“I usually start with familiar ingredients and judging by how sweet, bitter, herbal they are, I can sort of build on that. I usually start with a base spirit and a style, and then go from there; whether I want something stirred and boozy, or something shaken and refreshing.”
Ryan Welliver came out on top in a competition against three other contestants, his “Storm the Beach” cocktail earning its spot as the Charleston Wine + Food 2017 Official Cocktail. Thursday afternoon, he was at it again with an unnamed concoction of citrus and cinnamon. The drink was complex, but seamlessly blended. No one flavor overpowered the other. After an initial hit of the high-quality booze and strong citrus, hazy tastes of cinnamon came through. It may only be March, but this drink was like summer in a glass, sunny days and smokey nights liquefied and topped with lime. You can find the recipe below.
Born in Hilton Head, Welliver has lived in Charleston for about five years. He currently bartends at The Cocktail Club at 479 King Street. Tall, blond and confident, he cuts a carefree figure and it’s not hard to imagine sipping his refreshing cocktail on a Caribbean beach.
When asked where to go for a drink downtown, he chuckled “Cocktail Club, of course, but it depends on the time of night, what night it is. For cocktails I really like the Belmont, I like the vibe. You can actually sit down at the bar, you’re not jockeying for a position at the bar. Belmont’s great. 492 is great, the Dewberry has a great cocktail program. And Proof as well, Proof has a great vibe.” For specific liquors, Welliver remarked “Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao is great with almost anything.”
Recommendations are all well and good, but how does a college student with limited funds graduate from the kid’s table and sidle up to the adult bar? What’s a Smirnoff-soaked sophomore to do?
“Start with what you’re familiar with,” Welliver advised. “If you’re drinking rum and Cokes, or bourbon and gingers, start with rum or bourbon and build from there. See if you like stronger, heavy-handed, sippable, stirred drinks. Rum is great with citrus, and daiquiris! A lot of people think daiquiris are those frozen, overly sweet, blended drinks but it’s really just lime juice, a little bit of sugar and rum. And it’s beautiful. An easy-to-do cocktail, and there’s so many different types of rums out there that you can play with, play with the flavors.”
Each time he put a cocktail in a guest’s hand, a subtle grin stretched across Welliver’s face. His love for libations is evident in everything he does. When asked if he could ever be found behind a desk, he replied “Yeah, I don’t know if I could do that.”
Strawberry-infused Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal
Coconut-infused Plantation Barbados 5 Year Rum
ice and lime garnish
Mix everything together in equal parts. Simple! Happy sipping, folks.