Guest post by Karri Peifer
It’s no secret that cocktail culture is a big deal in Richmond.
Our stellar cocktail scene seems to be written in national publications nearly every other week and locals’ social media feeds are clogged with inventive, decadent, spirit-heavy concoction photos every evening.
Yes, cocktail culture in Richmond is big news – and a big deal.
All over Richmond, droves of talented mixologists and passionate bartenders are mixing up craft cocktails (and regular ones) in such a frenzy that narrowing down the list to 10 is a challenge.
In fact, when the Belle Isle Moonshine boys asked me to guest blog about 10 awesome spots to grab a cocktail across Virginia, I said no.
Hell no, I said - there’s just too much cocktail goodness happening right here in RVA to go statewide.
Thankfully, they relented (after a little aggressive arm twisting, foot stamping and whining. Jokes. They agreed immediately) – so without further adieu here are 10 (of many!) awesome Richmond spots where you can grab an awesome cocktail:
1. Acacia mid-town
Sure, sure – chef, co-owner and James Beard semifinalist Dale Reitzer gets all the attention (as he should), but bar manager Danny McDermott’s cocktails deserve plenty of attention, too. In fact, Acacia’s bar program was on the forefront of the craft cocktail movement in Richmond. The cocktail menu changes seasonally at Acacia, as it does at all our featured spots, but there’s always plenty of old favorites in addition to a few Danny originals. He also keeps a nice whiskey collection in-stock.
2. Dutch & Co.
If Acacia’s bar program was on the forefront of craft cocktails in Richmond, it was thanks, in part, to its former bar manager and current Dutch & Co. co-owner Michelle Peake. You’ll find plenty of syrups, shrubs and fresh fruit in this inventive cocktail list at her Church Hill restaurant - and the appetizer list makes the bar a perfect stop for a drink and snack. Of course, you can always stay for dinner – and if you do, be sure to check out the three-course prix fixe menu for $28 per person.
Whether it’s a new toy or a new spirit, there’s always something new and fun happening with cocktails at Heritage. But for my money, the best stuff on the list are the cocktails with a little bit of spice, like the “Bitter About My Hot Friend,” with lunazul reposado tequila, campari, agave, lemon, spice (which I like to call something dirtier) and the “sayonara swizzle,” with don q cristol rum, lychee, lemon, habanero (which I call “that swizzle thing”). Be sure to ask co-owner and lead bartender Mattias Hagglund to show you his favorite new toy. He’ll be glad to. Then call a cab.
4. McCormack’s Whisky Grill
You can’t have a good cocktail culture without barmen passionate about booze, and Whisky Grill owner (and bartender) Mac McCormack is rabidly obsessed with whiskey – with and without an “e.” And it’s with good reason – the whiskey selection at this Fan spot is one the largest in the country. I’m sure Mac can make up a cocktail from that incredible selection – just ask. I mean, he might punch you in the face, but ask. Either way, drink some whiskey here.
My girl Beth Dixon isn’t just slinging fantastic craft cocktails at this Grace Street joint – she’s busy canning, preserving, mixing, and inventing shrubs and mixers and bases, nearly every single day. Be sure to ask about the cocktail of the day if you pop-in. It’ll be fantastic, and it will be on happy hour special.
Two words for you: Prosecco on-tap. OK, fine – two and half words as one is hyphenated – and technically prosecco isn’t a cocktail, but it’s my beloved at Rappahannock. Still, this oyster-heavy restaurant (with plenty of other great things) serves up fantastic craft cocktails from a fabulous selection of interesting spirits. Have one or two. And then you can have a glass of prosecco.
7. The Rogue Gentlemen
The Rogue Gents do two things with cocktails that I love: they keep a select few on-tap (most recently carbonated negronis) and they do a Dealer’s Choice Cocktail. Fine, plenty of people do a dealer’s choice, but TRG make a big deal about it – things are set on fire and they bring special tools out of hiding and I’m 70 percent sure unleash a special bartender from the basement. I’m saying this: it’s fun. Do it.
8. The Roosevelt
Y’all, there’s plenty to love about The Roosevelt’s cocktail program, but let’s be honest – it all comes back to bar manager T Leggett. That southern drawl, that leaned-in barman listening ear, those vests … oh wait, someone at The Roosevelt was clearly threatened by the power of T’s vest because they’re gone, but still. T is awesome. And his cocktails are even awesome-r. I promise.
I would like this restaurant’s tagline to be: Cute Boys with Beards Wearing Flannel, because there’s a lot of plaid, a lot of beard, and a lot of cuteness happening up in this Jackson Ward spot. There’s also, thankfully, a lot of great craft cocktails happening. Cocktails on-draft, check; inventive cocktail menu, check; Certified Cicerone® running around like mad, double check. Be sure to check out happy hour when agave-based cocktails are half-off.
10. Secco Wine Bar
A cheat – but what do you want, this is a guest blog – sue me (by which I mean, them). The Belle Isle boys specifically told me I could write what I wanted and anyone who knows me know I’m a wine girl at heart. And anyone who knows Richmond dining knows there’s only one place you go for the best selection of wine by the glass (or bottle. Or any capacity) in Richmond, and that’s Secco Wine Bar. But this is a cocktail piece, so I’ll stay true – wine-based brunch cocktails at Secco. Do it.