It’s difficult to avoid waxing poetic about patio sipping and supping in Charleston, so I’m no longer going to resist the urge.
There is something about air staying a little warm as the sun’s long rays slip just beyond the horizon, the scent of jasmine wafting and mingling with the smells from the hot appetizers at the table next to you, the squeeze of fresh, bright lime lingering on your fingers after you dunk that garnish in the cocktail that just arrived, and the friends you share it with as day turns into night.
Call me a sap, I don’t care. I can’t hide my enthusiasm for the al fresco experience, only made better by a cocktail suitable enough to rise to the lovely occasion. All of the following cocktails fit the bill and have welcoming outdoor environments in which to relish them, so sip away the sunset and understand why the cliche is so glorious.
Let’s get something straight. Negronis are patio-sipping perfection on their own. The classic cocktail of gin, vermouth and Campari has a definite cult following. Re-imagining it as a frozen drink, topped with a pony Miller High Life (a la the Mexican Bulldog ‘Rita, otherwise known as the Beer ‘Rita) is simply ingenuity that must be celebrated, perhaps with a frozen Negroni.
Barman Brent Sweatman starts with housemade ginger beer for this twist on the ever-popular Moscow Mule (whose Charleston homebase is The Americano’s sister restaurant, The Rarebit). He switches out vodka and replaces it with blanco tequila for a bright combination that also includes limeade. The bar makes it in batches so it’s on tap anytime you’re ready to play shuffleboard on the patio.
House-infused lavender Cathead Vodka is the base for a concoction that also includes Earl Grey tea, blood orange juice and the licorice bite of a little Absinthe. It’s served in an elegant tall glass, which will look great in your hand as you pose for selfies in Cannon Green’s tropical oasis of a courtyard. It tastes as good as it looks, of course, probably even better.
Sangria, usually a mix of fruit, juice and wine, gets a fresh twist at this tapas lounge with the addition of Pisco, a high-octane Peruvian brandy. The bartenders also add sparkling wine, resulting in a light-colored combo to enjoy on the urban patio, now even more comfortable since it’s been screened by greenery.
Rittenhouse Rye gets a springtime twist when it’s infused with fresh strawberries. Mixed with sweet vermouth and the fresh scent of orange peel, this drink could be reminiscent of a caramelized strawberry dessert, if that dessert was elegant and served up with a twist. Either way, its elegance matches that of The Atlantic Room, ocean breezes coming from one of the best views in the Lowcountry.
Where better to sip a rum drink than a poolside patio? You can accomplish both at North Charleston’s Basico by ordering a Zombie, a classic tiki drink that is a little like adult fruit punch, but with white rum, dark rum and, for good measure, a 151 rum floater. Slip on those sunglasses and head to the tropics.