Travel down Market Street until you see the glint of harbor water and you run into Bay Street. Turn right, and while you gaze into the windows of such eateries as Amen Street, Slightly North of Broad, and High Cotton, keep an eye out for a small patio on your left. A large wooden door will greet you, and with a push of nostalgia, you enter The Gin Joint.
At 182 East Bay Street you can get a cocktail mixed with an eye towards elegance. In the tradition of pre-Prohibition style bars, The Gin Joint offers secluded booths and intimate tables to savor these hand-built concoctions. The small, but cozy, establishment encourages quiet conversations with your date, or plotting world domination with your accomplice. Either is acceptable here.
Built in 2010, in what used to be Roberts of Charleston, The Gin Joint is owned by Joe and Marielena Raya. You mayhave heard of them. They also created the bar staple Bittermilk Cocktail Mixer (www.bittermilk.com), a line of mixers designed for the modern day cocktail enthusiast.
1 oz. St. George Pear Brandy
1 oz. St. George Spiced Pear Brandy
.75 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz. Falernum
.25 oz. Simple syrup
James Bolt is the Gin Joint’s Beverage Director. His deft hand allowed us to sample a few of the entries, such as the Pear Pressure (see above); White Lie, a drink with a fennel touch and Abstithe finish; and Knuckleduster, which gives an earthy kiss to the sides of your tongue.
James attended the Culinary Institute of America, and while working at places such as McCrady’s, the Verandah, and Le Berdnardin, he developed a passion for mixed drinks. “In the back of my mind I am always thinking, how would this taste with that. This and that don’t always work out, but I love it when they do.”
James, and the bartenders at the Gin Joint, have to be well versed in not just classic cocktail knowledge, but to be acquainted with the individual ingredients contained in each.
Items such as bitters, mixes, herbs, and fruits all have to be tasted to know their nuances and how they affect the balance of the drink. “We don’t want any one thing to be overpowering. Subtle is often a drink keyword.”
All of the bartenders start as servers, gaining an overview of the cocktails and learning the spirits. A 6 week bar training course follows, which culminates in a testing of the menu and ingredients. One of the unique and enjoyable services of the Gin Joint is the Bartender’s Choice. The customer chooses two words such as Strong, Fizzy, or Herbal. A custom drink is then mixed with those characteristics in mind. An intense knowledge of all things cocktail related is needed to accomplish this.
The Gin Joint also offer tapas- style seasonable food. Chef Kayle Bennett uses local sources such as Charleston Beer Exchange, Ambrose Farm, Geechie Boy Mill, Brown’s Court Bakery, and Bulls Bay Saltworks, to make dishes complimentary of the cocktails and the atmosphere.
Glass and barware are provided by Cocktail Kingdom (www.cocktailkingdom.com), allowing drinks such as Hemlock, Shallow Grave, and No Pine, No Pleasure to be pleasing to the eye along with the palate.
Whether enjoying a drink after work or an evening out on the town, James and the staff of the Gin Joint will make sure your visit is a memorable one.