Gone are the days of the mixologist. Over-complicated cocktails and uber-sophisticated interiors have made way for classic cocktail culture in spaces that are more like your usual neighborhood joint, where you get to know the bartenders making your drinks. Welcome to the era of familiarity—and expertise.
Two newcomers to the scene exemplify this change in trend: The Crunkleton and Idlewild.
The original location of The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill and its namesake owner, Gary Crunkleton, have both received national acclaim. Southern Living called it one of the 100 Best Bars of the South and Garden & Gun named it one of the 5 Best Bourbon Bars. Now, that reputation has a home in Elizabeth, with a full kitchen added. With a focus on the classics, the bartenders of The Crunkleton truly flex their muscles of the craft, by making exceptional cocktails. They’re called “classics” for a reason, after all. On the menu you’ll find the origin story of each cocktail, plus the name of the author (try Gary Crunkleton’s signature cocktail, the Elderflower Sour). Membership to the private club will run you $10 (you get to bring one guest), but also comes with exclusive events like the Mike Veach Bourbon Academy and Saturday lunch featuring whole hog dishes utilizing the wood oven, among others.
The new kid on the block is Idlewild, which opened on Valentine’s Day in NoDa. The new cocktail bar, situated on 36 Street, contains no formal drink menu. All cocktails are $13, PBR is only $2. Go up to the bar, tell the bartender what you like with some descriptors, and they’ll make you a custom cocktail to fit your tastes. Idlewild is the epitome of custom cocktails—made just for you, but you don’t need to Google the ingredients. What better way to get to know your customers (and neighbors) than to know what kinds of drinks they like? The setup of having a set price for cocktails and no menu really lets the skills and creativity of the bartenders shine, and guarantees an exemplary customer experience.
Have you tried either of these out, or did we miss someone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.