Approaching its third anniversary in August, Vinyl Music Hall’s 5 ½ Bar quickly made a name for itself as the go-to place for high quality, old school inspired cocktails. Part of the bar’s methodology is its attention to ingredients. Aside from high quality liqueurs and mixers—where else in town do you order a drink that has bitters in it—bartender Patrick Bolster also uses fresh herbs and produce from local farmers.
Flavor and visual interest are the main benefits of fresh ingredients, Bolster believes. “There is a big difference when it’s fresh, I call it the fajita affect,” said Bolster, referencing the way people turn their heads when a sizzling plate of food goes by. “When people see a drink, they say, ‘What’s that?’ when they see a fresh garnish.”
Bolster writes the cocktail menu based on what seasonal ingredients are available. Each week, the bar goes through pounds of lemon, limes, cucumbers, berries, basil, mint, “As far as food, it’s been going on for years, but it seems like the public is more conscious of it now, using less commercially produced ingredients, less industrialized product.”
Bolster keeps the menu as fresh and local as possible, buying from Bailey’s and, more recently, from Flora Bama Farms, and encourages customers to ask about what ingredients are new. “If I were coming into 5 ½, I would definitely ask what’s fresh, what’s local,” said Bolster. “We’re always happy to whip something up.”
5 ½ Bar
5 E. Garden St.