If you’re new to the South, what’s a good way to introduce yourself to the neighbors? Invite them over for drinks. Lucky for Stephanie Andrews, a Chicago ex-pat who moved to Charlotte last August, she already has a leg up when it comes to Southern hospitality: She can mix a mean cocktail. The beverage director of the lauded Chicago cocktail bar Billy Sunday, Andrews relocated to the Queen City to focus on the spot’s second outpost that opened this week at the new Optimist Hall. At the textile mill turned food hall, the bar will join eateries from hometown heroes like the Dumpling Lady and Papi Queso as well as Asheville chef Meherwan Irani’s Botiwalla and Morganton’s Fonta Flora Brewing.
“Charlotte just made sense for us since it’s such a booming food and drink city,” Andrews says. “We want to add to that.” Billy Sunday’s flagship, which opened in Chicago’s Logan Square in 2012, stocks hundreds of rare amaros, alongside decades-old bourbons and rums. In North Carolina, those classic liquors get poured into sophisticated daiquiris and old fashioneds, along with some new Southern concoctions, including the sherry, coconut, and peanut-tinged South on I-77 and the Worn Out Record, which adds a couple of local ingredients to Andrews’s extensive collection.
“Muddy River is a great distillery just outside of Charlotte that makes its own coconut rum. It’s so unexpected and tastes like vacation,” Andrews says. For the Worn Out Record, she shakes that rum with pineapple, lime, and grapefruit juices, warming it with a bit of cinnamon, and pouring on a local IPA (Andrews loves any of the hoppy offerings from nearby Wooden Robot brewery). “Charlotte is a beer city,” Andrews says, “but we’re hoping we can get them to come over to our side.”