After the announcement that The Gin Joint had been bought by longtime bartender James Bolt, I was worried that the old Gin Joint I knew and loved would become unrecognizable (kind of like what’s happening to Blue Rose Cafe right now). But my fears have been proven completely unfounded. The Gin Joint has maintained its commitment to handmade cocktails and delicious food in a way that’s still familiar (but even better than it used to be).
My first visit to the new version of The Gin Joint was in December when they transformed into the Christmas bar “Miracle.” Lala and her husband Matt were in town, and whilst giving Matt a tour of downtown Charleston (his first visit!) we decided to rest our feet and give some cocktails a try.
There were Christmas lights ev. ery. where. and it was super festive, with all the staff in cute costumes and a special Christmas-themed cocktail menu.
Being a lover of gin, I of course opted to try the aptly named Fa La La La La La La La La (Gin, aquavit, hazelnut liqueur, cardamom, vanilla, lemon, egg white, club soda, $14), which was as much fun to order as it was to drink. It was a perfect balance of tart and sweet, and I found myself with a happy little buzz after just 1 cocktail.
Lala ordered the Run Run Rudolph (blanco tequila, coffee liqueur, iced hot chocolate, Mexican spices, $14). It was very sweet, and perfect for those of you who like liquor with their coffee / hot cocoa. I’m not usually a fan, but I enjoyed this.
We also paired our drinks with their Pimento Cheese (House Made Lavash, Quick Pickles, $6), as Matt hadn’t tried pimento cheese before (something which I find incredibly hard to believe). Their version was very cheese-heavy, but lacked some of the depth and sharpness I come to expect from pimento cheese. The quick pickles were crispy and sweet.
Most recently, I attended for a #TastemakersCHS dinner, where we were able to try a number of cocktails and some of the new bar snacks on the menu. I started with the Fortune Cat (Tom Cat Gin, ginger, sesame, caramel, lemon, $12), which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows how much I love cats. The drink was gorgeous to look at (in fact, my drink was stolen for multiple people to photograph at the table before I was able to even taste it). It was nice and refreshing with a nice level of tartness from the ginger + lemon.
To pair with the cocktails, we also tried some of their charcuterie, which comes as part of the Chef’s Snack Board (You Pick Three Cheeses, Chef’s Selection of Meats, Grilled Bread, House Made Jam, House, Spiced Nuts, $32). I saw salami on the board and was immediately happy, as it’s my favorite cured meat. If you have a few friends, this is a great deal and perfect for an after work snack!
Also part of the chef’s snack board, we were able to try a sampling of their cheeses (although they brought us all 4 instead of the 3 you’re limited to in the snack board). The options were black & bleu, Flory’s truckle, Mountaineer, and Rockets Robiola (which all sounded like names of Harry Potter dragons IMO). My favorite was the black and bleu, because as a blue cheese, it was super creamy and not as pungent as you usually find.
Additionally, they also brought out the House Made Soft Pretzels (Sriracha Cheese Sauce, Maldon’s Sea Salt, $8). I love soft pretzels, and these were no exception. They were nice and fluffy and glutinous, and I really enjoyed the sriracha cheese sauce.
For my second cocktail, I opted to do the Bartender’s Choice ($12), where you pick 2 adjectives from a predetermined list and the bartender makes you a custom drink based on your choices. I went for “refreshing” and “vegetal” and ended up with this cucumber and gin cocktail that is my new favorite drink. It’s just a shame I don’t actually know what’s in it.
Our final bar snack was the Cola-Braised Ham Slider (Mornay, Brown’s Court Benne Seed Bun, $9) which were probably my favorite snack of the night. I don’t usually like ham, but the ham in these sliders was super thick (more like a slab of pork) and had just a touch of sweetness from the cola. The mornay sauce was nice and creamy, and altogether, this slider was perfection.
Before we left, they also gave us one of their signature desserts, a housemade Old Fashioned Lollipop (Whiskey, Angostura Bitters, Orange Zest, $1.50). It didn’t really taste like an old fashioned to me, but it was still really yummy!
If you haven’t been to The Gin Joint lately, you need to give them a try! The improvements they’ve made have been fantastic, and they’re really in a league above when it comes to handmade cocktails (did I mention that they make their own ice? They use the same 300lb blocks of ice that ice sculptors use and cut it down for each cocktail). They have a lot more than just gin (except there’s no vodka, so don’t bother asking), and if you come in with an open mind, you’re likely to leave with a new favorite drink!
The Gin Joint
182 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29401