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Greenville Business Magazine

When it comes to cocktails, Greenville’s restaurants are raising the bar

Dec 07, 2018 10:17AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Brandy Woods Snow

Mixology is more than a buzzword. It’s the art of making good cocktails—ones that raise the standard in drinking culture. Today’s bartenders don’t simply make drinks but work a kind of mixology magic by offering full flavor profiles, using fresh ingredients, and honoring old favorites in a brand new way. 

Whether it’s happy hour with friends or the culmination of a date-night downtown, these Greenville bars and restaurants offer signature settings in which to partake in creative libations while reveling in the city’s unique brand of Southern hospitality.

Crafted at Nose Dive
116 South Main Street | 864.373.7300 |

If you’re a fan of exquisite downtown views, Crafted at Nose Dive might be your place.

“As downtown Greenville quickly began to flourish, Crafted at Nose Dive was designed to complement the growing culinary scene by offering classic handcrafted cocktails,” says Jason Phillips, Nose Dive general manager. “Every major city has a really cool craft cocktail bar. We wanted to be that place for Greenville.”

As part of the Table 301 group, Crafted partners restaurateur Carl Sobocinski’s signature flair and attention to detail with the unique and elevated pub fare of Nose Dive Gastropub, which is available to patrons of Crafted. 

Located on the mezzanine level above Nose Dive, Crafted’s large folding glass windows offer patrons beautiful views of Greenville’s downtown, while its staff embraces individuality and freedom, crafting original drinks based on the customer’s individual wants and needs. 

Two new additions to the cocktail menu are the Smokey and the Bandit and The Fellini. Smokey and the Bandit is a craft cocktail finished with a high-end Scotch that features Bulleit Bourbon, Lagavulin 16, Bénédictine, allspice dram, and a lemon twist. The Fellini, a twist on a Negroni using Aperol in place of the traditional Campari, features Botanist Gin, Bruto Americano, Suze, Aperol, and a lemon twist.

Jack n’ Diane’s Piano Bar
115 North Brown Street, Suite 100 | 864.509.6414 |

After first being introduced to a dueling piano bar in Los Angeles in 2004, Matt Kschinka dreamed of one day owning and operating his own. He performed in Raleigh as a dueling pianist and then moved to Kansas City to work for Howl at the Moon and Ernie Biggs, both dueling piano bars, before making his dream a reality in Greenville. 

Jack n’ Diane’s features live dueling pianos and a full bar of specialty drinks, including the ever-popular Blue Motorboat, Tiger Punch, Purple Rain, and Green Monster Fishbowls. The signature drink—The Sweet Carolina—consists of cherry vodka, coconut rum, Blue Curacao, Sierra Mist, and pineapple juice, served in a 16 oz. glass with an orange and cherry. 

Kschinka notes that bartender Summer Kirkpatrick, who’s been with Jack n’ Diane’s for over a year, is an anchor behind the bar and that Zach Spakowski, who manages the restaurant’s artwork, website, and social media, as well as General Manager and seasoned bartender Lee-Ann Fowler, work diligently to ensure guests’ total satisfaction with the experience.

“Jack n’ Diane’s is definitely a unique experience for our patrons. The crowd interaction is like no other we’ve seen, and the combined comedy and musical performances cater to our guests, getting the crowd involved,” says Kschinka.

Vault and Vator
655 South Main Street | 864.603.1881 |

If you’re looking to sip cocktails in a cozy environment reminiscent of a 1920s-era speakeasy, then Vault and Vator is an ideal place…if you can find it, that is.

Conceptualized and built by Joe and Darlene Clarke, formerly of American Grocery Restaurant, Vault and Vator is tucked away in a subterranean basement featuring a vault and elevator (thus the name). 

“While it’s definitely a challenge sometimes for people to find us, that’s what makes it a bit unique,” says Joe Clarke. “Some may get frustrated by this, but many more enjoy the fact we’re not right out in front of everything.”

Clarke adds, “Also, the architectural features we chose to leave and accentuate, such as the old elevator car where people can sit with the motor-turned-lighted feature, gives the atmosphere that eclectic mix between modern ambiance and historical interest of days gone by.” 

Vault and Vator specializes in craft cocktails and pre-Prohibition cocktails, rotating selections of beer and wine, and a small menu of well-curated snacks. Libations include classic drinks, spins, and signature options such as Don’t Fear the Reaper (blanco tequila, Carolina reaper tincture, Aperol, grapefruit sherbet, lime, honey, and simple syrup), Chef Goes ‘Nanners (banana-infused dark rum, pineapple rum, dry orange curacao, allspice dram, lime, cinnamon bark syrup), and several others. More daring guests can opt for a Dealer’s Choice, selecting two descriptive words from the list—like spicy and smoky—for a unique, hand-crafted creation from the bar’s team of bartenders.

On The Roxx
734 South Main Street
864.351.0541 |

Heather Frechette and Elizabeth Hunt sincerely believe people are what make a bar, and that’s why they hire only the best for their West End spot, On The Roxx.

Frechette and Hunt built On The Roxx  on the premise of bringing people together in a fun, friendly environment. They have DJs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; karaoke on Wednesdays; and salsa lessons, in addition to a large selection of beer, wine, and cocktails. Those offerings have apparently brought with them a loyal clientele.

“One of our favorite stories is of a group of regulars who got together for a ‘Friendsgiving’ and Roxx came up as one of the things they were thankful for,”  says Frechette. “We love that because our regulars are truly considered part of our family.”

Since opening On The Roxx, the duo has also opened (and recently sold) The 05 on Augusta Street. They also run Encore Gastrolounge, which is located next door to On the Roxx and serves shareable small plates, desserts, beer, wine, and specialty cocktails.

Orb Lounge
220 North Main Street
864.235.1234 | Facebook: Orb Lounge

Situated in an open, light-filled atrium, Orb Lounge is the central focal point of the Hyatt Regency lobby. The bar’s unique cocktail menu features drinks that are the hotel’s very own.

Bar Manager Nathan Shaw recounts the top offerings: “Tyler Mauk’s Birds and the Bees uses Tanqueray No. Ten to add a bright flavor pop, while Wendi Cleveland’s Ellie’s Lemonade inspires the phrase ‘dangerously good.’ Brian Crowne’s Perfectly Fashioned introduces a remix to the traditional Old Fashioned cocktail, Elizabeth Kosa’s Garden of Eden offers unparalleled innovative flavor, and my own Pineapple Margarita features a sweeter version of the 1938 original. Last but not least, Murat Cetin’s festive Murat’s Gala pairs well with any celebration.”

In addition to the unique cocktail menu, Orb Lounge offers a food menu comprised of small plate options, as well as a fresh selection from the garden. The popular Ploughman’s Board is an elegant cheese and charcuterie offering, while the Southwest Wonton Nachos regularly wins raves from patrons.

Formerly known as The Commons Bar and Grill, the location was  renovated in 2013. The bar features display panes and large screen TV. “We combine a great product with great customer service, and then mix that with enthusiastic individuals who have great ideas,” says Shaw. “It’s what sets us apart because we take the time to listen to our customers, and that’s what matters most.”

11 Falls Park Drive | 864.509.6344 |

“I’m not sure if I chose this business or if this business chose me,” says Jacob Billingsley, owner of Gringo’s. Billingsley has worked in restaurants and hospitality for most of his life, beginning as a dishwasher at age 16 in Texas. While in Los Angeles, he discovered an affinity for So-Cal taco and tequila bars—a love he brought here to the Upstate. 

In 2013, Billingsley opened Gringo’s on Falls Park Drive. And though the hospitality industry in Greenville has grown since then, he is excited about Gringo’s role in the landscape, offering great products that aren’t found in many Southern cities and all in a fun, non-pretentious environment.

“We’ve had dozens of signature drinks over the years, but our go-to has always been our house margarita,” says Billingsley. “Our recipe is one that I started on the West Coast, tweaked in New Mexico, and perfected at Gringo’s. We’ve won numerous awards for it, including Best Margarita by the Greenville News. Our secret? We put beer in it. Our mix, made in-house daily, utilizes ingredients like beer, fresh lime juice, and a bit of limeade to create the perfect partner for the tequila.”

Larkin’s on the River
318 South Main Street
864.467.9777 |

Larkin and Mark Hammond began their restaurant careers in Lake Lure, N.C., with the inception of Larkin’s on the Lake in 1998. From there the pair, along with Bob Munnich and their executive team, opened a second location—Larkin’s on the River—on the banks of the Reedy River. They later followed up their Greenville offerings with Grill Marks, which began in 2012, Grill Marks in Haywood Mall in 2017, and Limoncello, also in 2017.

Powell Willimon, Larkin’s leading bartender and mixologist, makes most of the mixers for his cocktails in-house and has created a diverse list of offerings. “From the old staple Reedy River martini (dirty gin or vodka martini) to some of the newer cocktails like the ‘Nolet’ing Go (Nolet gin, Fernet-Branca, Pedro Ximénez sherry), Larkin’s serves some of the city’s best craft cocktails,” says Liz Brown, director of marketing at Larkin’s on the River. “Some of the specially created drinks are more of an experience, like the morph-tails that use infused ice cubes and their aged beverages that use top-quality naturally weathered wood from Beyond Barrels.”

The mixology-inspired morph-tails include custom-blended ice cubes in flavors such as Old Fashioned whiskey, Italian Café, Amaretto Sour, and Clarified Grapefruit, in addition to other seasonal selections.

Harbor Inn Seafood and Oyster Bar
321 Haywood Road
864.286.9047 |

As owner of Harbor Inn Seafood and Oyster Bar, George Fotinos has served the Greenville community for two decades. In 2016, he undertook a full remodel that included adding an oyster bar and drink bar, complete with multiple TVs and outdoor seating. 

The bar offers 12 beers on tap, along with a craft beer selection. “We’ve partnered with local breweries to promote locally brewed beer,” says Fotinos. “We also have several signature drinks that complement the seafood theme, such as the Harbor Mama, the Green Mermaid, the Blue Fish, the Captain Jack, and the Old Bay Bloody Mary, which is offered for just $5 on Sundays.” 

The Fotinos family, originally from an island in Greece name Chios, owns a winery there, growing and harvesting all grapes on site. They import the wine and serve it exclusively in the restaurant, offering Greenvillians a taste of Greece in three varieties: the Glikazar, a semi-sweet red wine; Chora, a dry white wine; and Afstiros, a dry red wine.