• DeLauren Everett

Molasses to Glasses, Spiced Stills and Smoke – Your guide to Gaston's Most Popular Cocktails

Long gone are the days that a house margarita or vodka-and-cranberry are the best drinks on a cocktail menu. Why limit yourself when bars and restaurants are becoming innovative with their drink offerings, driving increased popularity to custom specialty cocktails? From smoky ice, to bubbles, garnishes and a blend of colorful liquors, bartenders are serving up drinks that create a unique vibe, tell a fun story and leave consumers with something interesting to talk about. Top-shelf whisky, bourbon, rum, vodka and gin spirits are available at a number of eclectic locales throughout Gaston County offering experiences that make each visit well worth the trip.

Bourbon Peach Smash (summer), Barristers - Photo Courtesy of Sam West, Barrister's at the Esquire

In Gaston County, we aren’t only making a name for ourselves with creative and fun mixed drinks. We’ve expanded our offerings with Gaston’s first and only vineyard – Veronét Vineyards and Winery – and a plethora of wine bars and breweries for your enjoyment. If alcoholic beverages aren’t your thing, Gaston’s got plenty of cafés that offer specialty coffee drinks and of course, award-winning culinary experiences.

We’ve blended up a list of neighborhood bar hot spots and made some recommendations to get you exploring, so expand your palate and take a look at what’s brewing in the Gaston bar scene.

Barrister's at the Esquire

Chai White Russian - Photo Courtesy of Sam West, Barrister's at the Esquire

168 W. Main Ave., Gastonia

Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

You don’t have to have overnight accommodations to dine-in or enjoy a cocktail at Barrister's, a unique restaurant located inside the historical Esquire Hotel. A landmark once known as the home of First National Bank in 1918 and eventually becoming the Lawyers Building in 1957, Esquire Hotel and Barrister’s were built in 2019, becoming a staple boutique hotel and upscale dining locale in Gastonia.

You’ll be in for a treat when perusing the drink menu, as Barrister’s offers seasonal hand-crafted cocktails made with fresh ingredients sourced locally from Boy & Girl Farm and Chef and the Farmer. Known for their craft specialties, you’ll never see the same drink on the menu twice.

During the winter season, you can find custom drinks like their Notary Old Fashioned, made with bourbon from Concord, North Carolina, bitters and cloves. During the holiday season, you might find a dessert cocktail similar to their sought-after Ginger Toddy made with Christian Brother’s Brandy and ginger or a Chai White Russian made with turmeric tea, house made simple syrup, honey and hot water. Summer and spring includes drinks like the Cucumber Gimlet with local Cardinal Gin and Topo Organic Spirits Vodka and Bourbon Peach Smash.

Cucumber Gimlet - Photo Courtesy of Sam West, Barrister's at the Esquire

If you’re looking for the perfect dish to pair with craft libations, Barrister’s is known for their fried squash, locally grown mushrooms from Shelby, North Carolina, and their giant fried chicken sandwich with chicken sourced from Winston Salem’s Joyce Farms.

This locale is a must see, particularly the historical building which was the development model for what we know as the incredible Empire State Building, in New York City.

Gaston Pour House

Four Roses Whiskey Sour - Photo Courtesy of Gaston Pour House

170 S. South St., 103B, Gastonia

Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

Have you ever had a drink out of a glass that was hand-smoked? If not, then Gaston Pour House is a must. Boasting an extensive whiskey program, Gaston Pour House features Four Roses in their Whiskey Sour while their Smoked Old Fashion comes highly recommended by their customers. It's crafted with quality spirits and craft bitters, finished with a charred orange peel and juicy Bing Cherry and is just as it should be—heavenly. Gaston Pour House prides themselves in being a place the community can gather, in what they call an “[Eat.Sip.Lounge] experience.” They’ve got an impressive bourbon selection and are proudly pouring Pappy Van Winkle 23-Year, a $300 bottle of whiskey and Weller Larue, a wheated bourbon whiskey.

In addition to spirits, Gaston Pour House serves local craft beer by the glass, can or bottle, over 100 hand selected wines by the glass, and handcrafted coffees to round out their beverage selection. Check out their Facebook for weekly specials and features for an opportunity to try something new.

Enjoy small plates, charcuterie, signature sandwiches from their food menu, special dinner events and quarterly bourbon and wine dinners.

JackBeagle's Mount Holly

Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

125 S. Main St, Mount Holly

Monday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Vodka and whiskey are customer favorites at this neighborhood bar and restaurant. Stop by for a Niko’s Mule, a Deep Eddy Vodka-based cocktail made with lime juice and ginger beer with lemon and lime garnish. Or if you’re a whiskey lover, try the Diamond in the Ruff, a Bulleit Rye Whiskey craft with raspberry liquor, ginger beer and lime juice.

They’ve got drink specials every day of the week, including draft beer on tap and wine by the glass.

The Jailhouse Whiskey & Cigar Bar

Chris Rodarte, Gaston Outside

23 S. Main St., Unit B, Belmont

Wednesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m.-9 p.m.

You’ll likely never have a cocktail behind bars until you visit The Jailhouse Whiskey & Cigar Bar, a downtown Belmont former jail. Choose from over 150 whiskeys and craft cocktails or order a glass of high-end wine or a brew from the bar. And be sure to check out their cigars for purchase on the second level of the penitentiary.

The Jailhouse is a private club, so be prepared to pay $2 for a Day Membership or $12 for an annual membership before going behind bars.

Jekyll & Hyde Taphouse and Grill

Photo Courtesy of Jekyll & Hyde Taphouse and Grill

10 Catawba St., Belmont

Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday -Saturday, 11 a.m.-12 a.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Grab a table at Jekyll & Hyde and order a themed jet pump specialty that pumps liquid CO2 into the glass, creating a smoky, bubbly drink that looks like dry ice. Top menu items include Kiss and Tell, made with gin and Mary Jane made with vodka. But, the most interesting would be the Sleepy Hollow made with Elijah Craig Rye Bourbon, house made simple syrup, BLiS Bourbon barrel aged maple syrup, Angostura bitters and charred candy bacon.

In addition to cocktails, Jekylle & Hyde is home to an impressive beer line-up, complete with their own in-house brews. If you’re a wine lover, choose from 45 wine varieties that can be purchased by the glass or bottle. They’ve also got Prosecco on tap, too, trending to be their top selling wine.

Lotus Bar & Eatery

Cranberry Margarita - Photo Courtesy of Lotus Bar & Eatery

1941 Hoffman Rd., #1, Gastonia

Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.- p.m., 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.

Signature craft cocktails made from scratch, seasonal taps, over 40 wines by the glass, sake and small-batch spirits can be considered a highlight of this modern American comfort and sushi restaurant. For a take on a margarita (typically associated with warmer weather), their Cranberry Margarita (complete with a sugar rim, garnished with cranberries) adds winter elements, making this a seasonal favorite.

Muddy River Distillery

Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

1500 River Dr., STE 100, Belmont

Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 12:30 p.m.-4 p.m.

The first and only distillery in Gaston County, Muddy River Distillery has six rum varieties including silver, coconut, basil, spiced, and two “Queen Charlotte” barrel aged rums, all used to create custom libations. They’re all considered sipping rum, meaning their made to enjoy minus mixers, juices or bitters.

Make a visit and cheers with their Basil Rum— the only basil rum in the world— made in-house with fresh basil grown locally at Lucky Clays Farm in Norwood, North Carolina or the River Walk made with their best-selling spiced rum, ginger beer and Angostura bitters.

Rum isn’t the only thing you’ll find at this 6,100 square foot and oldest rum distillery in North Carolina. They make and bottle rum for drinking and rum hand sanitizer, all in-house. From “molasses to glasses,” Muddy River Distillery’s stills are made locally from sugar cane and molasses.

As a way to show community support during the pandemic, Muddy River distilled hand sanitizer to distribute to community members and can still be found around town at sanitizing stations.

Pita Wheel

Photo Courtesy of Alyssa Moss Videography

110 S. York St., Gastonia

Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Starting out as a food truck, Pita Wheel quickly became a popular hot spot and after operating at maximum capacity, management decided to expand the business and rented a restaurant location in Dallas. And after continual growth, they opened a second location in Gastonia’s Downtown district. These full-service sandwich and pita shops are also known for shaking up signature drinks and naming them after landmarks around downtown Gastonia.

Familiar with Midtown Motor Inn or Moon Over Main Street? Well, two of Pita Wheel’s popular drinks are named after a local motel and popular downtown street.