Amanda Britton & Larry Suggs
204 North Kitchen & Cocktails and SouthBound
In late 2015, Larry Suggs thought his girlfriend, Amanda Britton, had found someone else. Every day for more than a week, she made up excuses to leave for hours at a time.
What she was really doing: working on the front porch of her twin sister’s Mint Hill home, building Suggs a home bar. It was the perfect Christmas present for a bar aficionado.
Britton found the base of the bar—a bookshelf—at the now-defunct Clark’s Antiques on Central Avenue. Then she found the wooden palettes she used to make the bar top at the warehouse for Artisan Beverage Group. She treated the wood, stained it, sealed it, and then etched their initials in it.
One afternoon while Suggs was out, Britton set it up in the dining room of his Collingswood home. When he got back, she was sitting at the bar with an Old Fashioned ready for him.
“I was pretty shocked,” says Suggs, smiling. “I had my hands on my head, silent.”
That night, he asked Britton to move in.
These days, after spending a year as an apprentice of mixologist Bob Peters at The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte’s Punch Room, Suggs, 28, is leading the bar program at SouthBound, the new taco and tequila restaurant in South End. Britton, 31, is the bar manager and head mixologist at 204 North in uptown Charlotte and was recently named “Mixologist of the Year” by the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.
The cocktail power couple’s home-bar also has graduated—from the crowded dining room to a cellar room on the backside of the house that seems tailor made for an operation like theirs. Recessed shelves now hold their vast liquor collection, full of local spirits such as Sutler’s Spirit Co. in Winston-Salem and Muddy River Distillery in Belmont.
A side table holds Britton’s collection of vintage glassware, and throughout the space are small, meaningful touches, like Fernet Branca posters (their favorite spirit) and figurines of pineapples—the international symbol of hospitality, the driving force of their careers.
“Our job isn’t making drinks,” Britton says. “It’s taking care of people.”
Further evidence that they’re using this space for exactly what it’s supposed to be: After Suggs bought the home, he found a few prescient items in the deep recesses of the crawl space: a decades-old ice cooler, ice pick, and strainer.
Colleen Hughes & James Murphy
Haberdish and Abari Game Bar
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.”
Liz & Andrew Porter
Doc Porter’s Distillery
Step into the Sedgefield home of Liz and Andrew Porter, and you’d be hard-pressed to deduce that the couple runs one of the most buzzed-about distilleries in the state.
They don’t have an elaborate bar room, a wine fridge, or special ice maker. Rather, their cocktail supplies are incorporated in their everyday life—a life with an 18-month-old, Bridget and a 3-year-old, Quinn (“a rascal and a half,” says Liz).
The artfully arranged gold bar cart in the living room shares a wall with a comfy kid’s chair. By the side entrance to their home, a fire-truck-red tricycle sits in front of their built-in bookcases, arranged with spirits, copper Moscow mule mugs, and books about bourbon and bitters.
And their pièce de résistance—a vintage Coldspot refrigerator with a kegerator and two-spout draft dispensing—is covered in kids’ artwork and playful magnets.
“Our friends adore it,” says Liz.
Andrew bought it for $150 on Craigslist, and Liz decided the “ugly brown” fixture, covered in scratches and stickers, needed rehabbing. So they pulled the stickers off, sanded it, and covered it in metallic-blue car paint. For Andrew’s 30th-birthday party in August, they loaded it with a keg of saison from Sugar Creek Brewing Co.
But it’s on the kitchen counter that you’ll find the collection of Doc Porter’s spirits that point to the family business. Andrew and Liz, 36, opened their lower South End grain-to-glass distillery in November 2015, and since have produced vodka, gin, and bourbon. They’ve also got plans for rye whiskey, absinth, an amaro liqueur, and a barrel-aged gin.
But after the kids have their sippy cups, their snacks, and their Aladdin playing on the living room’s mounted flat-screen TV, you’ll usually find Liz and Andrew sipping something simple: a gin and tonic, a vodka martini, or an Old-Fashioned.
They may even let their 3-year-old suck on the unused lime.
Photos by Cass Bradley | BlueSky Photo Artists