Spoleto Sips are available at select local bars and restaurants for a limited time through the season finale on June 11. | Photo by Jeremy Lynch

Spoleto Festival USA again this season has partnered with local bars and restaurants to promote “Spoleto Sips,” a series of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks inspired by the season’s shows. From the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra series to the Tank and the Bangas finale concert, finish off the season and celebrate with any of these five specially-curated cocktails.

Only an Orange Apart (Virginia’s on King, 412 King St.)

Photo by Jeremy Lynch
  • Triple sec
  • Soda water
  • Orange juice
  • Muddled orange slice

Inspired by the opera-meets-cabaret-meets-pop hybrid show “Only an Octave Apart,” this cocktail with a near-identical name is a simple drink that blends familiar fruity elements to create a refreshing concoction.

As its name suggests, the Only an Orange Apart is heavy on the orange and quite light on the triple sec, serving as the perfect drink for those looking for something sweet and subtle. 

Virginia’s on King is known for combining the best of traditional kitchen comforts with regional favorites and flavors from around the Lowcountry. If you’re in for brunch, perhaps you may not want to trade your mimosa glasses for a mason jar of the Only an Octave Apart, so come back for supper and give it a try. 

If you have plans to taste more Spoleto Sips throughout the day or into the evening, the Only an Orange Apart makes for a great starter drink to continue your adventure down King Street and its many side streets. — Piper Starnes

Gin and Other Myths (Victor’s Seafood & Steak, 39F John St.)

Image by CM McCambridge
  • Hat Trick Gin
  • St. Germain
  • Lemon juice 
  • Simple syrup
  • Blackberries
  • Basil 

Australian circus company Gravity and Other Myths will surpass the limits of contemporary circus at Spoleto this year. Victor’s Seafood & Steak’s show-inspired cocktail, Gin and Other Myths, is served with a lime wedge on its brim and muddled blackberries and basil at the bottom of a highball glass. In terms of presentation, the Gin and Other Myths cocktail doesn’t push boundaries.

But the sweet berry basil flavor that overpowers the Gin and St. Germain makes Gin and Other Myths a people-pleaser. The cocktail is basil-forward and finishes with a bubbly berry kick. 

Like a spritz, Gin and Other Myths is a light and refreshing summer sip that will pair well with many of the heavy steak and seafood-centered meals on Victor’s menu. If you are drinking to feel a buzz, you may need to order a second as you feast.  — Natalie Rieth

Spoleto Sling (The Commodore, 505 Meeting St.)

Photo by Piper Starnes
  • Gin
  • Lemon juice
  • Pear nectar
  • Honeysuckle syrup
  • Garnish rosemary sprig and lemon twist

The Commodore’s Spoleto cocktail is a classic, springy gin drink — the funk and soul club’s  celebration of the festival. Fans of the Singapore Sling will find the cocktail more a spin in name than in form, but the Commodore’s drink is likely better than a simple variant of the original.

The Spoleto Sling is well-presented, with the lemon twist giving a strong, bright smell on every sip. Gin flavors are present but gentle, and the botanical notes shine thanks to the rosemary. Together, the pear and honeysuckle provide the perfect sweetness to balance the gin and lemon juice. 

The folks behind the bar suggest following it up with a Purple Rain, a gin twist on an old fashioned. 

College-age readers should note that The Commodore is only open to ages 23 and up. — Desi Gillespie

La Sera (Vern’s, 41 Bogard St.)

Photo by Jeremy Lynch
  • Sardinian orange vermouth
  • Cappelletti
  • Spanish vermouth
  • Bitter orange
  • Shiso bitters

Vern’s cocktails are made in the Italian aperitivo style, using vermouths and other fortified wines instead of liquor. For the La Sera, made to commemorate conductor Jonathon Heyward’s June 9 performance of Symphonie Fantastique with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, the mixologists at this neighborhood spot created a blend to serve as the base. It’s a light, easy drink that leaves you fairly unaffected by the alcohol.

The cocktail is heavy on orange scent and flavor, though the taste slowly evolves from a citrus sweetness into a bitter herbal medley. That bite isn’t for everyone, but the various notes from the Cappelletti and shiso bitters are fun to sift through.

With its red-brown color, clinking ice cubes and bitter finish, it’s reminiscent of a glass of unsweet tea and just about as refreshing. Vern’s recommends pairing the La Sera with their yellowfin tuna and charred sourdough. — Desi Gillespie

Tituba’s Revenge (Coterie, 17 Warren St.)

Photo by Jeremy Lynch
  • Amrut fusion Indian scotch
  • Goslings rum 
  • Pineapple
  • Blue curaçao
  • Coconut Foam
  • Flamed lapsong suchong tincture

Inspired by The Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible, a dramatized take on the Salem witch trials, Coterie is serving its own twist on the Spoleto show with Tibtuba’s Revenge, a blend of rum, scotch and various coastal flavors. It’s strong and pineapple-forward — certainly a cocktail to be slowly sipped and savored. 

Coterie’s dimly-lit ambience has a similar feel to the ballet’s lighting design, and the bright green drink — topped with a thick layer of coconut foam and garnished with decorative edible paper — echoes a witch’s cauldron filled with a bubbling potion. Tituba’s Revenge had the most impressive presentation of the drinks tasted by City Paper.

The thick, almost marshmallowy foam that tops the cocktail is a nice touch until – you’ve sipped the remnants of your drink and you’re left with an unpleasant gloop at the bottom of your glass. — Natalie Rieth

If you plan to drink

Spoleto Sips are available at select local bars and restaurants for a limited time through the season finale on June 11. Read the 2023 Spoleto Sips Guide for a full list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink options. Keep up with the Spoleto Festival USA on Instagram and Facebook to see featured artists try the cocktails. 

Piper Starnes, Natalie Rieth, Desi Gillespie, Jeremy Lynch and C.M. McCambridge are arts journalism graduate students at Syracuse University.

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