Developing cocktail culture, one drink at a time
Hughes began working with Tonidandel six years ago when he first opened restaurant/bar Growlers Pourhouse, which focuses on craft beer and was one of the first establishments in Charlotte to offer cocktails on draft. While Tonidandel was the first person in Charlotte to be a certified cicerone, Hughes focused on quality craft cocktails. She began with beer cocktails and then created more inspired libations.
“At that time, there were no cocktail bars to really go to in Charlotte. So like a few other craft bartenders in this city, it was very much self-teaching and learning through experimentation,” Hughes said of her experience becoming a cocktail connoisseur. “I have always enjoyed cooking and coming up with recipes in my home and craft cocktail creating was just another extension of that.”
Tonidandel added that Hughes challenges herself and her colleagues. “She has taken the reigns of our programs with her passion about quality cocktails, her love of learning her craft, and her forward-thinking.”
This forward-thinking carried over when Tonidandel opened Crepe Cellar and tasked Hughes with creating the cocktail menu. At Crepe Cellar, one of the best date spots in Charlotte, Hughes was able to create more complicated cocktails. Hughes wrote her first cocktail list at Crepe Cellar around 2012-2013. While she describes those early drinks as simple, guests still request them today.
“She does a great job with seasonality of ingredients and is incredibly thoughtful,” said Tonidandel. “She does her research and planning, and this allows our customers to have a unique experience every time they come in.”
Hughes believes that “the sky’s the limit” if Charlotte embraces craft cocktails the way it has embraced craft beer.