Libations. Cocktails. Adult beverages. Call them what you like, but it seems to me that for the over-21 crowd, vacation and a laid-back drink or two go hand in hand. After all, vacation is meant for unwinding and relaxing and whether by the pint or the glass, your beverage of choice can help you do just that.
Maybe it’s part of a special dinner out, or maybe you’re just walking around downtown, spot a cool bar and decide to give it a try. Either way, you’ve come to the right blog. After all, historic Savannah is home to Chatham Artillery Punch: a super high-proof concoction that dates back to the 1800s and could make the Jolly Green Giant forget he likes green beans. Some consider it the strongest drink in American history! More than 200 years later, bartenders throughout Savannah have preserved the city’s tradition for serving up unique and original cocktails just right for going bottoms up and having a good time.
So what is Chatham Artillery Punch? Named after the Chatham Artillery, the oldest military organization of record in Georgia, it is believed the drink was first made by gentle ladies for celebratory occasions. Over time, officers of the Artillery would add a little of this and that creating the famed drink of today, which includes wine, rum, gin, brandy, Benedictine, whiskey, tea, sugar, orange and lemon juice, and a cherry on top. See? Told ya it was potent! Once mixed, the drink sets for 36-48 hours before a case of champagne (yes, a case) is added. Feeling adventurous? Then you’ll definitely want to order one of these (and call an Uber), available at a variety of restaurants and bars throughout the city.
Though Savannah is rooted in history, its bar and restaurant scene is brimming with new talent, modern décor, and bartenders (aka: mixologists) who take great pride in perfecting their craft. Whether you’re a guest at the Hilton Garden Inn Savannah Historic District or simply passing by, you owe it to yourself to spend a little time at their lobby bar. Open until 10 pm nightly, you’ll feel transported by the rustic Savannah railroad feel of this newly remodeled space.
Beneath the low lights, you’ll relax and unwind with ease while reading up on Savannah’s rail history as told in the space’s wall décor. The bar makes great effort to source its ingredients locally as well, like the locally-brewed Southbound beer that flies off the shelves according to Assistant Food and Beverage Manager, Corinna Runyon. “Local beers are very popular,” commented Runyon, “but we find there are a lot of whiskey drinkers, too, and so we keep more whiskey on hand than anything else.” One popular cocktail is their Rob Roy, which is similar to a Manhattan, but uses a blended scotch whiskey as a variation on the popular drink. Runyon also recommends their Easy Street cocktail composed of gin, St. Germain liqueur, lemons, and sugar, served in a pretty little glass with cucumbers on the side.
“We also have a really nice small plate offering as the perfect complement to our beverage menu,” said Runyon. Just imagine sipping a sophisticated martini along with warm olives and an herb blend or an artisanal meat and cheese board. Whatever you order, your visit to the Hilton Garden Inn will be made even more enjoyable when served up by Ann, one of the property’s most popular bartenders. By day, Ann is actually a third-grade teacher, but by night, she epitomizes that old song lyric, “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Runyon sang Ann’s praises saying, “when guests come up, she treats them like family. She also knows the area really well and loves to share great ideas on where to eat, bands to see – she has a great answer for everything!” Great drinks, great food, great bartender – I’ll toast to that!
Have you ever had egg whites in your cocktail? You can if you visit Prohibition in downtown Savannah. Steeped in the speakeasy style of the 1920s, Prohibition Restaurant and Bar has a cocktail menu that is anything but ordinary. Beverage Director, Jim McCourt has created a menu best described as innovative takes on classics and we had to know — how does he come up with this stuff? “I get my inspiration from a lot of different places,” explained McCourt. “Classics are a big influence – reading old books, re-creating the recipes and putting my own spin on them. Sometimes I even come up with a name for a drink and work it that way. Other times I’ll find a new ingredient or product and work on that.” But what surprises customers the most are Prohibition’s egg white cocktails.
Why egg whites? It’s actually a tradition that dates back more than a century and is used to give cocktails a rich, creamy texture and foamy cap. Intrigued? Then you’ll want to order the Carolina Wren or Pistachio Fizz. For a taste of Prohibition’s signature Irish cocktails, prepare your palate for the Gran Rosta Coffee: a combination of Teeling single-grain Irish whiskey, coffee, demerara, fresh whipped cream, and popcorn powder.
For this next restaurant and bar, let me start by giving a nod to the very helpful and enthusiastic bartender I spoke with – nickname: Lumpy. Located near City Market, The Grove Savannah has not one, not two, but three bars for you to enjoy: one in the main restaurant, one complete with two TVs, and one that offers glorious downtown views from its breezy rooftop. “We fit a great niche,” Lumpy told me, “we’re not a corner bar with bar food, but we’re not super high-end, super expensive fine dining, so you can have cocktails and food and it won’t overwhelm you.” When looking at their menu, what you might notice first is that they don’t just serve cocktails at The Grove, they serve housemade cocktails. “All of the names and recipes were made in house,” said Lumpy, “With mixed drinks, we know we’re not reinventing the wheel, but that doesn’t mean we can’t put our own spin on it.”
For example, the Champagne Pop, which, according to Lumpy, is one of their more popular concoctions, is a refreshingly fun drink that’s popping up all over Instagram. “We start with a glass of prosecco and then add a King of Pop popsicle to it,” Lumpy described. Right now, the popsicle is a strawberry-lemonade flavor, but it does change seasonally. The Grove’s Rosemary Sweet Tea is also popular and among its ingredients is Cathead Vodka, a unique variety that is infused with honeycomb. Even if you only have time for a quick stop, you should definitely order at least one beverage up on the roof. “It’s absolutely beautiful and scenic,” said Lumpy, “It’s a great feel, very comfortable and with three bars. You could come here three days in a row and have a different experience each time.” Add to that experience a live band or DJ most Friday and Saturday nights and you have plenty of reasons to take a little time and enjoy yourself at The Grove.
From the expanse of a rooftop to a repurposed bank vault, you’ll find the food, drinks, and setting equally appealing at The Vault Kitchen & Market. What was once an operating bank is now a casually chic restaurant and bar with an intact vault for a truly unique dining experience. Sarah Crescenzi, executive assistant for The Vault’s parent company Ele and the Chef, describes the restaurant’s drink menu as, “sophisticated and fun” and I have to agree! “We like to use interesting ingredients and unique flavors,” Crescenzi explained, “and we support multiple local breweries and distilleries in town and love incorporating them in our drinks and on our menu.” According to Crescenzi, the most popular drink on their menu is the Blood Orange Martini, which mixes Absolute peach vodka, blood orange, cranberry juice, and a splash of lime. But the most surprising? “That has to be our 100 Grand Old Fashioned,” Cresscenzi said, “it contains house 100 grand chocolate bar-infused bourbon.” To keep things interesting, The Vault updates its drink menu every quarter and encourages its mixologists to express their artistic skills with different cocktails daily.
When you visit historic Savannah, there’s no better way to get in a vacation state of mind than a signature cocktail concoction (enjoyed responsibly of course). So here’s to you and a glorious stay in Savannah! Now what are you waiting for? Bottoms up!