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Jan 16, 2008 06:58 PM

Stocking a Bar in the Triangle, NC

If one wanted to stock a moderate home bar in the Triangle, where would one shop? I'm a little confused as to what ABC sells and if certain stores are better than others. I can't imagine ABC stocking lots of esoteric stuff, so how would one procure these items? Will they order items for you? Are you allowed to order them online to be shipped in? I'd be looking for mescal, chartreuse, real rye, besides the basic gins, rums, and whiskeys of the mixing world.

Also, where does one find fortified wines and the like? Does ABC stock vermouths, campari, etc?

I know there are drinkies out there and without a good cocktail spot in the area, you guys have to be drinking something. Maybe I should open a speakeasy...joking...or am I?

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  1. ABC does seem have at least one brand of most alcoholic things I'm familiar with, but in many cases, only one brand: if you want vermouth, for instance, it's going to be Martini & Rossi. I'm not sure what the laws are regarding things being shipped in. I am pretty sure that within one county, the ABCs all have the same inventory, but I'm not sure how it goes across counties.

    I mostly drink bourbon, so I'm just happy they have Maker's Mark.

    1. I find small variations in ABCs' stocking, particularly at the high end. The one in Chapel Hill near Whole Foods, for instance, has a consistently better selection than the one in Carrboro plaza and both of those were much better than the one I went to in Asheville. That said, they all order from the same approved lists.

      It is theoretically possible to special order (things not on the state's approved list) but, as written, the rules require one to buy a case of the ordered item ( From my understanding, online vendors can legally ship to NC. You can also bring bottles across state lines on your own so long as you don't sell them (when I come back from Chicago next month it'll be with a few bottles and a case of beer not sold down here). I like Sam's Wines in Chicago for shipping but there are lots of options out there.

      ABCs don't have vermouth, Lillet, etc. (I shop Southern Season for those) but do carry Campari, Grappa, Pernod, etc. I'm not sure what the cut-off is but those three are often nearing 50 proof.

      3 Replies
      1. re: brokegradstudent

        Slight correction: the one in Carrboro at least certainly has vermouth, both sweet and dry.

        1. re: brokegradstudent

          So how about in Durham? None of our local wine shops stock interesting cocktail stuff and the concept of a "liquor store" with which I'm familiar at home doesn't really exist down here. The ABC seems very limiting.

          I'm guessing restaurants can't legally sell me bottles either. Does this happen under the table though? I know the reverse is often true on a cash basis.

          1. re: BryanZ

            You probably won't be buying from a restaurant, their cost for a bottle is quite a bit higher than for retail consumers. Not sure of the legality. All restaurants in NC buy their liquor from a local ABC store-as in call in the order and go pick it up. Find out which store(s) in your area are designated for bar/restaurant fulfillment-they tend to be better versed in handling special orders.

            ABC stores in more affluent areas tend to have a much larger selection of the high-end stuff. The ABC stores are operated by local boards, so the board operating stores in Durham might be different then the one in Raleigh or Chapel Hill.

            Most fortified wines(depends on the alcohol content) can be found in your grocery store. You should seek out the local Total Wine and More, lots of wine, beer and mixers.

        2. NC has some obscure laws about what they can and can't stock in this state. I always stock up on fun stuff at Total Wine in Greenville, SC when I visit my parents.

          1. You can buy your vermouth, sherry, lillet (and I *think* campari - if not it is definitely available at ABCs) at the grocery stores around here. The Harris Teeter at University Mall has an ok-ish selection; I'm sure the more upscale the grocery store, the better the selection. As someone else mentioned, the ABCs really vary. I've found so far that the one at Meadowmont has the best selection, the one out on MLK near I40 isn't bad either.

            One big hole for us is the lack of things like armagnac and calvados. They just plain don't have them. So whenever you get a chance to cross a border (either state or country) pick up as much of that stuff as you can. Some nice cognacs, however, are available at the nicer ABCs in the area.

            Can you figure out that our liquor cabinet is like disney land for adults?

            4 Replies
            1. re: LulusMom

              The Meadowmont ABC does stock Calvados (one brand - Christian Drouhin). Grappa seems to be available (one brand) in both Durham and CH. The Meadowmont ABC also stocks Martell's VSOP (unlike Durham) and carries expensive stuff like Martell Blue as well.

              1. re: walras

                Huh, thanks for the good news about the calvados. I had been told that Orange County (or was it all of NC?) didn't allow it. This is truly great news.

                I've got a bottle of Courvousier (sp?) XO that I got from one of those two stores ... so they definitely do have some of the good stuff.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  It never hurts to ask at the counter. A few times they've had stuff that wasn't shelved (Junipero gin, Hendricks when it first came out) in the back. This seems particularly true on the higher end.

              2. re: LulusMom

                I asked a similar query in an earlier thread, but is there a space, place, organization, group where Triangle cocktailians can geek out? Wine Authorities is my wine spot, but I want a place to mix drinks, share ideas, sample liquors, etc.


              3. ok, here's what my understanding is...

                The ABC will get you at least 1-2 varieties of Hard alchohol, liquors, and liquor based mixes drinks.

                Supermarkets get you beer, general selections of wine and port, sake, plum wine, and additives such as vermouth, and rose's type things

                Specialty wine shops such as Wine authorities, Total wine, and Even Sam's quick stop will get you a much broader selection of wines, sakes, beers, and even fortified wines, i believe.

                a secondary tier to the expanded wine shops for me are general places that tend to have a decent selection of wines and Sake's like Whole Foods, World Market, Southern Seasons, and Weaver Street market, etc.

                1 Reply
                1. re: TSQ75

                  Sometime when you are near the intersection of High House and Cary Parkway (Preston) check at the Wine Merchant, which is in the same little shopping center as the ABC store and LaFarm Bakery. I know they sell some excellent vermouth, and many other items I don't use. Their glass ware and accessories section is quality stuff. They have a lot of local knowledge about where to find things. It really is not that far from Durham. Hit 55 south and turn left at High House.