HUSK is one of the finest examples of Charleston’s culinary and mixology scene. Located in a magnificent Victorian townhouse in the historic part of downtown Charleston, the restaurant is a staple in the city and beyond for its modern take on Southern cuisine, using only locally sourced ingredients. It is led by award-winning Chef Sean Brock who, as I learned from my American friends, is famous all throughout the USA and has appeared on several TV shows. I enjoyed an amazing dinner there last August and even tried and liked oysters!
As my friends and I waited for our table at the restaurant to be ready, we decided to have a pre-dinner drink at the bar. Simply named The Bar at HUSK, it is located right next door in a small renovated two-story building that used to house the house’s kitchen.
The ground floor is quite small and compact and the sitting places are few. In fact, the room was completely full when we entered but, as we were about to head to the second floor, three spots magically vacated right at the bar!
With the dim lights, the century-old brick walls, the wooden staircase, shelves and beams, the atmosphere at the bar is very cozy and warm. The back bar’s shelves host an impressive collection of bourbons, ryes and Scotches. I also spotted a few bottles of Japanese whiskies.
The menu offers historic cocktails, reflective of the regional mixology, as well as innovative contemporary creations and a few dishes. It starts with the “Libations”, i.e. the cocktail list. It was divided into three sections, each representing a location in historic Charleston and describing the drinks classified under each. Under “Four Corners” are the strong classic cocktails, such as the Barrel Aged Manhattan or the Charleston Light Dragoon’s Punch. The latter is a truly historic cocktail: its recipe, dating from 1783, was discovered in the archives of the Preservation Society of Charleston. It contains California brandy, Barbados rum, peach brandy, black tea, lemon juice and raw sugar. The drinks in the “Front Porch” are “easy drinking, lighter beverages”. At the time of my visit, they included the Turcotte’s Tipple, a mix of bourbon, grapefruit shrub, grapefruit oleo, pamplemousse and pink salt water. Finally, the cocktails from the “Asylum” section are “for the bold, coming from the mad minds of (HUSK’S) bartenders.”
Non alcoholic cocktails to “party like it’s January 17, 1920” are listed under the adequately named “Amendment XVIII ” section. I was really tempted by the Bradford Cooler for its use of watermelon shrub, lemon juice, soda water, green cardamom and mint. However, curious not only about shrubs but also oleos, two ingredients still rare on cocktail menus in Geneva, I went for the Turcotte’s Tipple which was made with both. An excellent choice!
The Bar at HUSK also serves beers from artisanal microbreweries and wines which are grouped by terroir and soil type (alluvial, limestone, granite, slate and volcanic) instead of country or type of grape, another indication of the importance HUSK attaches to the land. Finally, there is also a small offer of Madeira wines and ciders, another nod to Charleston’s heritage. The city’s port was one of the main destinations for ships sailing from the Old World to the New World importing wine from Spain and, before Prohibition struck, cider was American’s drink of choice before beer. The Bar at HUSK is trying to reintroduce quality pre Prohibition style dry ciders, using Heirloom bitter cider apples, from local producers.
As we’d heard rave reviews about the burger only available at the bar and were starting to get hungry, my friends and I decided to share one as pre-dinner nibbles. One “word”: mmmmmh.
What with the venue’s charm and the quality of both drinks and food, the Bar at Husk is more than a waiting room. It is a destination in its own right, one I’d be happy to visit again. So, before enjoying Southern food at the restaurant, why don’t you go and enjoy Southern beverages at the bar first?
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