what: Almost Famous
where: Tazza Kitchen, 4840 Forest Drive (Trenholm Plaza)
I’m a sucker for any cocktail containing maraschino. If you’re only familiar with jars of bright-red maraschino cherries, you’re probably grimacing right now — but actually, the traditional liqueur, made from the sour marasca cherry and aged in wood vats, has an odd and nutty flavor that’s quite addictive.
Despite its complex flavors, though, it’s easy to overdo it with maraschino, leaving the drink dominated by sweetness and woody notes. More than any other cocktail I’ve had in Columbia, the Almost Famous balances the maraschino, letting the other flavors shine through as well.
Tazza blends Clyde May’s Whiskey — an Alabama-made bourbon — with Luxardo Maraschino; bonal (a bitter aperitif), two kinds of bitters, lemon and aromatic; and expressed lemon rind. The drink resembles a manhattan in its basic contours, with the expected wood-aged notes and prominent bitters profile, but the lemon and cherry notes take it someplace else entirely.
Given that Tazza Kitchen is part of a chain, with three locations in Virginia and one in North Carolina in addition to the one in Columbia, its outstanding cocktail program may surprise you. From the classic to the bonkers (the Drunk in Public involves bourbon, benedictine, ginger liqueur, lemon shrub, cracked salt and an IPA float), the menu is smart and well considered — and well executed. — Eva Moore