Editor's Letter

A Day Well Spent

In praise of ducks, dogs, and a good drink

Photo: Margaret Houston

DiBenedetto with an Old Pal at Little Jacks Tavern.

Recently I received an invite to a duck hunt in the Santee Delta, forty-five minutes north of Charleston, South Carolina. Any trip to the Delta is special, but this hunt was lining up perfectly with an incoming arctic blast that would drop the balmy temperature below freezing. In other words, ideal duck-hunting weather. My partners in
the blind would be G&G deputy editor Dave Mezz and my eight-year-old Boykin spaniel, Pritchard.

As we hightailed it out of Charleston Friday night, the truck was piled high with hunting gear and a few gifts for our host, including a bottle of bourbon (of course) and a three-pack of Hubs Virginia peanuts (a gift that the renowned designer and hostess Bunny Williams swears by), wedged into my son’s car seat.

The embers in the fireplace were still glowing when we woke in the clear cold of predawn. And soon we were paddling a small canoe to our spot among some high reeds in a flooded field. As if a harbinger of what would come that day, groups of gadwalls began ghosting into decoys as shooting light approached, often only the quiet swoosh of their landing alerting you to their presence. Clearly we were in for a fabulous morning. But it was Pritchard who would provide the most memorable moments. To be truthful, her hunting career is checkered. Like the rest of us, she gets pretty excited when the guns start going off, and if no birds are falling, she’s been known to try to eat the blind in disgust or unleash a whimper that crescendos to a near bark. But on this day we kept her busy. Toward the last of her many retrieves, I caught myself muttering, “That’s my dog. That’s my girl.”

Days like that make you appreciate what the South has to offer, and if you ask me, there’s no better way to cap off a tremendous morning afield than with a great meal and a libation or two. That evening my wife, Jenny, and I lined up a babysitter and headed to one of our favorite new spots in Charleston, Little Jack’s Tavern. A casual yet chic joint, it serves a great steak and fries, but I’m a sucker for the burger—half chuck, half brisket, sunchoke relish,
and good old American cheese. The place is a throwback, really, and so is the drink menu, built around the classics. They’re the kind of cocktails your grandfather would recognize, from a Harvey Wallbanger to a whiskey sour to this issue’s cover model, an Old Pal. Created in the 1920s, it’s made with rye, Campari, and dry vermouth. As the manager told me, it’s “a Negroni with a PhD.” That’s another of the South’s many pleasures—we’ve long understood the importance of a well-made cocktail. And as John T. Edge proves in “Good Libations” (p. 82), these days there’s no shortage of places to find one.

When we got home, the kids were sleeping, as was Pritch. The babysitter had let her crash on the couch, and on this night I decided she deserved to stay there.