Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Charleston Martini Tour

I have to say, I slacked off in writing my review of The Original Pub Tour of Charleston...because I wrote it over seven months after I actually took the tour. Therefore, I promised myself that when I finally got to try the Lesesne Tour Company's Martini Tour, I would write a more timely review. As we just took this tour on Saturday March 5th, I think I'm doing a bit better ;o)

The Lesesne Tour Company now has a convenient store front in the Rainbow Market Shops right across from the Charleston Market on Market Street, and all of their tours start here. (And by the way, how many times can I fit the word "Market" in one sentence, huh?) We showed up for our tour a bit early--about 4:45--and departed right at 5 PM. Though one other couple had been scheduled for this tour, they had apparently canceled last minute and it was just us and guides Becca and Daniel. The one great thing about these martini tours, though, is that they limit the number of participants to 6-8 anyway, which means you will always get a slightly more intimate experience.

Becca quickly assessed our willingness to, shall we say, try some very different things--and off we went. Our first stop was the trendy (and pricey) Grill 225 at the Market Pavilion Hotel, where we had some delicious Fried Green Tomatoes and tried our very first "Nitrotinis". Not only was the martini selection great, but they were all cooled to -320 degrees Fahrenheit and arrived--literally--smoking.
The infamous "Nitrotini"
Our verdict? They were worth every penny.

Becca and Daniel even took us up to the pool at the hotel for some great views of Charleston. At least I know where we're staying if we ever hit it rich and visit this great city with a pocket full of cash!
View from the pool deck at the Market Pavilion Hotel
Our second stop was Charleston's "Social". This is mainly known as a wine bar, but I had one heck of a gin martini there and the food--especially the Margherita pizza and the Yukon Chips--was delicious. I honestly think that's the best Margherita pizza I've had this side of Italy. (Yes, I have been to Italy.)

And as a reminder, hors d'oeuvres are included in your tour price, which runs $42 per person for the Martini Tour ;o) We not only enjoyed great drinks (including specific recommendations from our guides) and food, though--we were also regaled with more stories of Charleston's history and character, including the history of the bars we visited. Although many of them had slightly shorter histories than Charleston itself, Becca and Daniel's knowledge of local business and culture, old and new, shone yet again on this great tour.

Our third stop was probably our favorite--a 1920s themed bar and restaurant called The Gin Joint. Although there were of course other liquors available here, note that you will not find vodka--this place is true to its theme!
Seriously. Look at that light bulb!
Crazy old school square ice cubes!
I was also extremely pleased to find that I could get an actual New Orleans style gin fizz here! I had one on my trip to NOLA in 2010 and fell in love...but you can't buy orange flower water just anywhere, you know!

Oh, and they also make a real mint julep, crushed ice, fresh mint and all. And in a silver cup no less!
My gin fizz and Daniel's true mint julep in the background
And did you think those Nitrotinis would be the craziest thing we did all night?

I hope not, because if you did, you're wrong. While at The Gin Joint, Daniel inquired whether we would like to try something really, really different.

Buffalo fried duck hearts.

Of course we could have said no and enjoyed a simpler appetizer, but I'll try anything once. See?
Am I doing this? Really? Like, for real really?
That would be a yes. Down the hatch!
Honestly? They weren't too bad. The texture was a bit rubbery, sort of like snails, but mostly they just tasted like fried stuff and buffalo sauce ::shrug::

Though I don't think I'll be doing that again.

We wrapped up at The Gin Joint not long after that (and we even ate most of the duck hearts!) and strolled the streets a bit, learning some new info--for instance, that the house once thought to be the oldest in Charleston has been dethroned! Becca and Daniel even walked us by the Hibernian Society building on Meeting Street and regaled us with tales of the beautiful wedding they had there, before heading on to our final stop--Club Habana. We settled into some comfy chairs in a back room, Steve lit up a cigar and we wrapped up the night with a couple more drinks and some great conversation.

As I had assumed that we would be visiting some newer establishments on this tour, ones with perhaps not as much history or as many stories as the ones we saw on our pub tour in late 2009, Steve and I mainly took this tour so that we wouldn't fall prey to wandering the city hoping to stumble into a great place. And also because we enjoyed our first tour with the Lesesne Tour Company so much that we were excited to try this new and different offering ;o) Needless to say, we were not disappointed. This second experience has simply solidified my resolve to try these tours out again and again on our return trips.

Now I guess I just need to force one of my girlfriends to get engaged and have her bachelorette party in Charleston, because you bet I want to go on a Bachelorette Pub Crawl!


  1. That looks like an awesome tour! I'll have to keep it in mind if I ever head down there.

  2. That martini is calling my name! But I'll tell you what's not calling my name---the buffalo fried duck hearts! AHHHH! Can't believe you at it!

  3. @Stacy - You do need to make it to Charleston some day! It's such a great city :) And I think you'd especially enjoy their original pub tour.

    @Tiffanie - It took a lot and trust me, I had to consider it for quite some time before actually putting the thing in my mouth (ahh, that's what she said) but I say that everything (or nearly everything) is worth trying once ;o)

  4. Maybe eating the heart was good for... your heart?
    I'm a sucker for all of those southern drinks (us Northerners just drink beer and straight vodka haha)orange flower water sounds so very wonderfully southern! I can't wait to visit Charleston!

  5. Buffalo fried duck hearts?! You are much braver than I!!
    Looks like a really fun tour, I love the mix of drinks and history!

  6. Apparently Bill Murray is known to frequent the Gin Joint! This tour looks fun, I will have to check it our next time I go to Charleston!