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6 Great Places in the Carolinas for a Magnificent Martini

National Martini Day is June 16, so we thought we’d share some of our favorite spots in the Carolinas to celebrate. Remember, no matter where you enjoy a cocktail, always make sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink!

North Carolina

Bittersweet, Raleigh

Espresso Martini from Bittersweet

At Bittersweet you can have your cake and drink it, too. This is your all-day spot for decadent desserts, coffee drinks and unique specialty cocktails. Because their extensive food and drink menu changes seasonally, you’ll always find something new to try. Try the Espresso Martini — vodka with a freshly brewed shot of sweetened espresso. Pair it with a Salty Chipwich Ice Cream Sandwich, or any of their scratch-made desserts.

Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge, Asheville

Asheville’s first cocktail lounge, Rankin Vault has been a favorite for locals since it opened in 2008. They switch up their drink menu often and use distinct and fresh ingredients. In addition to a top-notch cocktail, you’ll find tasty menu options like tacos, burgers, salads and varied appetizers. Check out their Vault Burger (Hickory Nut Gap ground beef, bacon, white cheddar, red onion, arugula and spicy mayo). Cool off this summer with a refreshing Cucumber Martini, made with house infused cucumber vodka, fresh cucumbers and citrus.

Zeppelin South End, Charlotte

I’m a big fan of Zeppelin, and included it in a previous Editor’s Escape post, “Upscale Eats in the Queen City.” The food here is on point — ingredients are mostly locally sourced and menu items are rotated seasonally. Popular choices include their Notorious P.I.G. Puppies (confit pork cheek hushpuppies, whipped honey butter and house barbecue sauce) and Fried Green Tomato Caprese (UAV burrata, pickled cabbage, baby kale, sorghum-balsamic reduction, red gravy and Arbequina olive oil). The martini you need to sample here is the Parm to Table. It’s a reboot of the classic circa 1800s Dirty Martini. It’s a tasty combination of parmesan cheese washed gin, local tomato water, basil infused vermouth and dehydrated tomato paste.

South Carolina

Vault & Vator, Greenville

This modern cocktail lounge is located in a basement space that showcases the original Vault and Elevator built and occupied by the Dr. Pepper Cola Co. (hence, the name). As a result, the speakeasy vibe creates an ideal backdrop for made-to-order drinks inspired by the Golden Age of cocktails. In addition to their signature cocktails, they serve a variety of small fare to nosh on, including hummus with flatbread, meats and cheeses, and cold smoked trout and crackers. Order the Marguerite — it’s sort of the “forefather” of the classic gin martini. Oh, and make a note: don’t expect to be yapping on your cell phone while you’re here. It’s one of their house rules (and a fantastic one, if you ask me).

 

Marguerite from Vault & Vator

 

Pavilion Bar at Market Pavilion Hotel, Charleston

Catch a spectacular sunset at this rooftop escape which boasts sweeping views of the Charleston harbor and Market Street. A cascading pool situated in the center creates a relaxing “vacation mode” atmosphere. Savor menu items like lobster and scallop ceviche, a selection of flatbreads and pizzas, sandwiches, salads and desserts. Their drink menu offers a great selection of martinis including the Skyline Martini (Skyy vodka and Apple Schnapps with a splash of cranberry juice) and the Pavilion Pool Martini (Malibu rum, pineapple juice and blue curacao). Since you’re in the south, though, you should try the Sweet Tea Martini, made with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka layered with freshly-squeezed southern lemonade.

Malia’s Restaurant, Aiken

An Aiken standout for 30 years, Malia’s boasts a varied menu that’s updated regularly, using as much locally-sourced produce as possible. Options might include grilled lamb chops, roasted salmon and eggplant stack risotto. They also boast extensive wine, beer and cocktail offerings. On nice evenings, grab a seat in the courtyard on the reclaimed brick patio. The fairy lights and bubbling fountain create a fantastic ambiance. We recommend sampling their pomegranate martini, made with pomegranate juice, pink grapefruit, Uncle Val’s Botanical gin and orange bitters.