Charleston Chef Russ Moore Loves Him Some Cheap Beer, Whiskey Shots and, Yes, Rosé

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Russ Moore, the executive chef at Charleston, S.C.’s Slightly North of Broad, a.k.a. SNOB, worked his way up to the top spot since joining the 23-year-old restaurant in 2008. It has given the farm-to-table pioneer time to get to know his team, with whom he grabs drinks almost every night after they lock up the restaurant. He enjoys exploring bars and restaurants in this Southern culinary capital but also loves to get down to the Bahamas and indulge in the local flavor. This beer-and-a-shot guy also loves his cocktails and isn’t afraid to admit he loves a crisp glass of Provençal rosé on a hot summer day.

What do you like to drink when you get off work?

I get off work pretty late, and the bars around here close around 2 a.m. I close with the crew and walk out the door and lock the door. I usually leave around 1 or 1:30, so it’s usually a beer and shot

What kind of beer and shot?

It’s [Miller] High Life and Jim Beam or Maker’s [Mark]bourbon and a beer. My line cooks like PBR. There’s a bar here called Recovery Room that sells more PBR than anywhere else in the country. There was a bar in New York that was beating them, but last year or the year before, they overtook that. The line-cook culture in Charleston is PBR and Old Crow.

Like many cooks, chef Russ Moore enjoys his beer and bourbon shot. (image: Bhofack2)

Do you ever drink at work or head out when you’re off?

No, we leave the restaurant, and there’s a barbecue place that shares a parking lot with SNOB called Cumberland St. Smokehouse. Neal Gentry is the bartender, and he’ll wait for us. He’ll wait until 1:30 in the morning for the seven of us to come in for our quick round. If we’re lucky, we’ll get in two rounds if we’re there early enough.

What are some local spots you like to hit for drinks when you’re off work?

As far as after-work, we go to Cumberland or The Royal American, and that’s in an up-and-coming area called NoMo. It’s a dive and a really cool spot on the railroad tracks. I think it used to be a metal fabrication shop. It’s a shell of a building with a wraparound porch and Tiki lighting. On Friday and Saturday nights, they do shows there.

What about on days off?

The day off is a whole different thing. Working the line 12 to 14 hours, you do your beer and shot. That’s to decompress. On my days off, I drink cocktails for sure. I live in Park Circle, which is technically North Charleston. A bar opened up this past year called Stems & Skins. It’s a wine and cocktail bar. It’s owned by Matt Tunstall, who used to work at Husk. That place has solid crafted cocktails. Everything is incredibly well-balanced and executed consistently—the best glassware, spirits and bitters. It’s so top-notch. It’s around the corner from my house, and I can ride my bike there. They have a huge bottled wine collection, my wife gets a nice glass of sauvignon blanc, and they make my son lemonade from scratch.

Russ Moore

What’s your go-to cocktail at Stems & Skins?

I mix it up with those guys. They haven’t let me down yet. The other day, I asked for a Margarita, and it was fantastic. For their Old Fashioned, they don’t muddle the orange and cherry anymore but just muddle the sugar and bitters and get the oils off the zest. It’s super clean and crisp. They use Four Roses.

Any other favorite local spots?

I also like going to The Roost if there’s a game on; it’s in Avondale. It’s the sports bar I go to. The rafters shake in that place. It is not big but has plenty of TVs, and it’s your local college football spot.

Have you found any cocktails that inspire your cooking?

If on your day off you’re drinking a cocktail with any kind of complexity, it gets your palate going. It makes you think about the complexities of food and gets your brain going. That’s why drinking cocktails is fun, and it’s always fun to try a new one. But I can’t think of a cocktail I had and was immediately inspired to make a dish.

Bee’s Knees

Any summer ingredients that inspire you cocktailing?

Yeah, for sure. I’m a cucumber guy. A couple of years ago, I made the cocktail list for our bar. It was a farmer’s cocktail list; all the cocktails had components from local farms in the drinks. There’s a guy who grows hydroponic cucumbers. I had a gin and cucumber drink and added basil from another farm. It has a more effervescent cocktail vibe. We had a Bee’s Knees with local honey and had a blueberry drink on the list. It goes back to the first time I had Hendrick’s gin—that cucumber rose water. Whoa, so good.

When you travel, do you like to experiment with new drinks?

I go with the flow. Sometimes that’s rewarding, and other times not so much. My wife, son and I just went to the Abacos Islands in the eastern Bahamas; we stayed in Hope Town. If you’re going to stay there, you’re going to drink Goombay Smash. It’s a rum punch kind of vibe. They’re not all the same. I went from one bar to another. Some would have more pineapple; some would have more coconut. But yeah, they’ll take you down. There’s a goombay nap you take after you drink your Goombay Smash.

What do you like to serve at a dinner party to kick things off?

If it’s a mixed crowd, Champagne always gets the party going. If I know everyone and it’s more casual, I’ll have a big Mason jar that I’ll fill with Margaritas, and that tends to do the trick.

Moore doesn’t feel guilty about loving a nice crisp rosé. (image: Gilaxia)

Is there a quintessential Charleston drink you like?

I don’t know if there is one. When I was doing that cocktail list a couple of years ago, I was trying to research that. I found that a lot of old-school Charleston cookbooks going back about 100 years or so always had punch recipes in the back. Some involved tea, and some involved fruit. Some were rum; others had whiskey. So maybe a punch is a traditional thing here. It certainly seems like everyone has one on their cocktail list.

So it’s really all about punches down there?

Well, in Charleston, the entire town used to drink Grand Marnier, so all the ’90s through like 2002. The whole town, at that time, was all mini bottles; all the bars served drinks out of mini bottles. It was a tax thing. You’d go into a bar, and there’d be hundreds of these mini bottles. You couldn’t really build a drink from mini bottles, and people were just shooting stuff, and the No. 1 shot was Grand Marnier. I never got into that, by the way.

Uh, yeah sure, you didn’t, ha ha. So other than shots of Grand Marnier, do you have any guilty pleasures you like to drink when no one is looking?

I’m not the kind of person who feels guilt about what I do. I love rosé, and from a High Life/Jim Beam guy, to have a nice crisp rosé is not the norm. I was in Provence, and a bottle was 3 euros, and you’d kick back and drink your rosé—nothing better. But I’m also a huge root beer guy. It’s not alcoholic, but it’s fun to drink and fun to figure out what you’re drinking. In the morning, I’m a huge coffee guy. My day is powered by iced coffee.

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