In their first book, “Holy Spirits! Charleston Culture Through Cocktails,” Taneka Reaves and Johnny Caldwell pay homage to the drink culture in Charleston, S.C. This beautiful hardcover book features more than 40 recipes created by the Bandit Belles and guest mixologists. The large, vibrant images welcome readers to explore the city’s history, customs and businesses.
In four brief chapters, learn how to build a home bar, entertain with class, select local brands such as Firefly Spirits Sweet Tea Vodka and prepare festive libations from the color-coded tabs. Unfortunately, the passage about Gullah cuisine seems like an afterthought and the ingredient lists call for homegrown alcohols that might not be readily available.
Still, some eye-catching cocktails with cool names set the mood. They include One in Melon, Cabin Fever, The Blue Bully, Low Country Sunset and Morning Glory. Don’t fret, the Charleston Beverage Ambassadors also offer a short section on mocktails. All provide straightforward instructions for quick, easy and fun menus. The references and terminology segments will have amateur bartenders sounding like professionals.
Reaves and Caldwell met in college. Caldwell, a Charleston native, studied law. She planned to launch a career in politics but had trouble finding work after law school. Reaves looked for a political position when she got out of school as well to no avail. Instead, she joined the bar and restaurant industry where she crafted her own cocktails. Both ladies shared their employment frustrations with each other, so they decided to turn their love for tequila into a social media movement. They built their own blog and called it the Cocktail Bandits. They watched videos, learned bartending basics and ordered a cocktail-making kit online. Soon they began generating original content, attending and hosting foodie events and highlighting the nightlife. They even endorse their own signature drink, the Peninsula Tea.
Today the African-American entrepreneurs or “curly ladies who talk cocktails daily,” have a thriving hospitality business. They conduct social media seminars, stage parties and conduct cocktail demonstrations. Named among Imbibe Magazine’s “75 People to Watch in 2018,” they promote female empowerment through advocacy for the food and beverage community from a feminine, urban perspective.
The authors hope “Holy Spirits!” encourages others to “research and experiment with different flavors to make excellent drinks.” At a minimum, it will put smiles on everyone’s face. Purchase your copy (available on Amazon and their website), invite friends over and experience Charleston in a glass. Don’t forget to add the “Holy City” to the bucket list. Who’s down for a road trip?
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