I'll Bite

Duck into the Cellar at Duckworth’s for day-drinking

The Cellar at Duckworth’s is tweaking the menu for its birthday.
The Cellar at Duckworth’s is tweaking the menu for its birthday.

What’s better than day-drinking? Day-drinking on the clock.

The Cellar at Duckworth’s, the uptown twist on the Duckworth’s chain, invited us over Tuesday afternoon for a little sipping and tasting to kick off their 1-year anniversary, which officially starts today.

Around the tables: A group of 10 people who were mostly bloggers and online posters. On the tables: A tasting of four new dishes on the menu.

In the glasses (more importantly): Samples of three of their curated cocktails, including a mule-variation, the French Buck, the Queen City Cocktail (sort of a bitter Sazerac variation with a laundry list of ingredients that includes Queen City Rum, cardamom-flavored amaro, Velvet Falarnum, Amaro Montenegro, Cynar, Peychaud’s bitters and grapefruit bitters – and yes, it took several tries to get that down in my notes in a very dim cellar) and the real guest of honor, the Birthday Cocktail.

The Birthday Cocktail features Rittenhouse rye infused with a Cloud Nine triple chocolate cupcake and chocolate bitters. Plus a house-flavored cherry and chocolate shavings (no, that’s not wood floating in my drinking). In honor of the anniversary, you can buy one for about $15 and $1 will go to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. So that should assauage any guilt you feel.

If you’ve been around Charlotte long enough, you might remember the Cellar as the space that used to be the Jazz Cellar, under the old Jonathan’s restaurant at 330 N. Tryon St. If you’ve been in Charlotte a really, really long time, you might remember that the space is believed to be a former speakeasy. Apparently, during Prohibition, the cellar was lined with extra concrete to muffle the sound of glassware and glass bottles.

Duckworth’s has played up that connection, going for the vest-and-tie look of the 1920s instead of the Brooklynesque 1910 style of denim aprons, plaid shirts and heavy beards that’s washed over the classic cocktail world.

Foodwise, they served up samples of a thick, smoky gazpacho (favorite part: Grilled bread they bring in from Tom Cat Bakery in New York), a watermelon salad (not my favorite – the pickled watermelon tasted like cured salmon, nice in a bagel but disconcerting in a salad), a nicely crispy flatbread stopped with steak strips and vanilla-infused oil, and a very good seared hanger steak with squares of fluffy polenta. The small-plates menu generally runs in the $9 to $15 range.

The Cellar usually opens at 5 p.m. So it’s nice to know that one of their cocktails is called the Morning Flip, with sticky-bun infused bourbon, oatmeal stout, an egg (to give it that foamy top) and vanilla syrup. It’s “breakfast in a glass that drinks like dessert.” Keep it in mind if you sleep all day.

If you don’t sleep all day and have to work for a living, there’s a job fair from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. They have 40 to 50 openings for hosts, servers, bartenders and cooks to work at their five locations around the area.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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