Food & Drink

Confirmed: A national cocktail star is coming to Charlotte

Mixologist Gary Crunkleton of The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill has signed a lease to open a new spot in Charlotte.
Mixologist Gary Crunkleton of The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill has signed a lease to open a new spot in Charlotte. News & Observer

Gary Crunkleton, the mixologist who has gained national attention for creative and classic cocktails at his private club The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, confirmed late Tuesday that he has signed a lease to open a club in Charlotte.

The Observer had reported in August that Crunkleton was in negotiations for the building that had housed Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in Elizabeth, at the intersection of 7th Street, Pecan and Caswell avenues in Elizabeth. The location is a neighbor to the former Crisp location where chef Paul Verica plans to open a new restaurant early next year.

Crunkleton was not available for further comment to confirm the location early Wednesday. But he has voiced his interest in Charlotte for several years. Crunkleton spent time on Lake Norman in his youth and has said he wanted to return here. In his message Tuesday, he said renovations on his new space would start next month, with a target opening date in May.

With his work at The Crunkleton, he’s known for his larger-than-life personality and his attention to details. The website included Crunkleton in its 2017 list of the best bars in America, calling him “a cocktail-crafting wizard and always convivial host, reimagining Southern favorites with a local accent.” In the June issue of Garden & Gun, The Crunkleton was named one of the six best bourbon bars in the South.

In Charlotte, Crunkleton will join a rapidly maturing cocktail scene that is attracting national attention. Starting with Bob Peters at The Punch Room at the Ritz-Carlton, cocktail fans also now have the work of Colleen Hughes at Haberdish and Sea Level, Brian Lorusso at Dogwood Southern Table and Stefan Huebner at the new private club Dot Dot Dot, among others.

John T. Edge, the founder of the Southern Foodways Alliance, often writes about the national cocktail scene for magazines. His perspective on Crunkleton:

“He sources all the right spirits, knows his history cold, and has built a strong cohort of colleagues. In this moment when bartenders earn almost as much pop culture interest as chefs, his Charlotte arrival serves as one more marker that the city’s food and drink scene is finally realizing its promise.”

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis