The Spectator Hotel's bar, despite being only two-years-old, feels old — but not old in a bad way. Old in a moneyed way. As if someone’s rich grandmother had been collecting expensive pieces of furniture and knick-knacks her entire jet-setting life and set about creating a room to quietly exhibit her prizes. Dark wood walls, floor-to-ceiling indigo drapes, leather couches, velvet settees, taxidermied white doves.
OK, maybe the rich grandmother thing is a bit too much. But the room just off the lobby of the Spectator Hotel is lush, not overdone. It feels good to sit there, particularly at the bar on cushy green leather bar seats. It feels good to run your hand across the smooth cold marble bar top and open the large leather-bound menu to peruse the cocktail offerings.
It feels good to chat with barkeep Allen Lancaster and ask about the different specialty cocktails. He doesn’t mind going in to detail about the intricacies of making the “Vampires Fear the Reaper,” a martini-type drink with garlic-butter-washed King Charles Carolina Reaper Vodka. He explains that he cooks garlic in the butter and then fat-washes it into the vodka, a process that simply means he infused a spirit with a flavored fat. Tomato water is added to balance it out. “It’s a boozy drink,” he warns.
The craft cocktail menu has so many intriguing, and punny, drinks: Off the Wagon, Shoot Yer Rye Out, Sorghum If Ya Got ‘Em, Jabroni Negroni. I want to try them all but my companion is suffering through a sober January so I am left to choose just one. The Dude Imbibes, a riff on the White Russian, sounds perfect on this cool afternoon. Besides, White Russians remind me of the '80s when I was young and in love with sweet and syrupy cocktails.
Lancaster says this is by far the No. 1 bestseller. People would revolt if it was ever removed. And after having one, I can see why.
A perfect frozen cube of espresso and St. George coffee liqueur takes the place of Kahlua while the vodka is a flavored chai-vanilla from Cathead. Instead of half-and-half or milk, Lancaster uses Carolina Cream Liqueur from Six and Twenty, a distillery in the Upstate, and some almond milk. The Dude Imbibes is cold, sweet and as lush as the Spectator Bar. The dude would definitely abide.