Most of the time, we’re happy to kick back with some cheap brews and happy-hour specials. But every so often, we like to feel like a baller. And Charleston sure knows how to mix drinks that cost a pretty penny. In our search of major-coin beverages, we found that a lot of these expensive elixirs revolve around whiskies. But we managed to find some that include tequila and rum, too. We also learned that a lot of the fancy restaurants, the ones where you’d expect to spend half your paycheck, actually have semi-affordable options; for instance, most of Peninsula Grill’s cocktails cost $10 — hello, date night.
For the sake of this list, however, we included cocktails that start at $15 and are on the bar’s regular menu. It’s easy to make a ballin’ cocktail by substituting lots of top-shelf liquors. Of course, if you think these drinks are expensive, then evidently you don’t know about the cocktail created for Grace Jones at London’s Gigi’s Mayfair. It cost $14,667, give a take a few pennies depending on the exchange rate that day. That makes these luxury sips sound like a deal.
1. Van-Hattan ($23) at Husk
First things first, the Van-hattan is not made with Pappy Van Wrinkle bourbon. But it was created by Julian Van Wrinkle, which is pretty impressive. Husk’s take on the Manhattan includes two dashes of blood orange bitters, one maraschino cherry with juice (the real ones, not the bright red ones that won’t decompose in landfills), half a teaspoon of Carpano Antica vermouth, 2-oz. Knob Creek bourbon, 2-oz. Knob Creek rye, shaken and strained over ice, and topped with the curl of an orange.
2. Bottled-in-Bond Old Fashioned ($22) at Gin Joint
For those of you not in the know, the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 required liquor, mainly whiskeys, to be produced in one distillation season by one distiller at one distillery. And that’s not all. The alcohol had to then be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof — all under the supervision of the U.S. government. The Gin Joint serves up a $22 Old Fashioned made with Col. E. H. Taylor Rye Whiskey — a bottled-in-bond rye — demerara sugar simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and an orange twist that’s surprisingly smooth.
3. Cucumber French 75, Sassy Sara, Liam’s Octane, Ex”Spann”sion (all $15) at The Ocean Room
We expect nothing less than fancy drinks from the swanky Kiawah restaurant — the four we selected cost $15. The bartenders give you some options about the base alcohol. Do you want gin? Give the Cucumber French 75 a taste. It mixes Hendrick’s Gin with fresh cucumber juice, limoncello, and sparkling wine. If you’d rather sip on some vodka, The Sassy Sara is the way to go. The cocktail combines vodka with pineapple rum, fresh lemonade, muddled jalapeño, and vanilla syrup. For a tequila fix, sip on Liam’s Octance, a blend of T1 tequila, Alipus mezcal, local peaches, peppers, and agave. And the Ex”Spann”sion offers a Dad’s Hat rye cocktail with Pernod, orange fennel tarragon syrup, and Peychaud’s bitters.
4. Whistlepig 10-year Rye Manhattan ($19) at FIG
The folks at FIG know that people can be particular about their whiskeys, so they’ve created a make-your-own Manhattan section on their drink menu. The Whistlepig 10-year rye is the most expensive way to make it. Pick your bitters and vermouth to customize how you want it and then it’s served straight up.
5. Nitrotini ($17-$19) at Grill 225
Some people think martinis are cool enough on their own (see James Bond), but the folks at Grill 225 thought they’d make their martinis even cooler, -320 degrees cooler to be exact. The Nitrotini comes in a variety of flavors, from cotton candy to lavender berry to nitromallow, and they’re all made with liquid nitrogen.
6. Strawberry Hill ($15) at Charleston Grill
Charleston Grill will be changing their cocktail list after this goes to print, but this summer the restaurant was serving up the Strawberry Hill, which combined rosé, vodka, vermouth, and fresh strawberries.
7. Flavored Mojitos ($15-$16) at Market Pavilion Bar
Perched high atop the Market Pavilion Hotel sits the Market Pavilion Bar, where you can buy a $16 mojito made from Cruzan rum, fruit purée (mango, blueberry, strawberry kiwi, or raspberry), mint-infused simple syrup, and lime juice. Don’t be alarmed when it comes in a plastic cup either; that’s what happens when you’re drinking a tropical drink poolside on a roof.