Nightlife Diaries: Whiskey

Published Wed, Dec 21, 2011 09:25 AM
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Submitted by Red Rover — Correspondent

Rover Rating: 4 out of 4

Don Draper fanatics delight. If you're looking for a dark, unassuming bar to brood over a cigarette and a highball, land on Bull City's Main Street at Whiskey (no joke about the smoke; it's a cigar bar, so you can legally light up). Alone, on a date, with a small group (or even a gaggle of good fellows) — it doesn't matter. It's what every city needs. A sip spot that is just that. A sip spot. No bells and whistles. No Top 40 tracks. No pretentious or flavorful (or flavorless for that matter) fare. No pub grub. No buck hunter or corn hole. No booty shaking. I mean, sure, food is delish, corn hole is all the rage, and people love to shake their rump (preferably below a certain age), but sometimes, you just want to park your rump. And sometimes, you want a highball made the way history intended by a bartender who knows what she or he is doing — and who almost makes you feel like you're in one of those black-and-whites (where you could tell him your darkest secret and he'd just lean on the bar and nod, and you'd feel so understood) ... or, ya know, like Draper himself.

The thing about Whiskey is ... people like it. Clearly. The long rectangular space was littered with solos, duos and small groups sipping on their drams of, well, whiskey. Clearly. (This place is legit. It's not trying to be trendy. It's not a fad. It's "whiskey." They say it. They mean it.)

The shadowed wooden space is exactly what you would envision if you fashioned a place for Old Fashions. And the set-up is set up to be as all-inclusive or exclusive as you desire — furnished with small groupings of cozy leather chairs around small dimly lit round tables (just large enough for those highballs and the ever-so-apt ashtrays, in case you get tired of dangling that cigar or cigarette from your lip).

On this night, the well-populated bar sat as an anomaly to the empty street outside. I popped in Bull McCabe's afterward and was surprised to see a near empty bar with only a handful of what seemed to be regulars, compared to the throngs you might usually find at the Bull City staple on a Thursday night — and compared to the crowd I just parted at Whiskey. And read: Crowd. But not crowded. Not in a suffocating way. There's something about that space that feels open. Inviting. Like you're a part of something. Something sincere. Something historied.

And the drinks, while a little pricey, are worth the dollars. If you want a $10 vodka-Red Bull that will hop you up just enough to make bad decisions (which no doubt makes for good stories), go for it, but take it somewhere else. This is Whiskey. A lot of it (with 300ish selections — one of the most in the state). And specialty liqueurs; a modest selection of vino; and 16 home-state drafts; plus an extensive menu of tequila, vodka, rum and, of course, gin. It's direct. It's genuine. And the smatterings of stiff bar-special sips offered (ranging around $10-$12) are actually tipplers that will get you tipsy — in an ever-so-sophisticated way. And the Thursday night jazz staple (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.), the Brian Horton Trio, was no doubt a befitting nightcap to the hazy highball house. (You can also cop a squat Saturdays for some live tunes as pianist Ryan Hanseler twinkles the ivories).

Bottom line: Whiskey no doubt basks in its popularity via Don Draper devotees. But make no mistake about it. It's not kitsch. But it def has a niche. It's authentic. And it's for grownups. So whether you're looking for "mad" cocktails or you were born a tippler with a sophisticated palate, you'll just simply love it. But if you want to shake your rump, take it to da club.


347 West Main Street, Durham, NC 27701



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Who is Red Rover?

I'm a late 20-something female living in and living up the Triangle since 2005. When I'm out, you can find me almost anywhere — pubs to clubs, lounges to music halls.

If you spot me, chances are I'm rocking some heels, though when the occasion arises I won't argue with something more comfortable. I'm no stranger to cocktails and wine, but a tall pint of local brew is where my compass usually points.

Where should I go next?
If you know a place that I should check out, tell me on Twitter @trianglerover.

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