WILMINGTON — Raise your glasses: Port City Taste is celebrating more than a dozen local bars and restaurants, whose bartenders and mixologists have put together a bevy of flavors to tempt your palate over the next seven days. It all kicks off Monday, Oct. 4.
Craft Cocktail Week takes place Oct. 4-10 only and features upward of 30 specialty drinks that move beyond the flavor profiles of a simple Jack and Coke or vodka-soda. The craft of the perfect cocktail is an art form unto itself.
Don’t believe us? Well, just a scroll through every menu (see #5) to see for yourself the many colorful pictures and read through the creative ingredients used to create the sippers. Every drink is offered this week only.
There are no coupons, no special menus, no special passwords, no tickets needed to enjoy craft cocktail week. Just head to one of the listed drinkeries, ask for the special cocktail menu and indulge!
Here are a few reasons to enjoy the offerings of the inaugural Port City Taste Craft Cocktail Week.
1. Support local.
The most obvious reason to engage in Craft Cocktail Week (CCW) is the support it gives to local bars and restaurants. The industry has taken quite a hit since Covid-19 shuttered many establishments for months on end (nine months for some bars). Once operations were up again in full force, enduring staff shortages, supply chain issues and rising costs presented myriad challenges and continue even today. That many of our favorite eateries and drinkeries have survived and risen above the challenges deserves a cheers in and of itself.
CCW is also sponsored by one of Wilmington’s distilleries, End of Days. Many of the 30 cocktails featured are being made with rum, vodka and gin created locally and purchased locally. At the end of the day, dollars invested directly into the community stretch further, equaling a stronger economy and workforce. Local businesses are known to put 50% more money back into their cities and towns than national chains and brands.
2. Fresh is best.
The appeal of the craft cocktail goes beyond fructose-syrup-heavy mixers and well liquors. It combines top-of-the-line ingredients to create drinks that leave an impression on the palate. There are no bottled sours here; instead, fresh squeezed juices and herbs, tinctures and shrubs meld to create surprising flavor profiles.
Fall means campfires and s’mores but not only for kids. Adults will find their own version of the classic treat at Indochine — in liquid form, of course. Bartender Holly Accomando created a twist on the classic Old Fashioned, which still includes bourbon but is accented with chocolate bitters and toasted marshmallow syrup.
Over at Indochine’s new sister restaurant Café Chinois, Michael Schlager has reimagined the mule as the Matahari, featuring sake, domaine de canton, lime juice and ginger beer.
According to director of services Kathy Long, both restaurants try to create for diners a complete culinary experience from bar to kitchen, with “thoughtful, local ingredients in the hands of an inquisitive bartender.”
“We are no longer existing in the days of the Screwdriver, bourbon and Coke and Manhattan,” Sweet n Savory manager Lorraine Roderick said. “People are stepping outside of the proverbial box and mixing cocktails as if they were cooking a meal.”
As part of CCW, Sweet n Savory will offer two $7 drinks: A lavender-jalapeno lemonade, made with rum, will offer a cool, refreshing indulgence, while the mocha martini will provide something heartier as the days cool.
“The coffee beans we use are roasted specifically for Sweet N Savory,” Roderick said.
Java Estate beans are brewed with Godiva chocolate liqueur, then shaken with vanilla vodka.
Nearby at Ceviche’s, Laura Tiblier’s team is offering three cocktails for $12. “We infused fall fruits and tropical flavors to create our signature blends,” Tiblier said.
The Lost and Found brings out hints of harvest season, as fresh apple and lime juice are added to gin, served in an absinthe-washed glass and garnished with a dehydrated apple.
Ceviche’s also upped the standard Old Fashioned with a punch of new flavor, passionfruit, while a Gingered Pear cocktail combines local honey, pear juice, bitters and an egg white, shaken to produce froth, and garnished with a candied pear.
3. Fun techniques and unique ingredients.
Not only are fresh ingredients on deck, but cocktails are being made with different techniques than merely being shaken or stirred nowadays.
At Whiskey Tango Foxtrot in downtown Wilmington, the first step to making both of its specialty drinks — Smoking Hot Coffee and The Missing Link — comes from smoking the glass on a cedar plank, so an essence of smoky flavor carries through each mouthful.
The bar also hand-fires a sugar top or sweet plantain on the drinks for a bruleed garnish.
Though not necessarily a technique, Rx is adding CBD-infused honey to its C Bee D’s Knees — also featuring gin and lemon. CBD’s natural properties has helped with pain relief, anxiety, even has heart health benefits.
Cameron Art Museum’s use of activated charcoal in its Shadow Martini makes for perhaps the most unique ingredient on the list this week. A dash turns the drink dark black — a perfect nod to its new art exhibit, “The Shadow We Create,” for which it’s named.
Activated charcoal is known as a detoxifying agent and can pull toxins from the body. (However, it can stunt the absorption of medications so be sure to study up on its effect with any prescriptions in your cabinet and take them at least an hour before imbibing.)
Folks are encouraged to enjoy CAM’s cocktails after touring through the exhibits.
4. No alcohol? No problem.
Though craft cocktail week celebrates alcoholic beverages, one restaurant is providing a specialty option from its zero-proof list. The newly opened vegan eatery, The Green House, has a full non-alcoholic menu made of restoratives, shrubs and tinctures that give off the same essence of social drinking, only without the alcohol.
“I feel like the zero-proof menu has raised a few eyebrows,” owner Anastasia Worrell said, “but it makes up half of our bar sales and is enjoyed by drinkers and teetotalers alike. We’re serious about our commitment to inclusivity and intention, and our zero-proof menu is an alternative versus something lesser than.”
Worrell, who doesn’t drink, said her first experience with spirit restoratives came in a sip of RASĀSVĀDA, which are whole plant decoctions.
“I tried it at a cocktail tasting after a long planning day and it truly lifted my spirits,” she said. “RASĀSVĀDA consulted at least twenty experts in various fields during the development of their three unique flavors.”
For The Green House’s Matcha Man, $12, drinkers will taste RASĀSVĀDA’s ruby artemisia spirit restorative, seedlip garden 108, matcha, fresh lemon juice, and Home Body Field fig-cardamom shrub, and aquafaba.
“The shrub from Home Body Field Goods helps balance out the grassy earthy flavors of the matcha,” Worrell said. “The moment for zero-proof spirits is just beginning: it’s beyond getting a buzz without the booze and about creating something with intention and layered flavor profile.”
5. The menus
When it comes down to it, the menus will be enough to convince you to get out and about this week.
Below is every participant and a link to CCW menus, which can be printed out and even emailed to friends so you can plan your week of get-togethers and indulgence. And if you feel the need to snap a pic of your drink and share on social media, tag the bar or restaurant, Port City Daily, and #PCTCraftCocktailWeek.
Sip, indulge, support local!
FRONT STREET BREWERY
End of an Era
End of Days Negroni: $14
Matahari Cocktail: $11
True Blue Cocktail: $13
TRUE BLUE BUTCHER AND TABLE
Spanish Gin and Tonic: $13
S’mores Old Fashioned: $11
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