Check out the amazing home bars of 3 couples transforming Charlotte’s drink scene, Part 2: Colleen Hughes & James Murphy

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This story originally ran in SouthPark Magazine. Catch up on Part I here and see Part III on Friday, with couple No. 3

Colleen Hughes & James Murphy

You know you’re a true friend when Colleen Hughes and James Murphy invite you to the finished basement of their split-level home in Country Club Heights. It’s the site of their home bar—and an ode to their lifestyle, families, and careers.

“You have to know us pretty well to get down here,” says Hughes, as she plucks a bottle of rye whiskey from behind the mahogany bar and pours herself a glass.

Dating for five years, Hughes and Murphy are both lauded bartenders in Charlotte. She’s in charge of the bar programs at Haberdish in NoDa and at its sibling restaurants, Crepe Cellar, Growler’s, and Sea Level. Murphy, 33, is the bar manager at Abari Game Bar on North Davidson Street, where the beer and cocktails are usually enjoyed in front of retro arcade games and pinball machines.

So it should come as no surprise that Murphy insisted on adding Ms. Pac-Man and NBA Jam arcade games to the space.

The space—which has a “gentleman’s den vibe,” Hughes says—is painted in a Fenway Park “Green Monster” hue, a nod to Murphy’s Massachusetts roots, and the built-in bookshelves along one wall are home to dozens of Murphy’s baseball hats. They also hold his rare beer collection and Hughes’ high-end bitters. But most of her spirits collection resides behind the mahogany bar.

A sentimental piece, the bar once belonged to Hughes’ father in Buffalo, who passed away of a stroke two years ago. “It was kind of his dream,” says Hughes. “He’d always wanted to have a ‘Cheers’ vibe in his house.”

Also making the trip from Buffalo was her father’s leg lamp with fishnet stockings, a vintage gramophone, a Maltese falcon figurine and a Guy Fawkes mask. “It’s a nice homage to my dad,” says Hughes. “When we drink, we’ve fulfilled what he wanted his bar to be.”

It’s a place for hanging with friends, no doubt. But it’s also a place where Hughes and Murphy experiment with concoctions, testing recipes that often end up on their menus. But when it comes time to unwind, Hughes heads for the rye, Murphy for the bourbon. That is, unless there’s something lighter available. His drink of choice these days? Rosé or chardonnay.

Hughes laughs as Murphy tips a glass of rosé her direction: “James will crush some white wine.”

Photos: Cass Bradley | BlueSky Photo Artists

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