throne pairs perfectly with just about anything — from a laidback BBQ to MACHETE’s signature “plates,” such as the Brussels sprouts with black garlic and charcoal. P.S. If the chamomile bitters have you flummoxed, fret not. Schools recommends an artisan-made brew that’s available online.
2 ounces dry gin
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.5 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey/water)
5 dashes chamomile bitters
Pour into shaker and strain into a favorite glass.
For the lemon oil, express a fresh lemon peel on top.
Jamestown, that charming bend in the road that has become something of a culinary destination, plays home to the always-bustling Southern Roots eatery. Here, owner Lisa Hawley celebrates the season with the Spring Fling, a light and refreshing cocktail that’s perfect for sipping. Think deep blue Empress gin, St-Germain liqueur, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a splash of club soda. “Just shake it all together — minus the gin — and then slowly pour the Empress gin over the top. It looks amazing and tastes so good,” says Hawley. “It’s our best-selling drink.”
.5 ounce St-Germain
Splash fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Splash club soda
1.5 ounces Empress gin
Shake all ingredients (minus gin), then slowly add the
Empress to the mix.
Max Barwick, the general manager of Greensboro’s 1618 Midtown, swears by the Classic Daiquiri. “It’s simple but never boring,” Barwick quips. “A daiquiri has only three ingredients, and most of them you probably already have in your home. Plus, it is a perfect balance of boozy, tart and sweet, and every sip makes you want to take another.” Even better, he says, is that you can make them individually or “scale it up for a big poolside pitcher.” Choose any type of rum (1618 Midtown serves Don Q) paired with fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Et voilà! Let the festivities commence.
2 ounces rum
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
.75 ounce simple syrup
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the glass of your choice.
The summery Felicity cocktail is bringing patrons back to Katharine Brasserie & Bar, the stylish watering hole at Winston-Salem’s Kimpton Cardinal Hotel. Basil-infused Tito’s vodka pairs swimmingly with ginger-flecked Domaine de Canton and elderflower-scented St-Germain, topped with a tangy lime juice kiss. But how do you infuse basil into vodka? No sweat, says Natalie Horne, The Katharine’s affable GM. “Simply add fresh basil to Tito’s and let it sit for 24 hours.” The cocktail’s spirited mix of basil, ginger and citrus pair perfectly with either chicken or fish.
1 ounce basil-infused Tito’s vodka
.75 ounce lime juice
.5 ounce Domaine de Canton
.75 ounce St-Germain
Shake and strain. Garnish with fresh basil leaf.
98 Asian Bistro
At 98 Asian Bistro in High Point, co-owner Tu Sen cuts a glamorous figure as she oversees the bistro’s chic and moody dining room. She also serves up a far-flung selection of cocktails, including the fresh and fragrant Lemondrop Martini, a guest favorite. Pair vodka with sweet-and-sour mix, then add simple syrup and fresh-squeezed lemon juice — easy breezy. Notes Tu, “A summertime cocktail should be perfect for sipping by the pool or at a lovely dinner al fresco by candlelight.” And that, she adds, is what makes the Lemondrop Martini a flawless choice. Serve the beverage with a spicier dish (like 98 Asian’s lightly breaded calamari) or, perhaps, grilled salmon. Now sit back while your guests laud your mixologist masterstrokes.
1.5 ounces vodka
.5 ounce sweet-and-sour mix
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well before serving. Run a freshly cut lemon along rim of martini glass and dip into crystallized sugar. Garnish with thin wedge of lemon.
Dram & Draught
Dram & Draught, which began as a neighborhood bar in Raleigh before opening its Greensboro location in 2018, plans to open seven new outposts by the end of 2022. Despite its big plans, the establishment hasn’t overlooked the here and now, remaining fully dedicated to the details that make their hand-crafted cocktails so exceptional. Case in point: Strawberry Kentucky Buck. Says bartender Lentz Ison, “It’s clean, classic and modern. Pair the drink with tacos or anything you might have cooking on the grill.” Does D&D have a favorite go-to whiskey? “CB Fisher’s Bottled In Bond Bourbon Whiskey out of Greensboro is just fantastic,” says Lentz. “But also, very potent — so be forewarned.”
Strawberry Kentucky Buck
.5 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce lemon juice
1.5 ounces Fisher’s BIB Bourbon Whiskey
Add simple syrup to shaker and muddle. Add lemon juice, whiskey and ice. Shake vigorously. Double strain into a Collins glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with candied ginger and strawberry.
Jason Oliver Nixon is one half of the High Point design firm Madcap Cottage. His favorite drink? Vodka martini — dirty and with olives on the side.