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Winter Cocktails With A Southern Attitude

Kevin Kniestedt

With the holidays approaching and the weather getting colder, for many it’s a good time to warm up with a winter cocktail. I stopped by Charlotte’s 5Church restaurant and met with lead bartender Jennifer Barnette and Assistant General Manager Mark Childers and asked them for a few seasonal drink ideas – with a little bit of Southern attitude.

I first asked them what comes to mind when they think “holiday" or "winter” cocktails. For Jennifer, it's all about spices. For Mark, it's bourbon...so much that he repeated it three times.

We started with Jennifer making us a Caramel Apple Pie. The first ingredient in this drink is moonshine, but don't let that scare you away. This isn't the old timey moonshine. 5Church uses Midnight Moon brand moonshine, which comes in at 80 proof, the maximum that North Carolina state law allows. It also comes in a variety of flavors, and in this case they appropriately used the Apple Pie flavored moonshine. And it is made right here in North Carolina. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, this is the perfect drink. The cocktail comes in a martini glass drizzled with caramel and topped off with a cinnamon and sugar rim.

5Church Apple Pie Martini

Credit Kevin Kniestedt
Assistant GM Mark Childers and Head Bartender Jennifer Barnette of 5Church.

  • 2 oz Midnight Moon Apple Pie Moonshine
  • .75 oz butterscotch schnapps
  • Splash of sour
  • Drizzled caramel in martini glass with cinnamon and sugar rim

If you are looking for something a little less sweet, but something that will certain warm you on a cold day, the next drink certainly takes care of you. Mark Childers introduced me to the Take On The Drake, which he describes as a "third generation" Manhattan. The Drake Manhattan is a take off of the original Manhattan by using port wine instead of sweet vermouth. 5Church's Take On The Drake gives it a little twist by adding their homemade chai tea maple syrup. Childers garnishes it with brandied cherries, and pours it in a brandy snifter to give it more of a seasonal appearance.
5Church Take On The Drake

Credit Kevin Kniestedt
Take On The Drake at 5Church

  • 2 oz Woodford Reserve bourbon
  • 1.25 oz Taylor Fladgate 20 Year port wine
  • Dash of bitters
  • Chai Tea Maple Syrup
  • Serve in brandy snifter, garnished with brandied cherries.

The combination of these ingredients turned out to be really tasty, and would certainly keep you warm on the coldest winter day.
I asked Mark and Jennifer how they think up a drink that has bourbon, port wine, chai tea maple syrup and have it come together so successfully. The answer was lots of trial and error.

"This is one of the few things in life where it is fun to try and fail" said Childers. "You just keep trying to put things together, and once they work, you just know it. Your senses all agree, it puts a smile on your face, and you know it's going to probably translate for a lot of other people."