Drink Local: Experience Hilton Head’s Crafted Corner
Story by Jeremy Grace
Many locals are aware of the “Barmuda Triangle” — the nickname given to the collection of bars and restaurants on Hilton Head Island’s South End. Not as many are aware of a much different drinking experience found on the island’s north end.
If you enjoy handcrafted spirits, fruit wine and fresh craft beer, be sure to explore the Crafted Corner, tucked away on Cardinal Road. That’s the moniker the LOCAL Life team came up with for the area following our “research trip” to Hilton Head Distillery, Island Winery and Hilton Head Brewing Company.
We thought about labeling it Alcohol Alley or Booze Boulevard, but those titles just didn’t fit. This experience is more sophisticated than that. Take off a little early some Friday afternoon.
Stop 1: Hilton Head Distillery
14 Cardinal Road
The last tour and tasting is at 6 p.m., so this needs to be your first stop. You won’t be too impressed with the size of the parking lot when you pull up. That’s the only thing you won’t be impressed with at this state-of-the-art production facility.
Lift your spirits
The tasting room looks and smells brand new. There is a large bar with lots of seating. There also is a small children’s area with games, books and other activities to keep the young ones busy while mom and dad have some fun. A $15 tour and tasting is offered on the hour, every hour. Choose from an assortment of vodka, gin, rum and whiskey, served either neat or mixed as a cocktail. Some of the cocktail options include a Honeysuckle Margarita, Twisted Cork Gin Swizzle and Spiced Island Hopper. After everyone has filled out their choices, the tour begins. Tour guide Michael Usina did a fantastic job of explaining both the history of the company and the complicated distillation process as we moseyed around huge storage tanks and copper boiling pots.
Twisted Cork Gin Swizzle
1 1/2 ounces Jocassee Gin
1/2 ounce agave syrup
Directions Muddle strawberries in a shaker. Add gin and agave and shake. Pour over ice and top with club soda.
Tasting notes: The Jocassee Gin used in this recipe is made with magnolia blossoms and honeysuckle flowers. It truly expresses the taste of Hilton Head.
Stop 2: Island Winery
12 Cardinal Road
Our second stop was right next door — Island Winery. For owners Loren and Georgene Mortimer, the winery is a labor of love. The two met as students at Ithaca College in the Finger Lakes Wine region of New York. Visiting wineries and vineyards in that region, they developed a lifelong love for each other and a passion for wines. They share that passion with customers from 12:30-5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday and noon
to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
The Mortimers pride themselves on the quality of fruit and other ingredients they use in their wines. Juicy sweet Muscadine grapes are shipped in from the upstate for their tasty Harvest White Muscadine wine. The Carolina countryside also provides many of the fruits used in their Lowcountry Specialty Wines, such as peaches, apples and blueberries. The winery offers wine tasting, wine by the glass and cheese platters. Enjoy your wine and cheese on the production side of the building, surrounded by wine barrels. Tastings are complimentary with the purchase of wine.
Peach on the Beach
This summertime favorite is a peach wine made with fresh Carolina peaches that is then blended with Chardonnay. Pick up a bottle for $18 or a case for $216.
Stop 3: Hilton Head Brewing Company
1 Cardinal Road
The last stop on our excellent adventure was just a few blocks down the road to Hilton Head Brewing Company. Here, craft beer meets its dynamic duo of mouthwatering barbecue done by the Retired Pig (aka Michael Riley), who smokes up a storm seven days a week. Seriously, if you haven’t had his barbecue yet, you need to check it out. We feel it rates right up there among the best on the island. The delicious barbecue and smoked sides pair wonderfully with the craft beer made onsite. Hours are noon to 9 p.m.
Go here for beer
If drinking local craft beer is your thing, this should be your hangout. Brewers Bob Migliaccio and Nick Farstad make a variety of unique beer in-house, ranging from the Session IPA to Tropical Lager, Blackberry Sour and Crab Pilsner. They offer scheduled tours that include a pint. Our tour guide was popular local musician Derrick Ludaway, lead singer of Groove Town Assault. He was just as passionate explaining the brewing process as he is about his music, walking us through each step, from grain to can. Our group tried every beer they had and there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. The new facility provides a much improved experience over the old location.
J Street IPA
Tropical fruit, stone fruit and strawberries shine in the flavor and aroma of this tasty beer. West Coast hops make it taste more herbal than grassy.