Sunday, November 27, 2022

35 participants, over 100 drinks: PC Taste Craft Cocktail Week kicks off Monday

End of Days released its first limited batch of Survivor’s Cut Rye Whiskey and will have a cocktail list featuring classic drinks made with the brown liquor during Craft Cocktail Week, Oct. 3-9. (End of Days/Matthew Ray Photography)  

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Underwhelming cocktails are a thing of the past during Port City Taste Craft Cocktail Week.

Kicking off Monday, Oct. 3, and taking place through Sunday, Oct. 9, the week features 113 different cocktails from almost three dozen participants in the greater Wilmington area. Port City Daily founded Craft Cocktail Week in fall 2021 as part of its umbrella Port City Taste, restaurant weeks that highlight one-week-only specials at local eateries and drinkeries. 

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Many of the cocktails featured over the coming seven days are made with locally crafted spirits, including the newly launched rye whiskey and Luna Bloom Pea Flower gin from End of Days Distillery, sponsor of the event. 

A plant native to the South Pacific, the pea flower imparts natural blue coloring and creates a sweeter gin, flavored by spices, citrus and juniper. The distillery released its first 1,000 bottles in July and recently altered production “to keep up with demand,” EOD co-owner Oliver Earney said.

Rebellion’s In Bloom, served during Craft Cocktail Week. (Courtesy Rebellion)

The gin’s natural blue hue changes colors as other ingredients are combined, altering the pH balance. For instance, when adding citrus, it turns purple or magenta, which can be seen in a few drinks during cocktail week, such as Rebellion’s In Bloom (cranberry shrub, simply syrup and lime) or Brasserie du Soleil’s Lavendar Butterfly Wings (French ginger liquor, ginger lavender syrup, fresh lemon, edible sparkle dust).

The distillery’s flagship Port of Entry gin and vodka are served plenty on menus for cocktail week, including Little Dipper’s Corpse Reviver. It’s crafted with an absinthe rinse, lillet blanc, French orange liqueur and muddled lemon.

“As the story goes, consuming this cocktail will rouse the drinker from the dead or just cure a hangover,” assistant general manager Jennah McKay said. “Port of Entry gin has a special place on our liquor shelf. I had the opportunity to be a part of the distillation process of the first batch.”

McKay worked in The Cargo District at End of Days before taking her post at The Little Dipper earlier in the year. She said the creation of the restaurant’s five-deep cocktail list was inspired by the Halloween season. It’s punctuated by other local offerings to build seasonal flavor profiles.

The Little Dipper incorporated Luna Caffè coffee — especially brewed for the restaurant — in its Luna Pumpkin Spice Espresso-Tini, made with End of Days vodka. Newly launched Pomona Shrub Company’s blueberry-basil can be tasted in the Hocus Pocus, concocted with End of Days Luna Bloom gin. 

Across town near Wrightsville Beach, aRtisano Pizza and Gelato is hanging on to the last remnants of summer with Where’s the Summer Gone? (End of Days rum, coconut rum and homemade pineapple gelato) and a Caribbean Lime Martini — ”my personal favorite,” owner Nigel Langstone said. 

The Caribbean drink includes End of Days vodka, homemade lime sorbet, and French orange liqueur. Langstone said adding the restaurant’s homemade frozen desserts rather than ice gives it a creamy texture amplified by a tangy punch.

“Our staff came up with a cocktail suggestion each,” he explained. “We all jumped at the chance to ‘play’ with over 30 flavors of gelato and liquor. Who wouldn’t?”

Winners were chosen among staff members. The Gelarto Salty Ruskie rounds out a third aRtisano offering, made with End of Days vodka, Kahlua, sea-salt-caramal gelato and milk.

Langstone said the boozy milkshakes were founded with the help of Earney, who consulted early in the restaurant’s opening last year. If diners want something other than what cocktail week features, the Langstone added: “We encourage people to make their own inventions.”

Those who crave more exotic flavors will be treated to out-of-the-box imbibing, with a different cocktail unveiled at Cape Fear Spirits and Beer each day of the week. Co-owner Lector Bennett has taken the Sazerac — New Orleans’ official whiskey cocktail — and upgraded it with a duck fat wash.

“It gives it a smooth silky mouthfeel with a bit of wood smoke exiting the palate,” Bennett described. 

He also devised a drink in homage to the Poet’s Dream, published in a 1942 book called “Handbook for Hosts” by Esquire magazine. The Cenobite’s Sin is made with End of Days gin, Benedictine (an herbaceous liqueur), orange bitters and cuttlefish ink. 

“There is a new ‘Hellraiser’ movie coming out soon, so I rewatched all of them and started to think about what cocktail that faction of hell might drink,” Bennett said of its inspiration.

The marine molluscs often release dark pigment in the ocean as a defense mechanism. Squid ink is used in many Mediterranean dishes, but Bennett said bartenders often reach for it over activated charcoal to use in drinks.

“The cuttlefish ink gives a unique briny salinity that elevates the citrus notes,” he said.

He added that both the duck fat and ink add a subtle umami finish to the cocktails. 

Other spirits appearing on the Cape Fear menu include an Old Fashioned that gets a savory upgrade with the addition of maple-bacon-infused syrup, served in a smoked glass. The Cape Fear Sour separates liquids (like that of a Black and Tan) to present a tri-layered drink of vermouth, bourbon, and red wine. Canada’s national cocktail, Caesar, will make a perfect Sunday ending to Craft Cocktail Week. Basically a Bloody Mary with clam juice, Cape Fear Spirits will replace the clam juice with lobster broth. 

“It’s a bit more luxurious — again, very subtle,” Bennett said.

End of Days, located in The Cargo District, at 1815 Castle St., will feature five classic cocktails everyday this week — a Manhattan to Sazarec to the Vieux Carré — that highlight its new Survivor’s Cut Rye Whiskey. 

The first batch was released last week; it uses high quality grains, including 65% rye, 18% wheat, and 17% barley. The distillery aged the spirit in a Black Water series charred barrel for over three-and-a-half years.

It’s flavors consist of “mild smoke on the nose, caramel on the palate and a delicious spice finish,” Earney described.

Limited in quantity, the batch went into New Hanover County ABC distribution last week. Earney said it will become available for bar owners to purchase in coming days.

The distillery also will be releasing more small batches as additional barrels reach appropriate age.

All Craft Cocktail Week participants and menus can be accessed below. Prices range from $8.50 to $15.

Downtown

The Blind Elephant
Click to see the drink special | $15

Cape Fear Spirits & Beer
Click to see the seven drink specials | $10-$13

Dram & Draught
Click to see three drink specials | $13

End of Days
Click to see five drinks | $14

The George
Click to see the drink special | $12

The Ivey
Click to see three drink specials | $12

The Little Dipper
Click to see five drinks specials | $10

Marina Grill
Click to see two drink specials | $10

Platypus & Gnome
Click to see the drink special | $14

The Pilot House
Click to see drink special | $11

Quanto Basta
Click to see the drink special | $15

Rebellion
Click to see four drink specials

Rooster & the Crow
Click to see four drink specials | $12

The Sorrow Drowner
Click to see the drink special | $13.13

Three10
Click to see the drink special | $13

YoSake
Click to see drink special | $12

South Wilmington

Benny’s Big Time
Click to see two drink specials | $13-$14

Carolina Beach

Hurricane Alley’s
Click to see seven drink specials | $10-$13

Stoked
Click to see seven drink specials | $12-$14

Midtown

Cameron Art Museum
Click to see the drink special | $10

Henry’s
Click to see the drink menu | $8

Hops Supply Co.
Click to see the drink special | $10

Wrightsville Beach

artiSano Pizza and Gelato
Click to see three drink specials | $10

Bluewater
Click to see the two drink specials | $10

Coquina Fishbar
Click to see three drinks | $10-$12

EAST Oceanfront Dining at Blockade Runner
Click to see the drink special | $12

Oceanic
Click to see two drink specials | $11-12

Poe’s Tavern
Click to see three drink specials | $12

Watermans Brewing
Click to see eight drink specials | $9 and up

North Wilmington

Blue Surf Cafe Arboretum West
Menu coming soon

Brasserie du Soleil
Click to see the drink special | $15

Coquina Fishbar
Click to see the three drink specials | $10-$12

Famous Toastery
Click to see four drink specials | $8.50-$10

The Green House
Click to see two drink specials | $8-$12

Rounds Golf & Ledo Pizza
Click to see drink special


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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