Mix it up

Getting to know your local drink scene means trying one of everything (right?)

We’re not saying summer is the season for drinking (that’s every season), but there’s something about it that makes us want to mingle. The pages that follow will introduce you to barkeeps, regulars and what you should be drinking right now. We’ll even make the case that Charlottesville does, in fact, have a dive bar. Drink up.

Brasserie Saison's Reid Dougherty says the best stuff is already on the menu, but if you're game, so is he. "It's not just about making the drink, but talking about the drink," he says. "I want to get them feeling like they're a part of it." Photo: Paul Whicheloe
Brasserie Saison’s Reid Dougherty says the best stuff is already on the menu, but if you’re game, so is he. “It’s not just about making the drink, but talking about the drink,” he says. “I want to get them feeling like they’re a part of it.” Photo: Paul Whicheloe

Pick your poison

Let the bartender choose your drink—if the time is right

By Shea Gibbs

It’s Saturday night. Eight o’clock. You step up to the bar and tell the ’tender to make you something special. Something off menu. “Dealer’s choice,” you say.

The dealer’s choice can be a wonderful thing—an exploration of your deepest desires and your drink maker’s greatest talents. But do it right.

“I head the bar in a busy, high-volume restaurant,” says Alec Spidalieri of Junction. “The majority of the drinks I’m putting out are going to patrons at tables. So when I get a table’s order from a server of ‘Oh, just make me something,’ that’s a lot of pressure, considering I don’t know you and I can neither see nor speak to you.”

The beauty of the bartender’s choice is working directly with your booze masseuse, letting him or her know your likes and dislikes and interacting in an intimate setting. Don’t assume the doctor’s best mixologisms are off-menu, but let him know if the standard choices aren’t quite hitting your sweet spot.

“We focus strongly on gin,” says Reid Dougherty of Brasserie Saison. “Sometimes I see that look on the guest’s face that says, ‘I don’t know what to do.’”

In that case, use your words. Dougherty suggests naming your favorite spirit, saying how boozy you want your drink and orienting yourself between light and heavy.

But, please, don’t forget to explore the menu first, Spidalieri says.

“It baffles me, as a bartender that puts this seasonal cocktail menu together a few times a year, that people think that the best stuff is not on the menu,” he says. “Most of my more original ingredients are prepped for the menu drinks already, too.”

Dougherty agrees. If you want a dealer’s choice, it should be something the two of you can discuss and perfect.

“It’s not just about making the drink, but talking about the drink,” he says. “It’s not just about saying, ‘Hey, is it good?’ It’s about being able to get them involved in the drink. It’s about saying, ‘Next time we make this, how would we change it?’ I want to get them feeling like they’re a part of it.”

Words for your buzz

If you’re planning to put your drinking destiny in the hands of your bartender, make sure you’re speaking his or her language. Here are a few boozewords that should help the conversation.

Base spirit: To start, let your bartender know if you despise gin or love whiskey.

Heavy vs. light: This is all you’ll need to tell your drink dealer to show if you’re into something big and boozy or something more refreshing.

Seasonal: As with farm-to-table cooking, bartenders these days are looking to use the freshest ingredients. This buzzword will put you on the path to drinking summer’s perfect produce.

Effervescent: Sparkling wine and soda do more to a drink than add flavor. The bubbles give the impression of lightness and liven up other flavors.

Bright/citrusy: Companion words to light and effervescent, this will ensure your tippler brings some acidic notes to the table.

Classic cocktails: Old-school drinks tend to have more challenging flavors. If you say you like classic cocktails, you’re showing you want to be adventurous.—SG

Regular-turned-employee Michael Flessner says he fell in love with Durty Nelly’s because it’s a place where you know everyone—but they’ll leave you alone. Photo: Natalie Jacobsen

Cheers, darlin’

What’s it mean to be a regular in Charlottesville?

By Erin O’Hare

It’s no surprise that “Cheers” —a TV show set in a neighborhood bar—is one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. As its tagline suggests, there’s great appeal (and comfort) in going to a place where everybody knows your name. But as regulars at a couple of Charlottesville’s best-loved watering holes insist, the special thing about these places is not that everybody knows your name, it’s that they know you.

Durty Nelly’s

“Hey Flezz! What’s happening?” someone calls when Michael Flessner walks through the door of Durty Nelly’s Pub & Wayside Deli on the corner of Fontaine and Jefferson Park avenues.

It’s how Flessner’s greeted by a fellow regular every time he walks into the cozy, wood-paneled bar room. “Every day I walk in this door, if I don’t know nine of the 10 people sitting here, there’s something wrong,” Flessner says.

But usually all is well—“I walk in and I’m home. It’s like, ‘hi family!’”

Flessner has been a Durty Nelly’s regular for four years. He works in the service industry and says that late at night, it’s not easy to find a relaxing, chill place to decompress after a long shift, and whether you want to talk or just be left alone, Durty Nelly’s is that place.

Two years ago, Flessner started helping out at the bar when they needed a hand; now, he works there two or three nights a week and still comes in to hang out when he’s not on the clock, especially when there’s live music.

“The sheer amount of musical talent that walks through that door” is astounding, says Flessner, noting that local acts like The Gladstones and Junior Moment often pack the house. Plus, Lynyrd Skynrd drummer Artimus Pyle has performed there.

Flessner loves many things about Durty Nelly’s—his fellow regulars, the live music, owners Gary Hagar and Toby Breeden who he says “will do anything for you.” But what Flessner loves most about it is that even after decades in business, Durty Nelly’s doesn’t change. “It’s how this place will outlast the rest of ’em,” he says.

Lazy Parrot

On any given weeknight, a group of four Lazy Parrot regulars can be found ordering their usual round: a white Russian, a vodka cranberry with a Fireball shot, cheap draft beer and a bottle of Budweiser.

Whether seated at an indoor table or under an umbrella on the patio, they sip their drinks and talk spiritedly among themselves and to neighboring tables. It’s an after-work ritual they’ve had for 15 years, since they met at the old Lazy Parrot location on the other side of the shopping center.

It’s the only place they go on their way home from work, says the woman who ordered the white Russian, because of the location, the prices and the atmosphere, but mostly for each other.

“We’re good friends; we’ve connected through the years,” says the woman who ordered the vodka cranberry with a shot of Fireball. “We talk about almost everything,” says White Russian, while Vodka Cran nods and murmurs in agreement.

Their friendship may have started at the bar, but it doesn’t end there—with help from other regulars, Vodka Cran threw a baby shower for one of the Lazy Parrot bartenders. And when the woman who ordered a Budweiser broke her arm a few years ago, Vodka Cran and White Russian brought her bags of ice and helped out around the house. “When we’re down and out, we’re there for each other,” says Vodka Cran.

Photo: Ashley Twiggs
Photo: Ashley Twiggs

Make a splash

Does Charlottesville have a true “dive bar”?

Charlottesville, we love you, but you’re almost too damn square to have a real honest-to-goodness dive bar. Almost.

Sure, there are a couple places on the mall, south of downtown, out 29, maybe even on Pantops that get a bit seedy and rough around the edges late night. But we’ve only got one true dive. And it’s Durty Nelly’s. Period.

“I have no problem being called a dive bar,” says Nelly’s co-owner Toby Breeden. “We’re a restaurant, which is our mainstay. We’re just old.”

What makes a dive a dive? Kirby Hutto, who manages Sprint Pavilion and ran the Cotton Exchange on West Main before the boozin’ age went from 18 to 21, says it boils down to four things: local ownership, how long it’s been around, no bright lights or polished surfaces and a mixed clientele—blue collar folks, townies and gownies.

“In a true dive bar, hipsters might not feel comfortable,” Hutto says. “It’s a place where you go in there and wind up having unexpected, tremendous conversations about who knows what. You have to have a certain adventurous spirit to walk in and feel comfortable.”

What sets Nelly’s apart? Breeden says it’s that they’ve been doing things the same way for nearly 40 years—other than a shift in ownership from the originals to him and Gary Hagar, previously the general manager. Live music, great food next door and a welcoming atmosphere.

Oh, and one more thing: no liquor.

“We’re not interested in all the rigmarole that goes along with serving whiskey,” Breeden says. “People come in and drink four or five beers and that’s it. People don’t act right when they drink whiskey.” Fact.

Photo: Paul Whicheloe
Photo: Paul Whicheloe

Swing out, Louise

Of the more than 120 patios on which to sip your favorite cocktails, the one that really blows our skirt up (literally!) is at Shebeen Pub & Braai. Grab a seat at the bar on the covered patio and hang on to your hat—surprise! It’s a swing!

Anthony Restivo was first drawn to the C&O bar as a customer, before becoming a bartender there. “The people I’m lucky enough to work with move with an understanding that what we do in that bar falls into a long-standing tradition,” he says. Photo: Paul Whicheloe

To thine own self be true

C&O sticks to the standards…and remains a classic in its own right

By Erin O’Hare

C&O bartender Anthony Restivo likes making a Manhattan. It’s a clearly defined drink—rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters—one that looks great in the glass and is generally ordered by the customer who enjoys “the drink for the drink, more than for the pretense of enjoying it,” says Restivo.

For the customer who likes the drink for the drink, who isn’t looking for a new twist on the old fashioned or a riveting take on a gimlet, C&O Restaurant is the place to go. Night after night, Restivo and his fellow seasoned (and debonair) C&O bartenders breeze around behind the bar in the dim, wood-paneled bistro room. They concoct classic cocktail after classic cocktail to guests lucky enough to have nabbed a table in one of the restaurant’s six dining rooms or, to the luckiest bunch of all, one of just a handful of well-worn stools cozied up to the high bar bookended by a neon-colored fish tank on one end and a funky, retro-rustic “Brady Bunch”-esque lamp and old-school cash register on the other.

Bar manager Dustin Fleetwood says that C&O bartenders follow a “simplest is best” method when it comes to the classics. Each bartender has his or her own style and flavor, but they try to be as consistent as possible when it comes to measuring and mixing individual cocktails, and they make large-batch bottle mixes when appropriate. For example, Fleetwood says, a negroni is equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and gin. Because it’s all hard liquor, they can measure out a large bottle of negroni mix for quick, consistent pours. “Therefore, the negroni Abraham pours on Tuesday should be the same exact negroni Jenn or Anthony pours later in the week,” says Fleetwood—and all of those negronis will be garnished with a wide strip of freshly sliced orange peel.

“Fresh citrus goes a really long way” in a drink, says Fleetwood, both as a garnish for negronis and old fashioneds and in juicing limes for gimlets, lemons for sidecars and grapefruits for greyhounds (and salty dogs).

These aren’t exactly secret ingredients or unique methods, so there’s got to be something else to what makes C&O a classic spot…something that has very little to do with the drinks and more to do with the atmosphere in which they’re consumed.

The answer is a cocktail in its own right: equal parts mastery of the classics, wood paneling, dim lighting, fish tank and variety of quality tunes selected by the bartenders themselves—“we don’t believe in Pandora or other robot nonsense. The human serving the drinks is also serving the jams,” Restivo says.

C&O’s most distinct flavor note, though, is its sincerity, says Restivo. He was first drawn to the bar as a customer, for the jokes, weird rooms, low lights, good music and the cool, creative people who have made up the restaurant’s core clientele since day one. It’s well-known among C&O staff and regulars that the restaurant’s founder, Sandy McAdams (also of Daedalus Used Bookshop fame), started the place as a hangout spot for himself and his delightfully weird friends, and they work to keep that ethos alive.

“The people I’m lucky enough to work with move with an understanding that what we do in that bar falls into a long-standing tradition, and that it means a lot to a lot of people. We’re holding a space for others that we genuinely like to be in, and because we’re (usually) having a good time, it’s easy to be sincere,” Restivo says. “This is a quiet way of saying that the people that work here [are what] make it so damn good.”

Popularity contest

C&O serves a host of classic cocktails, but it’s hard to know which is the most popular among customers. “Cocktails experience periods of neglect and periods of renewed enthusiasm,” says Anthony Restivo, “but there seems to be a strong contingent for the old fashioned.”

As for some of the more overrated drinks that are ordered, Restivo points to those with storied origins: “Why you would add vodka to gin and Lillet, then vigorously shake it is beyond me,” says Restivo of the vesper, a drink that’s mentioned in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. “Don’t order a drink just because James Bond did.” And then there’s Raymond Chandler’s gimlet. In Chandler’s novel The Long Goodbye, the character Terry Lennox tells Philip Marlowe, “a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else.” As Restivo says, “Nobody wants that.”

The most underrated classic drink, according to Restivo, is the Monte Carlo. He likes this rye whiskey, Benedictine and angostura bitters drink for the same reasons he likes the Manhattan—it’s clearly defined, looks good in a glass and is ordered by those who like the drink for the drink.

Basic City Beer doesn't take itself too seriously, but churns out some seriously good brews, at the hand of brewmaster Jacque Landry. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto
Basic City Beer doesn’t take itself too seriously, but churns out some seriously good brews, at the hand of brewmaster Jacque Landry. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Beer there, done that!

Craft a trip to try out-of-town brews

By Alexa Nash

Charlottesville has its own selection of stellar craft brews, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t open yourself up to new opportunities. Take a trip over the mountain to discover new pours at one of these attention- getters in Waynesboro and Staunton.

Stable Craft Brewing

Located at Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables, a working farm and wedding venue, Stable Craft Brewing features 16 unique beers on tap made from its own hop crop. Food is available on site, so pair a smoked red ale with a satisfying burger made with locally sourced ingredients. 375 Madrid Rd., Waynesboro. stablecraftbrewing.com

Seven Arrows Brewing Company

After opening on New Year’s Eve in 2014, lager-focused Seven Arrows Brewing Company developed four core beers on tap and in cans, with seasonals and rotationals available throughout the year. The taproom is also home to the independently owned Nobos Kitchen. 2508 Jefferson Hwy. #1, Waynesboro. sevenarrowsbrewing.com

Basic City Beer Co.

Using water from an area spring keeps Basic City’s beer fresh and local. Pair a cold double IPA with live music every Saturday night. Not feeling the booze? Grab a house-brewed nitro coffee or kombucha. 1010 E. Main St., Waynesboro. basiccitybeer.com

Queen City Brewing

With more than 80 recipes under its belt and the official title of first Staun-ton brewery since Prohibition, Queen City is not afraid to experiment. The taproom has 22 brews to choose from, along with fruit wines, alcoholic ginger beer and apple ale (plus homemade sodas for DDs). 834 Springhill Rd., Staunton. qcbrewing.com

Redbeard Brewing Company

The slogan “small batches of big beers” sums up Redbeard Brewing’s philosophy: The Staunton-based brewhouse offers four robust flagship beers—a pale ale, a stout, an English brown ale and an IPA—and seasonal rotations. 120 S. Lewis St., Staunton. redbeardbrews.com

Shenandoah Valley Brewing Co.

Before there was beer, there were beer supplies. Doubling as a home-brewing supply store and craft brewery, SVBC takes the beer from start to finish. There’s no kitchen, but enjoy a menu from nearby Farmhouse Restaurant or BYOS (bring your own snacks) on the weekdays. 103 W. Beverley St., Staunton. shenvalbrew.com

Bedlam Brewing

This restaurant and brewpub is the newest addition to the Staunton brewery scene, opening this past January. Brunch, lunch and dinner—from pizza to pork belly—served alongside saisons, Irish reds and more. 2303 N. Augusta St., Staunton.

Photo: Paul Whicheloe

Not-so-vanilla ice

A few cold facts about getting your cocktail just right

By Erin O’Hare

Nabbing a seat at The Alley Light’s bar is like a ticket to the bartender’s version of the Ice Capades: Bartenders are forever tossing ice cubes into shaking tins, hand-carving cubes from ice slabs pulled from the freezer and making crushed ice by hand, with a linen bag and wooden mallet.

It’s not just for show, says Alley Light bar manager Micah LeMon—ice is a crucial component of the modern cocktail, and one with an interesting history.

In the mid-19th century, a Boston entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor had a seemingly whacky idea: harvest ice from Massachusetts ponds and lakes and sell it to places like Cuba, South America and India, turning a profit by, among other things, training bartenders to use ice in refreshing drinks that customers would crave.

Before then, most cocktails were like lukewarm punches, says LeMon. But Tudor’s fanciful idea worked—after having one chilled beverage, customers wanted another and another, and their bartenders obliged, forever changing the art of the cocktail. Now, most cocktails require ice in some form, either in the drink itself or in the mixing process.

LeMon explains that at The Alley Light, as in most bars, ice is used in three ways: in shaken cocktails, stirred cocktails and shaved ice (or crushed ice) cocktails.

At The Alley Light, as in most bars, ice is used in three ways: in shaken cocktails, stirred cocktails and shaved ice (or crushed ice) cocktails. Photo: Paul Whicheloe
At The Alley Light, as in most bars, ice is used in three ways: in shaken cocktails, stirred cocktails and shaved ice (or crushed ice) cocktails. Photo: Paul Whicheloe

Shaken cocktails

In a shaken cocktail, drink components are mixed together with cubes of ice (the larger the cube, the better) in a tin and shaken to thoroughly combine the ingredients, then strained off the ice and into the glass. The result is a cocktail that’s chilled but not diluted.

Stirred cocktails 

Stirred cocktails, such as The Alley Light’s Improved Whiskey Cocktail (a take on the old fashioned), are typically built in the glass, component by component, and the bartender will add ice—often cut by hand for the shape of the glass—as a final step before stirring. Stirred cocktails are sometimes the strongest cocktails, and the ice serves to both chill and slightly dilute the beverage as you sip. They’ll start off boozy and become more refreshing and rounded on the palate as the ice melts.

Shaved ice cocktails

These cocktails tend to be on the fruity side and thus taste best served cold. So in a shaved or crushed ice cocktail, such as a tiki drink, the ice serves almost like a mega chiller: Smaller pieces of ice means that there’s more cold surface area to interact with the combined cocktail components. Here, the palate-pleasing dilution comes not from shaking or stirring but from the melting of the ice.

Fun fact

You’ll often see a row of glasses full of ice sitting behind the bar. Bartenders will chuck the ice out of the glass before adding a drink (and thus, sometimes, new ice). Why? The ice helps keep the glass cool so that when a chilled drink is poured in, the warm glass won’t lower the temperature of the beverage.

The Namaste in Bed, the Every Day is Arm Day and a summery concoction—Lost Saint's cocktail menu is always on theme. Photos: Paul Whicheloe
The Namaste in Bed, the Every Day is Arm Day and a summery concoction—Lost Saint’s cocktail menu is always on theme. Photos: Paul Whicheloe

Found on West Main

A tiny bar that’s big on creativity

By Erin O’Hare

On January 16, 1920, the United States went dry. And for 13 years after—until the 21st amendment repealed the 18th—it was illegal to produce, import, transport and sell alcoholic beverages in the United States.

While Prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking—we’ve all heard about speakeasies—it did disenfranchise many brilliant bartenders who’d created cocktails that we now consider classics, explains Patrick McClure from a stool at the copper-topped bar at Lost Saint, where he shares head bartender duties with Carrie Meslar. “They created these masterpieces, and then all of a sudden, the government said, ‘What you do is illegal. Your art is void,’” says McClure. As a result, many of those bartenders, who had been at the social centers of their cities, towns and neighborhoods, left the country.   

“To me, they were the saints of their communities,” says McClure. So when he and his brother, Andy, considered how to reinvigorate this small, dimly lit, brick-walled basement bar in a 200-year-old building, in a space that “screams speakeasy,” McClure wanted to pay homage to those lost saints.

Located in the basement of Tavern & Grocery on West Main Street, Lost Saint can accommodate roughly 30 people; otherwise, its highly trained bartenders strain to provide the level of service they strive for. When the green light behind the Tavern & Grocery host station is on, Lost Saint is open and accepting guests; when the green light is off, the bar is either closed, or open and not accepting guests.

It could easily be perceived as pretentious to tell people that they can’t come into the bar (“It implies a level of exclusivity,” says Meslar), so Lost Saint balances that impression with a keen sense of humor.

Since Lost Saint opened in February 2016, Meslar and McClure have created a series of cleverly themed (and delicious) menus that change semi-regularly, depending on the season and what feels right. Usually the menus start as a joke between the bartenders—they constantly write down drink recipes and names that might work when it’s time to change the theme.

For example, last fall’s election season menu featured drinks such as the Anthony Weiner’s Snapchat (Espolón Tequila, orgeat, lime, bubbly) and the Overeager Intern (cold brew coffee, house vanilla vodka, Jameson Black Barrel, Demerara syrup, cream). A fitness-themed menu that ran through the spring featured drinks like the Every Day is Arm Day (Tavern & Grocery bacon-washed Elijah Craig, maple syrup, angostura bitters, habanero shrub, smoke), served with a sweatband around the glass, and the Namaste In Bed (chai-infused organic vodka, walnut-cashew milk, raw sugar, local vanilla porter bitters) served on a tiny yoga mat.

“We like a touch of whimsy,” says McClure with a smile.

In addition to the themed drinks, Lost Saint offers frequent one-off specials (like June’s Covfefe Tiki drink) and 42 on-menu classics. Guests shouldn’t feel shy about going off-menu, either, Meslar and McClure say. “At the end of the day, this is a profession that’s built around making people happy,” says Meslar, and no matter your taste, Lost Saint is happy to oblige.

As for this summer’s theme, you’ll have to see for yourself—the menu isn’t released outside of the bar. But Meslar promises a cocktail made with Boar Creek Appalachian Whiskey, Jam According to Daniel fruit preserves and Vitae Spirits orange liqueur. She says it “tastes like summer.”

We’ll admit that even we couldn’t sample from every bar in town (though we gave it the old college try), but here are 36 cocktails perfect for patios and pals or those lonely summer nights.

Summer sippers

We’ll admit that even we couldn’t sample from every bar in town (though we gave it the old college try), but here are 36 cocktails perfect for patios and pals or those lonely summer nights.

A watermelon marg at Zocalo is equal parts sweet—with its fruity purée—and spicy with muddled jalapeño.

The Whiskey Jar’s herbed julep takes the Derby classic up a notch with rosemary and basil.

Arnold Palmer gets an upgrade with green tea and passion fruit at Water Street.

Bulleit rye, aperol, lemon juice and simple syrup’s powers combine in a glass with an absinthe rinse and an orange wedge in Ten’s Hemingway Stone Sour.

Threepenny Café’s Lavender Sunset combines Virginia gin, Earl Grey and lavender syrups and egg whites, topped with local fleurs.

When everything else is in ruins, The Local’s Pompeii —tequila, muddled basil, strawberry purée, aperol, Pernod, black peppercorn bitters—will set it right.

Donde Estan Mis Pantalones? We don’t know, but we know we like this unexpected combo—mezcal, agave, passion fruit and burnt thyme—from The Bebedero.

Can’t go wrong with The Alley Light’s seasonal punch— spirit, citrus, lemon, water, sugar, spice, seasonal fruit.

A traditional Pimm’s Cup at Southern Crescent is the perfect complement to a platter of oysters on the half shell.

Homemade ginger beer. Gosling’s rum. Lime juice. Sometimes the best things are the most simple, like RockSalt’s Dark & Stormy.

Don’t forget to tend your Garden Variety, basil-infused vodka, Dolin Blanc and strawberry balsamic shrub at Red Pump Kitchen.

Strawberry Moon Forever (Belle Isle honey habanero moonshine, smoked strawberry shrub and Lillet Blanc) shines bright on the menu at Rapture.

A traditional Tom Collins gets a sprig in its step at Public Fish & Oyster, with lavender syrup and an herb garnish.

The Pomelo, a tart treat at Orzo, pairs Ruby Red vodka with St. Germain, cranberry juice and prosecco.

Named for its beloved barman, Oakhart Social’s Albee Seeing Ya boasts Leblon Cachaça, house blackberry syrup, lemon and cracked pepper.

No trip to Mono Loco is complete without a margarita. Recommended: the blood orange version.

The Virginia 75, a twist on a French 75 that replaces champagne with cider, is a hit at Michael’s Bistro.

Maya’s aptly named Coastal Breeze—Stoli vanil, Malibu, pineapple and orange juices—has us craving the beach.

Bombay gin, green chartreuse, lemon and muddled mint combine for one of Lampo’s most popular cocktails.

Plantation Three Star rum, lime, blueberry, lavender and mint: Junction’s Songbird will have you flying back for more.

Strange Monkey gin and strawberry lavender shrub blossom in the Jefferson’s Garden from Heirloom.

The Albemarle Fizz—Hendrick’s, Chambord, lime juice, simple syrup and soda—at Hamiltons’ is an instant summer classic.

Don’t be fooled by the rose petals atop The Fitzroy’s chamomile apricot sour; there’s nothing dainty about it.

Rum, chili liqueur and—say what?—cold brew coffee make for an unusual but tasty combo in Grit’s Amor al Fuego.

The Lightening Bug (at, where else, Firefly) turns the summer cocktail on its head, with apple brandy, amaretto, rum and citrus juices.

You won’t be
feeling so blue after The Downtown Grille’s blueberry lemondrop—tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime and blueberry juice.

We’ve never once regretted ordering a house margarita at Continental Divide (three or four? That’s a different story).

Tequila, Aperol, agave and fresh lime unite with muddled cherry tomatoes and basil for the molto Italiana Etrurian marg at Commonwealth’s downstairs bar.

The sweet-and-sour Smokeshow at Cho’s Nachos joins muddled mango, citrus and raspberry vodka, lemonade and soda.

In the belly of Cafe Caturra’s Pink Dragon lies Bacardi rum, lychee and lime juices, triple sec, simple syrup and Pom.

We’d never had a Fennel Fantasy before C&O’s—Vitae rum, Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto fennel liqueur, orange and bitters—but now they won’t stop.

The Kiwi at Burger Bach is fruity through and through—with muddled kiwis taking center stage, mixed with Tito’s vodka and St. Germain, plus fresh lemon juice.

The James Bond-
inspired Vesper Royale at Brasserie Saison goes above and beyond with an aperitif and vermouth.

Adulthood meets childhood with Boylan Heights’ raspberry and cream milkshake—black raspberry liqueur and vanilla ice cream, with whipped cream
on top (obvs).

Deceptively simple, Bizou’s St. Germain spritzer—St. Germain, Cava, lemon juice and seltzer—is a favorite summer fling.

Ruby Red vodka and grapefruit juice beneath a sugar rim, Bang!’s Pink Squeeze has us seeing things through a rose- colored cocktail.

Photo: Martyn Kyle
Photo: Martyn Kyle

Will run for beer

Charlottesville loves beer, and Charlottesville loves running. Which is why the overwhelming success of Champion’s social run club shouldn’t be surprising. Though not a runner himself, Champion owner Hunter Smith conceived of the idea for the club, now affectionately called Paavo’s Apostles after the legendary runner Paavo Nurmi. What started as a handful of runners meeting up at Champion has evolved into a group that often reaches triple digits for the weekly three- or five-mile runs.

Last year organizers of the group hosted a 5K in remembrance of the notorious “Running Man” Phillip Weber III, who died in early 2016, and the group donated the proceeds to the library where Weber loved to spend his time when he wasn’t running. Check out Champion’s Facebook page for more information about the run club and upcoming events.—LI

Maya bartender Ted Norris has been serving there for 10 years, since the restaurant opened. Photo: Paul Whicheloe

Have you met Ted?

Ted Norris has been bartending at Maya since before the paint was dry—
literally. “A month before we opened I was here painting the walls,” he says. We asked him to tell us more about his 10 years behind the bar, why Charlottesville drinkers should try something old and the biggest tip he ever got.

On longevity…

I started bartending in 1996, so anybody born the year I started bartending is now legally able to drink at my bar. Yay, if that doesn’t make you feel old.

On his “specialty”…

I consider myself a master martini maker. To make a martini the way it needs to be made, it needs to be finessed and loved. I’m about speed, simplicity and making things taste delicious. So my favorite newer one is something called a Femme Fatale. It’s a simple drink; it’s vodka, St. Germain elderflower, with a touch of pineapple and a touch of homemade sour that I make, and then I put habanero salt into it and shake it up. I think it’s my most popular drink right now.

On Charlottesville’s adventurousness…

I think it would be cool if Charlottesville would try more of the local liquors we have here without me having to put them into a specialty drink. Sometimes you have to come up with some kind of new drink to put them in in order to get people to even try them.

On his best tip…

A car. My car broke down—like for good—and my customer found out about it and, instead of giving me a tip that night, he gave me a car. That was pretty cool.

On drink trends…

I like the reemergence of the sazerac, the old fashioneds, the Manhattans, the old-school real gin martinis. I’ve been bartending long enough now that I watch trends come and go and there’s always a steady constant that kind of flows through. But then you watch things that become popular and they die and become popular and they die to the point where things that were huge 15 years ago, nobody knows about anymore.

On building relationships…

I have developed some really fantastic, wonderful friendships. Some of them move outside of the bar and become friends outside of here and, sometimes, I just have great friendships that stay here. And I really wanted to express how cool that is, to be able to have those kinds of relationships with people and the positive side of what this job has done for me and why I continue to do it after all these years.


Talk with Ted

Ted Norris and four other local barkeeps (Beth Sieber, Brendan Cartin, Catherine Muse and Steve Yang) talk drinking with C-VILLE.

Photo: Paul Whicheloe
Photo: Paul Whicheloe

Healthy hooch?

Listen, there’s just no way around it: Where there’s alcohol, there are calories and sugar. And unless you resign yourself to a lifetime of vodka and seltzer water (which, hey, is crisp and delicious in its own right), it’s not always easy to find a cocktail that’s in the healthy (or even healthyish) realm. So for your summer sippin’ this year, we’ve rounded up a few light and refreshing mixed drinks that won’t break the calorie bank and even have some health benefits.

The Secret Garden

Public Fish & Oyster

If you don’t want to eat your veggies, does drinking them appeal to you? How about with a splash of vodka and lime juice? Public Fish & Oyster’s lightly sweet and earthy cocktail The Secret Garden starts with Square One cucumber vodka (the only flavored vodka behind the bar, according to owner Daniel Kaufman), shaken with lime juice, simple syrup and Fee Brothers celery bitters, topped with a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper. Perfect with a platter of salty raw oysters during the summer weather, Kaufman says it’s been the bar’s most popular cocktail by a mile.

Turmeric Tonic and Gin (above)

The Juice Laundry + Vitae Spirits

You may not find any Juice Laundry products behind the bars around town, but that certainly doesn’t stop us from mixing up our own boozy concoction. Since you can’t go wrong with a classic fruit juice and liquor combo, we went with one of owner Mike Keenan’s more unusual recommendations: the Turmeric Tonic (turmeric, lime and maple syrup) with Vitae gin. Often used in curries and other deeply flavored sauces, turmeric is known for its health benefits as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Ten 11

Ten Sushi 

One of the simplest cocktails on Ten’s drink menu, the Ten 11 comprises three ingredients: Tito’s vodka, sake and aloe. Sake comes in at about 39 calories per fluid ounce, and aloe is good for more than just treating sunburns. It is also known for treating mouth ulcers, reducing dental plaque, improving your skin and helping with digestion. Oh, and it’s pretty tasty when mixed with vodka and sake.

Photo: Matt Bonham
Photo: Matt Bonham

Bitter truths

Necessity is the mother of invention. At least, it was for Kip McCharen, who launched his eponymous bitters company after realizing he couldn’t get the ingredients he needed to make craft cocktails. He made a big batch in July 2016 and, within a month, was selling small bottles at the Charlottesville City Market. Local restaurants have caught on, too—McCharen’s Bitters can be found in cocktails at The Bebedero, Lost Saint, Citizen Burger Bar and others. You can nab a bottle at mccharensbitters.etsy.com.