Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails opened in New York’s North Gramercy area four years ago with a menu of “modern, innovative, American comfort food” and, as the name so plainly states, craft cocktails. Their Instagram is an instant hangover cure — cheesy mac, stacked smash burgers, boozy punches, and crème fraîche-drenched pancakes. After finding success in the city, the owners looked for another market amenable to their approachable, libation-heavy concept. Enter: Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails Mt. Pleasant.
Now open at 705 Coleman Blvd., the Southern sister restaurant is fully clad in reclaimed wood and Edison bulbs, featuring a spirit forward cocktail list with everything from pre-Prohibition classics to a new fad — Turkey Dew.
Handcraft’s Southeast operations director Devin Rizzo, a longtime Lowcountry resident (and former operations director for Swig & Swine), cheerfully describes the plans he has for the space, including a luxe weekend brunch; poolside service at the neighboring Boulevard apartments; and a laid-back, fun atmosphere belying the artfully crafted libations.
Industry mixologist vet Tyler Rothenberg serves as Handcraft’s beverage consultant; a former Army sergeant, Rothenberg has tended and managed bar all over town, also serving as a spirits brand ambassador and sales rep. He knows his high balls.
For those averse to liquor concoctions, the drink menu includes red, white, sparkling, and rose offerings plus four local beers on tap (and Miller Lite).
The cocktail menu is thorough, and, even for a spot off the peninsula, surprisingly affordable. “It’s like a timeline of cocktails,” explains Angel Powell, the PR agent for the new spot.
The section titled Drinks of Yesterday ($8) pay homage to the glorious ’90s — a decade making a major comeback in 2019, with chokers, crop tops, and Billy Ray Cyrus all the rage — sans the sugary pink taboo one may associate with this era’s big hitters. Think skillfully shaken and stirred melon balls, amaretto sours, brambles, Cosmos, and yes, even a tequila sunrise. The melon ball is neon in color, but light in taste, served in a tasteful, etched coupe glass.
The Classics ($10) take us back even further in time (with a bit of a twist) and include a brandy julep, (a delightful) daiquiri, Manhattan, Martinez, and agave old fashioned. The High Balls ($8) make tongue-in-cheek contemporary references — the My Name Is (hi, Sbux) is made with brandy, espresso liqueur, and tonic. And there’s the uber contemporary concoction, the “Turkey Do” with bourbon and house-made lemon lime soda, a la Mountain Dew.
[embed-2] The Handcraft Originals ($12) all have a story to tell. Take for instance the Bartender in Paradise, made with bourbon, strawberry, Lillet, blood orange, and pineapple. Rothenberg came up with the bourbon-based tropical drink (as opposed to the standard rum) when he was hungover on a bus traveling through Kentucky’s verdant horse country. “Well I guess I’m a bartender in paradise.”
Drinks are the major player at Handcraft, but the elevated bar food is worth an order too. They’re still ironing out some menu details, but a recent visit included a decadent and hearty smash burger with curly fries, fried burrata with truffled mushrooms and buttered baguette slices, plus a slightly lighter option, three fat seared scallops and Brussels.
Rizzo says they’ll have some Lowcountry flare ups — you can’t fully avoid pimento cheese — but don’t expect shrimp and grits fare. He figures there’s more than enough of that to go around. Chef Dan Caruso, who worked at Wegmans Supermarket as the company’s executive chef for years, says he’s looking to add lighter, summery dishes to the menu.
Handcraft is open daily serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. The kitchen will close nightly at 10 p.m., but the bar will stay open ’til midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends — if you’re planning a nightcap, best to starting following them on Instagram for your next hangover cure.