In the weeks since Haberdish opened, you’ve heard about their delicious, Southern-style cooking and their chic, mill-town-era decor. We love all of it, including the location: 3106 N. Davidson St., mere feet away from a night of entertainment in NoDa and the owners’ other restaurant/bar successes: Growler’s Pourhouse and Crepe Cellar.

But now it’s time to talk booze—because we’re of the mindset that a well-prepared cocktail can take even the most mouthwatering pimento cheese ball, fried chicken, or banana pudding up a notch. Here are five reasons to head to the city’s newest hotspot for a drink:

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Colleen Hughes, creator of Haberdish’s cocktail program, as well as those at Crepe Cellar and Growler’s Pourhouse // Photos: BlueSky by Cass Bradley

1. Colleen Hughes is running the cocktail program: Not gonna lie, the self-taught Hughes is kind of our hero. One of the top craft cocktail curators in the city—and the most well-known female bartender—Hughes is in charge of devising all the signature drinks at Crepe Cellar, Growlers Pourhouse and Sea Level NC, and she brought the same attention to detail to Haberdish. She spent months testing recipes at her home bar, before bringing the final recipes to the menu, which focuses largely on pre-Prohibition-era drinks. Her dry sense of humor and delicious concoctions will make you want to grab a seat under the Edison lightbulbs at the soapstone bar, even as the comfy booths covered in salvage denim from a North Carolina mill beckon. View More: http://cassbradley.pass.us/sip

View More: http://cassbradley.pass.us/sip2. The drink menu is based on moments and the progression of a night out. Hughes wanted to redefine happy hour, to make it “not about how to forget all your woes, but to get your night started,” she says. Enter: apertifs.

A European tradition, apertifs are light and refreshing cocktails with lower alcohol content than spirits. They’re designed to start your night, to whet your appetite for the meal to come, says Hughes, who recently finished reading a book on the history of vermouth. (Yes, she’s that hard-core.)

Apertifs make it possible to have a few pre-dinner drinks and “not be falling apart like that girl at the bar, crying after two,” Hughes says. (What’d we say about that dry sense of humor?)

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Then you move to charming twists on classic cocktails and some new ones entirely, inspired by the apothecary cocktails of old. We’re big fans of the Haberdish spin on the classic mint julep.

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Finish off the night with one of Haberdish’s “digestives,” or cocktails with ingredients designed to aid digestion after a big meal. Think: bitters and herbal-flavored liqueurs.

3. The ice. Oh the ice. Haberdish co-owners and married couple Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown tout two “programs” at Haberdish: the pickle program and the ice program, the latter of which makes the restaurant’s cocktail scene stand out in a crowded market. But don’t ask how they create the perfect sphere of ice with real flowers inside or where Tonidandel found the perfect ice flaker machine (see mint julep above—ice perfection). They keep it all hush-hush.

“Colleen is really, really talented, really passionate, and not afraid of a challenge,” says Tonidandel.
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4. All copper everything. At most bars, you have to order a Moscow Mule to get a glimpse of a copper glass. But when it came to the bar furnishings at Haberdish, Tonidandel didn’t spare any expense—from the bar essentials Hughes uses to mix the drinks down to the copper toothpicks used to hold garnishes.

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5. Many of the drinks feature local spirits and locally made mixtures. 

Haberdish is one of those support-local trifectas: It’s locally owned, much of the decor is locally sourced and locally inspired, and the bar program relies on a number of local spirits and flavors. Here, you’ll find wares from Doc Porter’s (Charlotte), Muddy River Distillery (Belmont), Krupnikas (Durham), Fair Game Beverage Company (Pittsboro), and many more.

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Photos: BlueSky by Cass Bradley 

Sip Charlotte is a weekly email newsletter for beer, wine, and cocktail enthusiasts across the region. Click here to subscribe. Have a story idea? Feedback? Connect with editor Caroline Portillo at cportillo@charlotteobserver.com. Cheers!

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