Blair_headshotLights, (phone) camera, action—here we are again at December, which, between parties and presents, feels the fastest month of the year. And, if 2014 is any indication, the month may end before you finish this letter.

 

We find this issue—the Food & Drink issue—one of the most challenging, mainly because the topic is difficult to winnow: What makes the cut? What misses the mark? And how do we package a package fitting for the season?

 

Here, we zero in on food’s counterpart, drink. Perhaps because we prize the act of chewing, the craft is generally disregarded or at least demoted. Cocktails are a secondary, backup performer, an understudy to the main player. But these days, the term batch probably refers to a Blue Ridge whisky rather than Mom’s cookies. Mixed drinks, not to mention bourbon, beer, and wine, are demanding their own menus. They may, in fact, be the determining factor for a dinner reservation. Setting the Bar: A Guide to Drink Couture is our primer to the best of the liquid arts in Greenville. To start things off, we focus on the bar program at American Grocery Restaurant, whose mixologist Kirk Ingram (a term more apt than bartender here) crafts a drink program worthy of a James Beard Award. Chris George, craft cocktail instructor and current bar program manager at The Cliffs, offers tips on recreating your own buzz-worthy drinks at home, complete with tools and recipes for your next holiday fête. We’ve also thrown in bar snacks worth drinking for (these aren’t your average nuts).

 

Egg nog makes an appearance, of course, as does a classic version of punch— careful, it’s delicious. Scott Gould expounds on the pleasures of cheap beer. Even the Man About TOWN has a drink named in his honor (find it on the menu at American Grocery this month) and offers tips for giving a proper toast.

 

But, we haven’t discounted grub altogether (amplify your Christmas dessert with a French holiday classic). Oysters are in season! And because bread is omnipresent on most tables before, during, and after the holidays, we focus on two Upstate bakeries whose artisanal loaves look nearly as good as they taste. Bread is a symbolic food, especially during this festive time, and these loaves define a labor of love.

 

Just one more reason to raise a glass to this life-giving season, when sometimes the challenge of having too much is the gift itself.

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Kirk Ingram, mixologist at American Grocery Restaurant, has crafted a cocktail for the Man About TOWN (page 88). Find it on their menu this month and tag your photos on Facebook and Instagram. // Photography by Paul Mehaffey

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