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Road Trip: Discovering Virginia's Best Cocktails

by April Stamm
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 7, 2017
The Rogue Gentlemen
The Rogue Gentlemen  

It was a mission that any proper libation lover would undertake: traverse Virginia in search of the state's best cocktail bars. We divided and conquered, sending two writers in search of the best drinks from Richmond to Coastal Virginia, and what they unearthed is worth raising a glass.

The Rogue Gentlemen, Richmond, VA
When owner John Maher and his crew write a cocktail menu for The Rogue Gentleman, they mean it. Don't expect a simple menu card with a list of libations, here highly creative cocktail menus focus around a "theme." This summer's menu centered on a fictional music festival with drinks booked in various appropriate venues. Now for fall, The Rogue Gentleman is featuring a good old fashioned road trip through the U.S. told through postcards and the cocktails that support them.

Not all show, the extensive cocktail lists boasts some true mixology skills and artful creations. Don't see something in the 20 offerings that peaks your interest? They also offer a "choose your own adventure" style option; pick your spirits and a few descriptive words (fruity, floral, bitter, etc.) and the crew will do it up just for you. -April Stamm

618 N 1st Street
Richmond, VA
804-477-3456


L'opossum  

L'opossum, Richmond, VA
It's hard to describe David Shannon's opulent quirk at L'opossum. It's a bit like stepping into the dark abode of Alice (in Wonderland fame) and David Lynch if they were roommates in a spacious yet cozy mecca for food and drink. You know, like that.

Like the food, drinks are kooky, idiosyncratic and curiously named but truly delicious and well crafted. One winner, the Laura Palmer, is a concoction of Aviation gin, Dolin dry vermouth, muddled cherries and Luxardo. It's refreshing and complex with just the faintest hint of sweetness. If you were wondering, yes -- the Collins glass in which it is served is wrapped snuggly in plastic wrap. (Get it, "Twin Peaks" fans?) -April Stamm

626 China Street
Richmond, VA
804-918-6028


Venture Kitchen & Bar, Hampton, VA
Voted Coastal Virginia Magazine Best of Readers' Choice Awards for 2017, I was intrigued to discover what all the fuss was about at Hampton, Virginia's high-end watering hole.


Located on Queens Way (Hampton's small but mighty downtown), chef Dane Tomaszewski lures locals and visitors alike with a modern pub menu including freshly baked pizzas and his signature tater tots: inexplicably delicious compressed potato cubes with spicy mayo and just the right amount of crunch. And what better with tots than a freshly shaken cocktail?

Venture's classic offerings include "you can't go wrong" versions of Planter's Punch, Moscow Mule, and Martinis, but it's their "Craft" list that offers affordable innovation. At only $6.50 to $9 (less than half the price of a comparable drink in New York City), plan on Uber to get you home.

The house cocktail (The Venture), combines tequila, jalapeƱo, muddled cilantro, and cucumber for a spicy and refreshing riff on a margarita, while the banana-infused Jameson is best neat or with a single cube. The Scientist (perhaps an homage to nearby Virginia Air & Space Center, combines Bombay Sapphire gin, St. Germain, rosemary syrup and fresh lemon and lime juice. -Matthew Wexler

9 East Queens Way
Hampton, Virginia
757-325-8868


Saint Germain  

Saint Germain, Norfolk, VA
Although Wylie Dufresne's WD-50, the molecular gastronomy outpost that took New York City by storm in 2003, is long gone, his impact continues to ripple throughout the culinary and mixology worlds. Saint Germain, located on a bustling street in downtown Norfolk, employs many a bell and whistle to create their whimsical roster of drinks. And while the bar might look like a science lab to some, the results are refined and thoughtful.

I had to stalk bar seats on a random Tuesday night before nestling up for a couple of rounds. And while service was slow (methodical?), once my guest and I caught the bartender's attention it was like a master's class in mixology.

The ever-evolving menu draws seasonal inspiration. My guest opted for the simple banana-infused Anejo rum with a coconut water ice cube (perhaps there's a Virginia trend of infusing spirits with the banana?) but as the cube melted it transformed the rum into something entirely new. As a gin man, I opted for Beez in the Trap, which combined gin, lemon, honey, orange blossom and saffron bitters. Newly added seasonal options include Linus Van Pelt, which combines pumpkin rye with allspice dram, smoky simple syrup, cranberry bitters and amaranth.

There are plenty of housemade charcuteries to nibble on while drinking your way through the menu or opt, as we did, for the nitro heirloom popcorn with butter toffee and nuts, frozen into a crunchy, salty and sweet delight. -Matthew Wexler

255 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA
757-321-9445


April Stamm is a lifestyle and food writer and chef based in Manhattan and Brooklyn, NY.


Cocktail Culture

This story is part of our special report titled "Cocktail Culture." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


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