You don't have to stumble home after too many cocktails on LiberateYourPalate's Cheers to the Queen City: Summer Cocktail Tour. Folks wanting to sip -- nice and slow -- have the chance to stagger their cocktail consumption over the course of 45 days (August 1 through September 15) or you can hit up a variety of stops in a few big swings. Those are the valid dates for the tour's "passport," which includes one $5 specialty cocktail from 16 participating restaurants/bars.
LiberateYourPalate founder Tamu Curtis, who comes from an extensive background in experimental marketing and has roots in California — moved to Charlotte from Los Angeles three years ago and has since embraced the Queen City's ever-growing craft cocktail scene. She's taken a fancy to mingling with local bartenders who are eager to concoct new drinks that make happy hour that much happier. Heist Brewery's contribution to the curated cocktail list is the "Charles Avenue Revival," a blend of Pama pomegranate liqueur, Heist summer saison beer, cranberry juice, crushed ice and lime. For the full run-down of locations and cocktails or to purchase a $22 "passport" booklet, visit liberateyourpalateclt.com.
Creative Loafing: How did mixologists go about crafting or picking cocktails for the cocktail tour?
Tamu Curtis: That's the thing that's really fun and unique about the tour. The restaurants have been really receptive to the program. A lot of restaurants are creating drinks just for the tour. I explained to them that I wanted this to be a cocktail experience and I wanted the craft of making a cocktail to be part of that experience, so we wanted to see a lot of handmade house-infused ingredients and for it to be a show when they're doing the cocktail. So, after that a lot of the restaurants decided to craft drinks specifically for the tour that are not going to be on the regular menu. Some of the restaurants are highlighting drinks from their summer cocktail menus and others are doing their house favorites and signature cocktails. But everybody pretty much stepped up and is coming with their "A" game.
What does your fantasy cocktail look and taste like?
I don't like anything that's too sweet, but I like a little sweetness and definitely tart. So, a blend of sweet and tart or tangy. I always like some little fru-fru, so some kind of egg-white looking foam on top and definitely a little garnish to cap it off.
What made you decide to focus on craft cocktails instead of craft beer?
I feel like there's enough beer offerings here. Everybody knows where to find it. I'm a dinner and cocktail kind of girl. I like to get dressed up and go to dinner. I like to grab a cocktail before dinner, eat dinner and then maybe have another cocktail after dinner. I don't think that I get invited to that enough out here and I don't think that's really the culture out here, but I think that there are some great places and I wanted to highlight that and get people into the mood of that. With LiberateYourPalate, I want to do pop-up cocktail experiences. I want to keep partnering with bartenders in town and create other experiences, too. Some of those would have entertainment like ballet and burlesque shows, African drumming and things that will give people something to talk about. I really want to make this passport program a kind of guide — for cocktails and food — that provides people with culinary experiences in Charlotte.