From the second I opened the door at Crepe Cellar and saw Colleen behind the bar, I knew we would be friends. I had a long day of herding kittens at work and she had liquor. Colleen has a soft smile and bubbly personality, but don’t be fooled; She doesn’t play when it comes to cocktails. Having had the pleasure of imbibing craft cocktails from some of Charlotte’s best bartenders, thanks to the Liberate Your Palate’s curated cocktail tour, I have come to find Colleen as one of Charlotte’s best, in a male dominated scene. Not to sound too fan girlish, but if Charlotte had a dream team of bartenders, Colleen would definitely be on it. As Colleen was working her magic, I got the chance to pick her brain a little bit.
BM: So you are around liquor all the time, what is your liquor of choice?
CH: Hmm… that is a hard one because I love so many! A nice rye whisky would definitely get my attention, but you will often find me sipping Sambuca neat most evenings unwinding from work.
BM: You are the bar manager at Crepe Cellar and where else?
CS: I also manage the bar at Growlers Pourhouse in NoDa and the soon to open Sea Level in Uptown.
BM: I fell in love with Moscow Mules a couple years ago when I had one of yours at Crepe Cellar, what do you think the next big cocktail trend will be?
CH: Great question! I would say something with Fernet-Branca. Fernet’s is really hot right now in the cocktail world. For a simple drink, you could mix it with coke. Underberg is another liquor that is on the move right now as well, which you can find in my Over Under cocktail at the Crepe Cellar.
(For our readers, Fernet’s is a bitter, herbal liquor…very unique taste. Not sure of mentholic is a word or not, but I would say Fernet’s has a mentholic taste to it. I have yet to sample Underberg, but I have read that it has a herbaceous and licoricey)
BM: So what is the drink of choice for the cocktail guru herself?
CH: My absolute favorite cocktail is a Corpse Reviver #2, a classic gin and absinthe cocktail that is perfect for all occasions. I would appreciate anybody who would want to buy me one, or have one with me and it will be on the new Sea Level menu!
BM: What is your hair of the dog recommendation…asking for a friend?
CH: Well besides water, for a hangover I would recommend a Pimm’s #1 Cup with ginger beer and cucumber. It's refreshing and lower in alcohol and helps bring you back from the dark side.
BM: Here is one out of left field for you—hypothetical question—you open the door to Crepe Cellar to a roaring crowd chanting your name awaiting for you to take your place behind the bar to start slinging drinks, what is your entrance song?
CS: Hmm…this is a tough one! I have a lot of favorites but I think I have go with MIA's "Bad Girls” to set the tone.
BM: Nice, I am picking up what you are putting down.
Moral of the story, if you haven’t had one of Colleen’s drinks you are doing it wrong. We're looking forward to the release of the cocktail menu from her newest venture, Sea Level, which is slated to open first week in February in the Hearst Tower Uptown. Be sure to follow Colleen on Instagram (@cshughes) to see what she comes up with next. Also, check out Seal Level on Instagram (@Sealevelnc) for updates on the opening. Cheers!