You might think, especially with cocktail craft so ubiquitous, that bartenders enjoy indulging on their time off. Maybe a classic from the seminal Bon Vivant's Companion. Isn't it pretty to think so?
"I'm more of a shot and a beer guy when I belly up," says Indaco bar manager Jared Chafin — and nearly every bartender after, from dives to top posh spots — sounded like his echo.
Turns out, extravagant drink orders cloy quickly when you're on the receiving end all day or night.
So, we talked to seven of this city's top bartenders to see where and what they drink when they're not pouring the 2.3 gallons of pure alcohol that the average American adult drinks each year (Charlestonians, we'd wager, are overachievers). And when it's not a shot and a beer, what's a bartender's pleasure?
Head Bartender at Edmund's Oast, 2013 Eater Young Gun Finalist, co-creator of the podcast Pocket Liquor
Favorite place(s) to drink: My three mainstays are the joints that automatically grab the high-octane rum (Smith & Cross or Plantation O.F.T.D.) when I walk in, which has been a dream of mine since my early twenties. Home Team BBQ downtown, Bar Mash, and Proof. Great drinks and a great staff who are excellent at helping me wind down after work or wind up for a fun night out.
Go-to drink order: Navy strength or overproof rum, often with a cold, crushable beer of some kind (local standards include Westbrook One Claw, EOBC Something Cold, Coast Kölsch). Also, daiquiris.
If you're feeling fancy: Sazerac. I'm particular about it so I don't order them often. I hate being 'that guy' at the bar who has a million parameters for their drink (looking at you, guy who makes business cards with his martini specs on it).
- Ruta Smith
- Dwayne Mitchell
Owner/Manager/Bartender at Local 616, 2014 Charleston Eater Bartender of the Year
Favorite place(s) to drink: I like to drink at places where I know the owner and/or bartenders working at the establishment. With that of course Local 616 is my favorite bar, but I can only be there so much! Downtown it's Barsa, as I've known Brittany and Megan for a long time and they do an amazing job on food and drink. In North Charleston, you'll find me at The Mill with longtime friends Greg and Tia bartending. On Folly, I'll be droppin' in at the Drop In seeing another good friend and bartender Kate B. Otherwise, If they have pinball — most of my friends and I will hit any spot with pinball around town.
Go-to drink order: Tequila, tequila, tequila! Casamigos Blanco on the rocks is my favorite. But I'll usually just have Espolon Blanco on the rocks. And a side of a tall vodka water with whatever fruit is available at the bar.
- Ruta Smith
- Caroline Woodruff
Bartender at Proof and Lowlife
Favorite place(s) to drink: Besides where I work, my favorite is grabbing a breezy drink on the deck at Pour House, or some whiskey with Josh behind the bar or tequila and a High Life.
Go-to drink order: A margarita or a boulevardier. They can be made in so many ways and I like to see what people do with them.
If you're feeling fancy: If I'm looking for something different, I'll find Harper at The Macintosh or friends at Edmund's. I'm always interested to see what my friends have up their sleeves.
- Ruta Smith
- Megan Deschaine
Bar Manager at The Macintosh/Vice President of USBG Charleston
Favorite place(s) to drink: I'm a homebody. My perfect night is cooking dinner at home with love and a good bottle of wine. That said, I knows a good bar when I sees one. Wine & Company for the wine flights and sincere hospitality. Proof, an industry favorite and the nicest door guy on King. One of my best gals, Caroline, works there and she is amazing to watch behind the stick.
Go-to drink order: At Wine & Company, the bubbles flight. At Proof it depends on how busy they are in conjunction with how drunk I am. If it's slow and I'm not drunk: a gin Gibson martini, wet. If it's busy and I'm anywhere on the sober-drunk spectrum: a beer + a shot.
Bar Manager at Indaco, BevCon cocktail champ, self proclaimed wizard, wolf papa
Favorite place(s) to drink: Moe's Crosstown Tavern, Edmund's Oast, or The Belmont.
Go-to drink order: Miller High Life and a pour of Fernet Branca at Moe's. A sour beer or IPA and a pour of Old Grand-Dad Bonded whiskey at Edmund's.
If you're feeling fancy: O.F.T.D. Last Word, substitute Plantation's 69% ABV rum for the traditional gin "Night Night Juice" at The Belmont.
- Ruta Smith
- Ariana Cohen
Bartender at Prohibition, Occupational Therapy Assistant Student, and proud crazy cat lady
Favorite place(s) to drink: Depends on my mood. If I want to stay close to home I'll hit up Lowlife on Folly Beach for a relaxed, fun setting. When I'm looking for a great beer, Edmund's Oast for the awesome happy hour, sour beer choices, and ambiance; Revelry next. For a great cocktail, I love going to Proof and The Belmont.
Go-to drink order: Any cocktail with tequila! Or I keep it simple with a silver tequila, rocks, and fresh lime juice. If I don't want to get to boozie I pick a still rosé or sour beer.
- Ruta Smith
- Sarah K. Henderson
Sarah K. Henderson
Bartender at AC's, Real Estate guru with NextHome and "That girl in the pageant crown on the wall" at AC's
Favorite place(s) to drink: I am more of a "dive bar" kind of gal. I frequent Rec Room, Richard's, and The Sparrow. If I am feeling funky and fancy I love Stems & Skins.
Go-to drink order: Miller High Life, shots of tequila, and a dirty vodka martini if I'm feeling frisky. I keep it basic.
If you're feeling fancy: Old Fashioned. I love to sip and appreciate the flavors.