Virginia is for {cocktail} lovers

100 miles south of the nation’s capital you will find Richmond, VA; home to the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood, the tree-lined avenues and architectural noteworthiness of The Fan, and the rapidly gentrifying Church Hill district. Having visited the Richmond area on numerous occasions, I finally decided to check out the burgeoning cocktail scene that I’ve been hearing so much about.

After some quick online research and a few ‘phone a friend’ moments, I settled on three craft cocktail bars that came highly recommended. Located within a five mile radius; Heritage, The Roosevelt, and Saison each represent a different Richmond neighborhood, each with its very own cocktail style.

For those seeking an intimate cocktail bar with tons of charm and Southern hospitality, Heritage is what you seek. Owner and bartender, Mattias Hägglund, expresses his love for craft cocktails every night behind the bar, but more impressively, he has a love for the Richmond community that is immediately noticeable. From hosting charity dinners and knowing his regulars by name, to working with his local competition to enhance the Richmond cocktail scene; his passion is unmatched. It says a lot about an establishment when a couple six barstools down from you decides to get engaged at the bar – and, that’s exactly what happened on the night I visited Heritage.

A few favorites:
Lion’s Tail: Fighting Cock Bourbon, allspice, lime, and bitters
• Marlboro Man: Smoked Eagle Rare Bourbon, Blis maple syrup, and cinnamon
• Bourbon Barrel Smoked Pork Belly: kim chi, bok choy, carrot, VA peanuts, and ginger

Located in The Fan, this craft cocktail bar most certainly rivals its brethren from DC, Philly, and beyond. Anything with bourbon in the name or description is a must try at Heritage.

The Roosevelt
Found in the heart of Church Hill, this cocktail bar boasts a collection of one of-a-kind cocktails that would impress even the most sophisticated drinker. From a sizable selection of micro distilled spirits such as Green Hat Gin and Catocin Creek, to the use of charred (yet frozen) fruit to keep your cocktail cold; The Roosevelt clearly pays attention to detail without losing its definitively quirky style. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the likes of Strawberry Boone’s Farm, buttermilk, charred lemon cube, honeysuckle vodka, and kumquat bitters mentioned all within the same cocktail menu.

A few favorites:
The Seersucker: Maker’s Mark Bourbon, house- made sweet tea syrup, angostura bitters, and a charred lemon cube
• The Kitchen Sink: Plymouth Gin, tequila, Byrrh Quinquina, honey liqueur, absinthe rinse, and Anderson kumquat bitters
• Smoked Chicken Wings: with Alabama white sauce and The Roosevelt signature hot sauce

Looking for a home away from home? Saison is a laid-back bar found in Jackson Ward that truly feels like a mash-up of old and new – for some, the best of both worlds. One minute the crushed ice rum cocktails transport you to a Tiki bar in Jamaica but in the next moment you feel as if you’re in Soho sipping a classic Negroni (served on draft, no less). Eclectic cocktail menus, cactus plants on the bar, and a children’s movie playing on the TV certainly set the stage for an off the beat-and-path adventure called Saison.

A favorite:
Ancient Mariner: Jamaican Rum, Rhum Agricole, lime, grapefruit, and allspice