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Favorite Triangle-area bartenders

I'm the food writer at The News & Observer. I'm looking for people to turn to while researching a once-a-month cocktail column. And so, who are your favorite bartenders in the Triangle and why?

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  1. My wife and her friends insist that Garrett at Vivace makes the best mojitos in Raleigh. They order them as "Garrett Mojito's" which tends to annoy some of the wait staff when we have dinner. Of course Garrett just cracks up and makes another round of great drinks.

    1. My favorite bartenders are the guys that work at the Speakeasy in Carrboro on Friday nights. They are always nice and friendly.

      1. Kevin at the Red Lotus in Chapel Hill. His makes really good drinks, particularly the martini varieties.

        1. Um, it was an honest question...how about an answer instead of being flagged? Do we currently have a column like this in the N&O?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Suzy Q

            We need one. I have things in the works. Duke-centric, but exciting cocktail lectures and craft-driven mixology. Real drinks, no vodka!

              1. re: BryanZ

                I second the CP reccomendation. Dude knows his stuff and is in a good position to do great things.

                Bryan, what exactly do you have in the works that's Duke centric? I'm curious as to how you've got so many things lined up as a recently turned 21 year old college student with little to do with the bartending industry.

                And vodka is by the way a perfectly acceptable mixer, just a little boring, that's all.

              2. re: Suzy Q

                The first one ran last month. It featured a Mint Julep in hot chocolate form.


              3. Chris Powers at the Raleigh Times. He is bartender/manager and he is doing some pretty awesome stuff. The beer selection at times is awesome and Chris is working on making his own bitters. Really inventive and a great guy to start with.

                2 Replies
                1. re: micajack

                  Thanks for all the suggestions. I can't wait to talk to these guys.

                  1. re: aweigl

                    I love Rich at Champps at Southpoint. He's been bartending for over 13 years, but has been there for 5, I think. He's a pro, really great guy. What speaks the highest of him was when I watched him very professional "cut off" gentleman who he believed had had enough to drink. He handled it with such professionalism that the guest actually shook his hand and thanked him and complimented him.

                    He seems to understand that bartending is more than just drinks, but making people feel welcome at the bar and making them want to return.

                    I can get a gin and tonic anywhere - I go to Champps to see Rich!

                    And, naturally, he makes fabulous drinks!

                2. Lantern's bartenders, I think, are hands down the best in the Triangle. Rick and Kristen (if she's still there) are smart, efficient, and quick witted, and they both make a MEAN drink with a full bar in front of them. They also have a great handle on the wine list and menu, which doesn't happen as frequently as one might think.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

                    I'd definitely second the vote for Lantern -- particularly Rick and Wes. Great martinis and mojitos, and as the above poster mentioned, also spot on with wine and the dishes.

                    1. re: emazzone

                      Rick, Kristen and Mike all get my votes at Lantern. Trae Smith at 411 is great as well.