Behind the Bar Snap Shot

The Best Brown Spirits List in Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina’s historic coastal city, is a food and drink mecca, home to some of the country’s most celebrated chefs and restaurants, and bars that boast incredible collections of American whiskey.

But Bar Mash, a whiskey and beer bar located within the Mercantile & Mash food shop, might have the finest list of all, with some 120 American whiskeys and a handful of whiskey cocktails. There are more familiar options such as Old Weller, as well as comparatively unusual selections, such as Woodford’s Rye. Pappy van Winkle is, of course, represented, along with limited-release bottlings, like barrel-proof Elijah Craig.

And if the brown spirits alone weren’t draw enough, the cozy bar, housed in a former cigar factory, also has shuffle board, bocce, ’80s arcade games and a jukebox.

Mash’s impressive selection of brown liquor.

Though the list focuses on American spirits, bar manager Teddy Nixon uses his international trips as inspiration for the cocktails on the list. A trip to Toulouse, often called the “Pink City,” compelled him to create “a big pink drink,” La Ville Rose, made with Cat Head Vodka, watermelon, mint, lime and tarragon-lemon coconut oil.

Another trip to Istanbul left him in love with ras el hanout, a North African spice mixture. The base inspiration for the drink, he explains, was the Brown Derby, but he wanted to make his version bolder and more bitter. He named it the “Victory Lap,” mistakenly thinking that the Brown Derby was name for the famous horse race (it’s actually named for a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles). In addition to ras el hanout, the drink is made with Woodford Reserve, Bénédictine, charred grapefruit, grapefruit shrub and bitters.

But not all the cocktails have such far-flung inspiration—some take cues from South Carolina. Nixon had his first taste of muscadine jelly when he moved to Charleston, made with grapes that flourish in the hot climate. The sweet-tart flavor of the preserve worked well in cocktails, he found, and he’s enjoyed experimenting with that and other local ingredients.

Not surprisingly, one of Mash’s most popular cocktails is the Old Fashioned. Here, the Mash Old Fashioned is made with Four Roses Single Barrel that was chosen in blind tasting by the Mash staff at Four Roses’ rick house in Kentucky. According to Nixon, individual single barrels there can have up to five different mash bills and four different yeast strains, giving the spirit a deep, complex flavor that’s showcased in a no-frills classic.

Whether you’re just stopping in for a quick beer or have plans to explore the extensive list of American-made brown spirits, Bar Mash is a worthy stop in Charleston.

Bar Mash

701 E Bay St

Charleston, SC 29403

(843) 793-2636