Charlotte’s craft cocktail scene is one for the books.

If there is one thing that our Chilled 100 members know, it’s that some of the best bars are located in Charlotte. And some of the best bartenders and mixology specialists make up our Chilled 100 Charlotte group.

We take a walk through the area with the best of the best to get some inspiration and advice on what makes a good bartender great.

Amanda Britton

Amanda Britton, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Amanda Britton

Mac’s Speed Shop and 204 North Kitchen & Cocktails

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

I have been in the industry for almost a decade and became a bartender early on. It’s not WHAT inspired me it’s WHO inspired me… My father. I was working at a large chain restaurant and was only six months in this industry when a bartending position became available. My parents raised me to believe “the worst they can say is no!” so when I brought this opportunity to my father he reminded me how comfortable I am talking to any and everyone which encouraged me to go after it. My father was a regular at a few bars and not easy to impress. I try everyday to be the bartender my dad would have gotten a drink and shared a story with.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

Don’t be scared of tackling a technique that intimidates you, it probably looks a lot harder than you think.

Andrew Izrael

Andrew Izrael, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Andrew Izrael

Ink N Ivy

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

Initially, I got my start in restaurants as a chef. I had wanted to be one since I was a young child. Deep down inside that will always be my true love but as time progressed two things happened after culinary school. One, I was making pretty terrible money in kitchens. Two, I talked way too much and in general, had way to happy of a demeanor to be suited for kitchen work. The transition to the bar where I could talk people through the food that I love while still fueling my insatiable need for creativity was oh so natural. It only made sense that I dove into any and every cocktail book I could get my hands on.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

Taste, taste, taste and taste again. I’m not just talking about the ingredients behind your bar. I’m referring to anything and everything, edible or not. The more flavors you can readily pull from your memory, the more paint you will have for your palette. The greatest factor that helped me succeed behind the bar was starting off as a chef. My palette was already tuned for subtleties and the only way to get to that point was to continually taste everything. You will never know what copper taste like until you put a penny in your mouth. Other than that, read every last book you can. I have yet to read even the simplest of cocktail books without learning something new.

Bob Peters

Bob Peters, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Bob Peters

The Punch Room

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

I was inspired to become a bartender while coming up through the ranks of the restaurant world. The bartenders I saw were always happy and truly seemed delighted to do their job. I come from a family that took great pride in entertaining our guests so the disposition to take care of customers was bred into me. I started off bartending at the most humble of dive bars about 20 years ago. A wonderfully gritty little place called the Elizabeth Pub. Since then I have worked at just about every kind of bar known to man. From neighborhood bars to giant clubs, here in downtown Charlotte, I’ve done it all.

What is your favorite ingredient right now and why?

My favorite ingredient right now is everything that is in season. I am incredibly influenced by the seasons and the summer is no exception. I am lucky enough to have an organic garden of the roof of the hotel so I truly strive to embody the idea of a garden-to-glass type of experience at The Punch Room.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

My advice for new bartenders is not to worry about following someone else’s rules or recipes to a tee. The most important thing is to enjoy your drinking experience. So if you like drinks a little stronger or a little sweeter, then do it your way. If you’re making a drink for the first time just remember to add ingredients little by little. That way you can always add more if you need it. My simple rule of thumb is: You can always add but you can’t subtract.

Brian Lorusso

Brian-Lorusso, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Brian Lorusso

Dogwood Southern Table and Bar

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

For me it was a natural progression of a lifetime in the service industry. I didn’t want to go the GM route and bartending allows a certain amount of freedom and that ability to be creative and express yourself that being a server does not. I always prided myself on giving great service as a waiter and this was a natural extension of that side of the industry. I’m not a restaurant hopper I have been with our restaurant group, Rare Roots Hospitality for over 12 years. I have great chemistry with the core group of people I’m lucky enough to work with and we have opened three restaurants together and we will be opening our 4th in early 2017. It has been exciting to grow and mature with the company I’m with.

Where do you currently tend bar?

I’m the bar manager at Dogwood Southern Table and Bar in Charlotte, NC. I helped open it in October, 2014, and it’s fun being so involved in the process from sitting in on architects meeting to helping design the bar to walking the construction site, designing the drink menu, and hiring a team. We like to say we are elevated southern cuisine and the cocktail program is very extensive with a huge bourbon focus. We make as much in house ingredients as possible and feel very fortunate that so many of our guests received our restaurant with open arms.

The space is composed of lots of reclaimed materials, like old barn wood from Pennsylvania, and reclaimed brick and two fireplaces. It’s a really warm and welcoming environment. There are amazing pictures that hang on the walls that consist of pictures that our GM Tim Buchanan photographed while on excursions with Chef Scott, Jon Dressler and myself. They consist of local farmers, distillers, cheese makers, and such that we sourced and visited while building the concept of the restaurant, so it really echoes this very cool story.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

I love when people ask this question. I always tell guests at my bar to just try anything at home. Nothing is off the table, for several reasons. I personally feel like you learn way more from messing up a cocktail then from getting perfect the first time (which never happens!). Does it need acid, sweetness, bitters, more alcohol, less alcohol, do they flavors match? Plus the worse that happens is you have fun making drinks with family and friends and catch a buzz. So yes, mix it up, have fun play with your drinks!

Fletcher Elkins

Fletcher Elkins, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Fletcher Elkins

Aix en Provence

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

I began working in restaurants at 17 here in Charlotte before going to Northwestern University to pursue a degree in Orchestral Trombone Performance (of all things). After changing majors and not quite completing a degree, I reluctantly returned to Charlotte and to the restaurant industry. Well that reluctance changed quickly into my newfound passion and much wanted career path as I encountered a just as passionate and talented community as I had previously found in music. Once I got a grasp on the in ands outs of general FOHB roles, I became interested in being a creator again while still interacting with guests – thus bartending became my focus.

Where do you currently tend bar?

I currently tend bar at a Mediterranean Bistro here in Charlotte called Aix en Provence. Owned and operated by long-time industry friends of mine for just six months now, it is an absolute pleasure to work at a small, 50-seat house restaurant run by such hardworking, knowledgeable folks that I also get to call friends. We focus on French inspired cocktails, fresh ingredients from our garden, and a great experience for our guests. Not to mention the best chef I have ever worked for.

What is your favorite ingredient right now and why?

At the moment, I’m following chef’s lead in the spring culinary tradition of lightly pickling ingredients. Even though I’m not using them in the traditional method, I enjoy the way vinegar challenges the palate in a way I’m not used to encountering in cocktails.

Kel Minton

Kel Minton, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Kel Minton

Soul Gastrolounge

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

My father was in the restaurant industry my whole life (albeit dive and sports bars); I grew up behind a bar and always looked up to the bartenders. I started playing around with different spirits while watching some of the best chefs in Charlotte create dishes. Some of the culinary techniques I learned from them became the biggest turning point.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

Play and experiment. Find a drink you love, find the profiles and start subbing out different ingredients until you create something uniquely your own.

Leah Pippin

Leah Pippin, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Leah Pippin

The Punch Room

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

I was inspired to become a bartender when I learned of all of the passion involved in making craft cocktails. I got my start in the industry years ago at a sports bar as a server, found my way behind the bar and have now made my home with Bob Peters at The Punch Room in Charlotte, NC making craft cocktails.

Where do you currently tend bar?

The Punch Room is one of its kind in Charlotte, which is why being able to call it home is such an absolute honor. We offer our guests a speakeasy vibe, making our space great for having conversation over a hand crafted cocktail. We change our menu along with the seasons, providing a menu with options for everyone.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

My advice for at home bartenders is to think outside the box. There is no right or wrong when it comes to cocktails, and when it comes to creating drinks the world is your oyster. It’s an amazing outlet for creativity, which is a part of why I love my job and my craft so much.

Marshall Moore

Marshall Moore, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Marshall Moore

204 North Kitchen and Cocktails

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

My grandfather ran a bar when I was younger and as I grew up in wanted to become a bartender. When I moved to Charlotte I got a great opportunity after my first year in college to meet Stefan Huebner. From there he would let me come sit at the bar and make classic drinks or teach me barware or have my own tasting. I blossomed from that and started doing my own readings and tastings and just spent a lot of time at bars trying to learn as much as I can.

I helped rebuild a neighborhood bar in Dilworth and that was a huge learning experience for me, I then went to work for a group of restaurants where I was a manager and bartender and ended up helping run one of their bars, and now I’m at 204 North Kitchen and Cocktails. I’ve worked several other places but just for small stints of time when they, or myself, needed help.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

Taste and taste. As much as you can. Learn your flavor profiles. Read as much as you can, there is a lot of history that goes along with booze that will help you create an amazing cocktail. And get out and ask questions, as bartenders we are always trying to educate the public to create a better interest in what we do.

stephan huebner

Stephan Huebner, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Stefan Huebner

Heist Brewery

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

I started as a chef. At 20 years old I was running kitchens straight out of culinary school. It was too much for a 20 year old so after about two years I was burnt out and looking for something new to do. I wanted to be in a band and needed something flexible to do. So I jumped behind the bar. I basically had management experience and a knowledge of how a bar worked so I lied my way behind it.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

Keep learning. Keep educating yourself, by joining the USBG, going to events like The Bar Institute or Tales of the Cocktail, reading, and searching the web. Keep in mind, the best hospitality is more important than the best cocktail!!!

Larry Suggs

Larry Suggs, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Larry Suggs

Murphy’s Kitchen and Tap

What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.

In my serving days I was fortunate to work with two bad-ass career bartenders. I would pick their brains on certain spirits and the bar industry on a nightly basis. When one of the newer bartenders called out sick they started me behind the stick. I knew that was where I belonged from that point forward.

Where do you currently tend bar?

Murphy’s Kitchen and Tap, Charlotte, NC. We are an authentic Irish Pub that celebrates the heritage of Irish-Americans. There’s an open kitchen downstairs with a chef’s bar to watch your food prepared in front of you. The downstairs bar sports an approachable cocktail list and the best pint of Guinness in town poured by Murphy himself on most nights. The upstairs bar represents some of the most innovative cocktails in Charlotte. From an Irish Old Fashioned using Honey Lavender syrup, dubbed the Roe & Co. to our Cinnamon Smoked Sazerac w/ Monkey Shoulder, there’s a libation for every cocktail nerd and Irish enthusiast.

Do you have any advice for novice bartenders?

Have the right tools, use fresh squeezed juices, invest in 1 and 2 inch ice molds for stirring and shaking cocktails, and please… don’t buy pre-made simple syrup.

henry schmulling

Henry Schmulling, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Charlotte

Henry Schmulling

Mac’s Speed Shop

What inspired you to become a bartender?

Good beer, period. My Uncle was by far the most influential person as far as my introduction into the craft world. Uncle John would bring up all kinds of great beer from the local Georgia scene as well as bring by some of his more traditional German favorites. This helped me immensely. As long as I was drinking quality beer I was happy! By this time I had already worked in the industry for years in one position or another but I had just started serving at Duckworth’s Bar & Grill.

I quickly moved up to bartender because of my passion for beer and we ended up turning Duckworth’s into a craft beer bar that has became a pillar in the local craft beer community here in NC. This was all well before craft beer had become the beast it is today in Charlotte so we really had to struggle to spread the knowledge but that’s what really made the job worthwhile. After leaving I worked at just about every type of bar around the city I could while also using my knowledge of craft beer to help consult with other bars and local breweries.

This eventually lead me to Pisces Sushi Bar & Lounge where I met and was fortunate enough to work with Bob Peters, one of the best bartenders in North Carolina and someone who was as passionate about his craft as I was. Needless to say this led to one of the most fun and creative working experiences I’ve ever had and most definitely set me on the excitingly creative path of craft cocktails.

Where do you currently tend bar?

At the moment I am helping build two cocktail bars in which I will be
managing and bartending. In the mean time I am restructuring the beverage program company-wide for Mac’s Speed Shop based here in Charlotte. Mac’s Speed Shop started out as an old motorcycle shop and was later converted into a BBQ joint. It has been around for over 11 years with five locations in the Carolinas and a whole lot of history. We mostly focus on craft beer, whiskey and tequila but we have a few other things in the works. It’s the kind of place that just makes you want to post up and enjoy a beverage or five.

What is your favorite ingredient right now and why?

My favorite ingredient changes day-to-day and drink-to-drink. I try not to limit myself when being creative. Each recipe calls for something different so I try to focus on a specific flavor profile or single ingredient and then build a cocktail to highlight that feature. This allows me to revisit anything I have used in the past to pair with new flavors without being repetitive.