Found: Dolce Vita (3205 N. Davidson St. 704-334-1052)
Ingredients: Cardinal Gin (hailing from Kings Mountain), St. Germain, lemon juice (freshly squeezed to order) and house-made roasted beet syrup, shaken and poured over ice and topped with ginger beer and a local candy cane beet and lemon peel garnish.
Among the strand of dimly lit bars in NoDa is an unexpected gem welcoming cocktail connoisseurs, winos and beer lovers alike. Dolce Vita Wine Bar may still look and sound like the same old cozy nook it once was, but a little tweak to the menu has brought a whole new concept through its spirit-serving doors. The eclectic space still boasts a wall of gleaming pinots, chardonnays, ports and other wine varieties, alongside funky artwork and bicycles strung from the ceilings. Yet, now the sound of a cobbler shaker fills the air over chatter from patrons seated at the bar or one of the candle-lit tables or couches. As of January, Dolce Vita has added liquor to the menu - and not just your average beverages, but a tasteful array of concoctions. Many of the cocktails depend on farm-fresh produce and contain unlikely ingredients like greek yogurt, used in the suitably named "Regulator," or red chili flakes, found in the whiskey-based "Celtic Summer." Bartender Evan Christy says the goal is to serve good cocktails without the pretension. "When I was in New York, I kept hearing titles like 'Executive Bar Chef.' That's just silly. People tend to get such big heads ... You're not saving the world, it's just drinks. It's not that serious. I'm passionate about my job, and of course I have pride in what I do and I want what I make to be really good, but at the end of the day, it's a cocktail."