Convention Cocktail Recipes

Regardless of your political leanings, with the electoral season kicking into high gear this week, we could all probably use a good drink. And since both the Republican and Democratic national conventions are calling the South home this year (Tampa and Charlotte, respectively), we tapped a pair of mixologists from both host cities to put their own “political” spin on two classic Southern cocktails.

First up is Dean Hurst, resident mix master at the James Beard-nominated SideBern’s (sister restaurant to Tampa’s longstanding steakhouse Bern’s). For his “Swing State” cocktail, Hurst adds a splash of the Italian aperitif Aperol and seasonal huckleberries to a traditional bourbon sour base—garnishing with a thick circle of Florida orange peel. The result is, yes, bright red, and “seemingly sweet at first, then deceptively complex on the finish,” Hurst says.

Sticking with the all-American spirit, Charlotte’s Carrie Geisler, the brains behind the bar at the new 5Church restaurant, riffs off a classic bourbon-and-ginger for her “Carolina Blue,” adding a shot of fresh-pressed North Carolina blueberry juice to play off the spicy ginger ale.

Pick your color, or better yet, try them both. Here’s to bipartisanship.

Swing State
from Dean Hurst, director of spirits at SideBern's in Tampa, Florida

1½ oz. Four Roses bourbon
½ oz.    Aperol
½ oz.    lemon juice
½ oz.    simple syrup
muddled huckleberries

Muddle the huckleberries (note: you can substitute blackberries if huckleberries are not available) in the bottom of a cocktail shaker (about enough to cover the bottom).  Add remaining ingredients and ice, then shake.  Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a circular-cut orange peel.

Carolina Blue
from Carrie Geisler, mixologist at 5Church in Charlotte, North Carolina

2 oz. bourbon
2 oz. fresh blueberry juice
ginger ale (try South Carolina’s Blenheim ginger ale for a spicy kick)

Combine the bourbon and blueberry juice. Shake well, and serve in a highball glass over ice. Top with ginger ale, and garnish with fresh blueberries.