Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >
Aug 18, 2014 11:03 AM

Craft Cocktails In Hampton Roads

The following article features four of the best bartenders in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. The recipes of some of their favorite cocktails are provided.

I have had the pleasure of enjoying at least one of the creations of one of the bartenders featured.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions on this article and on any of the recipes featured.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. A review in our local newspaper of one of our newest cocktail bars appears in the following link:

    I am sure that most of you will find the following quote to be cringe worthy:

    >>"We shake our martinis until our hands stick to the tin...," promised Beth Hobbs, manager and chief bartender, whose staff gets rigorous training before taking to the rail."<<

    I did try their Virginia Dare cocktail as described in the article. In my opinion, it was served jam packed with far too many ice cubes, so much so that they had a suffocating effect upon the drink. I was not impressed.

    I also ordered one of their "classic martinis." Sure enough, it was shaken instead of stirred. No orange bitters were added. Two lemon slices were hastily cut up and dumped on top of the martini, so they were merely floating around. The result was a very mediocre and unsatisfying martini.

    Believe it or not, I am finally beginning to prefer my martinis stirred instead of shaken.


    3 Replies
    1. re: PontiusPalate

      The fact they shake what seems like everything is a shame. "We shake our martinis until our hands stick to the tin." is bad because it is martini's, but are they calling everything a martini? Shaking that long and hard is a good thing... if they are going about it the right way. Pouring the spirits into the empty shaker first, filling to the top with ice, straining and double/fine straining, etc.

      As for the other things they are doing, I cringed at "Hobbs directs her staff to 'muddle, muddle, muddle, muddle, muddle' a mess of mint and cukes." All I can think of is small pieces of mint and cucumber sticking in my teeth and gagging me as I try to swallow. From the description it was obvious they didn't fine strain the muddled mess before finishing the cocktail.

      It goes downhill from there. They picked up on a few very modern techniques which they over utilize, like the use of smoke, and don't seem to have a foundation in classic techniques. Some of those drinks may be good, but most seem like a train wreck.

      1. re: JMF


        Many thanks for your comments above.

        To answer your question, a martini is most commonly defined in our area is any alcoholic beverage that is poured into a conical shaped martini glass.

        I ate at the bar of a high end steakhouse in downtown Norfolk last week. An elderly and well dressed couple sitting next to me both ordered a "chocolate martini." Apparently, most of our local bars choose to put such drinks on their "martini" menus in order to cater to local tastes.

        Do you remember the thread I started last year on the "Black Soybean Martini?" This is still being served by one of the highest rated restaurants in Norfolk.

        In regard to the "muddled" Virginia Dare cocktail described in this article, which I had also tried, I also noted the bits and pieces of mint and cucumber sticking to my teeth and gums as I was drinking it. This was another complaint I had about this cocktail, in addition to the excessive volume of ice.

        I have also had my Hendricks Gin martinis which were "muddled" with cucumber pieces as well, with their seeds floating on top. These are not to my liking.

        Sometimes a new bartender who has never served me before will suggest this method of preparation to me, and they are usually surprised when I decline.


        1. re: PontiusPalate

          After all you have had to say the past few months I just feel pain, great pain, that so many parts of the country are 10-15 years behind the other parts. It isn't everywhere, and you get people who try... but much of the time just don't have the training and/or don't spend the time learning on their own, before trying to put things into effect, disastrously.

    2. Sounds like Glitz to cover over lack of Skill

      1 Reply
      1. First, the author of the article just threw together their assumptions on how booze, cocktails, etc. and the rise of vodka. It is crappy writers like this who don't do fact checking that keep misleading many folks in the US about spirits and cocktails. there just wasn't much truth to the article intro, and what there was, differed from reality by centuries, or at the minimum, decades. So before I got to the cocktails, I already thought little of the article. But to break it down:

        In the 1600's the story is that sailors visiting India came across a drink that eventually became what is known as punch. This was way, way, before it became known that citrus/vitamin C, prevented scurvy.

        Starting in the mid-1700's, British sailors were ordered to mix lemon or lime juice with their daily ration of rum. No sugar. No spices. Not very palatable, but helped keep scurvy at bay.

        Vodka didn't become the "most popular liquor " by the 60's. The character James Bond, had little to do with it. The Bond movies started in the late 1950's, but didn't change the way drinks were made or perceived. Cocktails were in their last hey day, and by the early to mid 1960's, starting to slowly die. Vodka became very popular in the late 60's because of the anti-establishment movement. The hippies and radicals didn't want to drink their fuddy-duddy parents "cocktails." They wanted to rebel, expand their minds, and get wasted. It wasn't until 1971 that vodka became the most popular spirit in the US, and sure wasn't used to make anything near like "elegant stiff drinks ruled the day." Is was used to make Vodka and OJ, or vodka and whatever was available. So lousy drinks became the norm in the 70's, not the 80's. Elegant drinks died during the mid-60's and didn't come back until the early to mid-2000's.

        People who don't do real research always say that cocktails were a way to make bad booze good during Prohibition. There was actually very little bad booze during Prohibition. Most booze was smuggled in from outside the US and was quite good. Moonshine made in the US was also pretty decent. It is easy to make good spirits. There was no money in making bad booze. Very few of the bootleggers adulterated the moonshine. (It was the bootleggers, the "distributors" who did the adulteration, if any, not the moonshiner's who made the product.) The US Federal government were the ones who most dangerously adulterated spirits. They caused all the deaths, blindness, etc. from adulterated spirits during Prohibition, by making "denatured alcohol" and not labeling it well, or at all, and not publicizing the dangers of it. All the outbreaks of blindness, sickness, death, can be directly linked to this federally denatured alcohol getting onto the market as drinking alcohol.

        As for the cocktails... they sound like well made drinks, although derivative of what has been done elsewhere for the last 10-15 years. A great intro to fine cocktails for an area that hasn't been known for them.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JMF


          Many thanks for your the more accurate historical background you provided on the history of cocktails in the United States. Very interesting!

          I remember all too well my own hippie days. Alcoholic beverages were regarded as a symbol of the "establishment" and I wanted no part of them. Most of us thought we represented the next stage in human evolution.

          You wrote:

          >>As for the cocktails... they sound like well made drinks, although derivative of what has been done elsewhere for the last 10-15 years. A great intro to fine cocktails for an area that hasn't been known for them.<<

          I am pleased to hear this. Maybe there is hope for our area after all.