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When I moved here from Santa Barbara more than two decades ago, a kind friend from the East Coast warned me that Charleston’s a drinking town and I had better know about “brown liquor.” Huh? I was just turning 30 and couldn’t tell you the difference between bourbon and Scotch. At the time, it was rather intimidating, but that bit of advice makes me laugh to this day.

Of course, I quickly came to learn Charleston’s “spirited” history, from its demand for Caribbean rum and Portuguese Madeira in the 18th century to the illicit “blind tigers” and moonshine stills of the Prohibition era to its renowned convivial cocktail parties (legend has it they were invented here), not to mention the downtown bar-hopping scene. But it’s only been in the past decade or so that the city’s boozy reputation has extended to another facet— top-notch liquor producer.

For this annual “Eat & Drink” issue, frequent contributor and author of Southern Spirits: Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South (Ten Speed Press, 2016) Robert F. Moss details the birth, growth, and future of local distilleries in “Holy City Spirits”. He focused on businesses in Charleston County with active micro-distiller licenses—seven of them crafting all manner of tipples, many using locally grown grains and other ingredients that infuse a sense of place. My advice: give it a read and then hit up your favorite liquor store. Better yet, visit the distilleries as many offer tours and tastings.

Need a little nibble to go with your drink? In “Global Food Crush”, senior features editor Margaret Loftus serves up a taste of the diverse cuisines now available in the area. From Kultura’s Filipino pancit and arroz caldo to Bintü Atelier’s Senegalese lamb yassa, there’s plenty to satisfy those cravings for new flavors.


Darcy Shankland