I had a brief trip to Charlotte last night for a meeting. I was with a group of ten who descended on the Capital Grille for drinks after dinner. Very neat place. This is a higher-end chain steak house with outlets across the country. The Charlotte iteration was a pleasure to visit. We spent around two hours in the bar. It is a great space. Dark wood paneling, padded chairs and a brass topped bar whose construction seemed to conform to the dimension Dale DeGroof gives in his article in the second volume of the Mixologist (foot rest, 14 inches of space under the overhanging top for patrons to tuck in their feet and a proper width top that the bartenders can reach across while still giving the patrons a bit of room). The back bar was lined with a large selections of liquors. Various premium vodka brands are displayed to the right. Twenty or more bottles of scotch occupy the center area, with various supporting bottles below and to the left.

The bartenders were efficient with all our request. We hit them up for several standbys plus a few special requests. All drinks were free poured then shaken or stirred. My drinks were all in rocks glasses. I did notice that the cocktail glasses were well proportioned (7 ounces?) and not the monster glasses that seem so prevalent today. Garnishes were fresh, including twists when needed. Sour mix is fresh squeezed citrus per teh bar tender. The best thing I saw – a juice press behind the bar that saw frequent use. Martinis were stirred and served with a three-olive garnish.

I went with my standard Gimlet and Negroni. Both were quite good. The Gimlet had a double garnish, a lime and a lemon wedge. The bartender was unfamiliar with the Negroni, but after I spouted off the proportions it was mixed and served quickly. I noticed that while I was reciting the recipe, the second bartender was already coming over to us with a bottle (half-empty) of Campari. Someone was drinking it. Good drink here too.

Our crowd thinned out but we stuck it out to closing time. Toward the end of the night we struck up a conversation with a younger couple at the bar. I grabbed a Margarita for last call. It exceeded my standard two drink limit per night, but I really wanted to try something with the sour mix (plus I only had to walk to my hotel). It was a bit disappointing, built and served in a 16 oz glass. Not quite enough citrus for my taste. Jose Cuevo was the house brand, but I opted for silver Patron. That helped some.

All in all though, another keeper – good drinks with tremendous selection, an attentive bar staff, and an environment that was relaxing and conducive to conversation.

three out of three olives

The Capital Grille

201 North Tyron Street – IJL Financial Center

Charlotte, NC 28202

phone:  (704) 348-1400