After a one-year hiatus, a downtown Charleston restaurant has restored a cholesterol-fueled, 100-proof Thanksgiving tradition that a British tabloid once described as “deeply disturbing.”
All hail the bourbon-gravy shot, available all week at Edmund’s Oast Restaurant.
“It’s stronger than ever, and absolutely delicious,” said Jayce McConnell, the beloved brewpub's bar manager. When reached by The Post and Courier, he'd just knocked one back himself.
“Life is great,” McConnell said.
The Martinez traces its roots back to San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel in the mid-19th century, and the boulevardier traces its roots to Paris’ expatriate society during the Roaring '20s. The bourbon-gravy shot has a comparatively young, straightforward and unromantic history: In 2015, while working at Edmund’s Oast, McConnell poured bourbon into turkey gravy, garnished the rim with brown sugar, salt, and herbs, and began serving it.
"You’ve gotta have an open mind for it, for sure, but for the right person, it’s a beautiful thing," he said.
Beyond backstory, the shot also lacks a proper name: It's just "the bourbon-gravy shot." At the suggestion it might take the surname of its mixologist, McConnell blanched at the idea. “I think I’d rather tie my name to something I’m not making as a joke,” he said.
Maybe the shot is not his to name, anyway. In Thanksgiving’s four-century history, it seems plausible — even likely — that other brave and ingenious diners have sneaked a belt or two of spiked hot gravy to grease their festive feasting. Even so, when the James Beard-nominated Charleston brewpub put photos of the shot on social media four years ago, it caused quite a stir.
“It’s what’s been missing from your Thanksgiving spread,” proclaimed the food blog First We Feast.
Though The Post and Courier regrettably missed the (gravy) boat in 2015, McConnell’s shot even caught the eye of a newspaper on the other side of the Atlantic.
“Well, this is what we’ve come to,” lamented a November 2015 story in Metro, the United Kingdom’s highest-circulation print tabloid.
After two subsequent Thanksgiving outings at Edmund’s Oast, McConnell’s bourbon-gravy shot made no appearance over the 2018 holiday. “I don’t know why we didn’t do it last year,” he said. Now, the shot is back in action. McConnell makes it with 100-proof Evan Williams bonded bourbon and hot gravy he secured from Edmund’s Oast’s kitchen staff.
“I have a gallon of gravy. Unless I go through that, it’s available all week,” McConnell said.
The barkeep also sees the shot’s 2019 return as an opportunity to respond to critics like Metro, who in 2015 counted McConnell’s invention as a harbinger of the era’s “deeply disturbing alcohol trends.”
“It’s not a trend if no one else is doing it, Metro. Only the brave,” he said.
Edmund’s Oast will be open for Thanksgiving service, and while all reservations have already been booked, he confirmed the bar would be open and serving the shots.
“I’m not going to tell anyone how to live their life, but … it’s served hot, so if you’re ready for hot 100-proof to go down your throat, then just do it, man,” said McConnell.
As the saying goes, it’s all gravy. And, in this case, bourbon, too.