The secret entrance to Mint To Be Bubbly Bar.
Savannah is anything but a dry town. History-laden and moss-covered squares are what put the Hostess City on the map, along with being known as one of few destinations in the United States allowing the open carrying of alcohol.
It is not hard to imagine that Savannah’s open-container policy is an incidental effect of our prohibition past. In case you didn’t know, Savannah is the location of America’s very first ban on alcohol − dating back to 1735. Downtown Savannah’s Prohibition Museum in City Market has a plaque commemorating the original decree banning booze here, issued by King George II.
Later the temperance movement brought gangsters, bootleggers, and speakeasies, and even after the nationwide Prohibition ended in 1933, many relics of the dry period stuck around. Modern times may have washed away the real feeling of a speakeasy, since there is a lack of illegality, but in homage to our history you can still find recreations of ‘blind pigs’ all across the world.
One of my favorite cities that imitates the secret-bar experience flawlessly is Miami. In a semi-recent trip down south, I spent many nights staggering through the town’s most noteworthy hidden drinking holes.
At Little Havana’s Los Altos, you walk through a candy shop and ask the clerk for a drink. The next thing you know, a back room opens up, and Spanish dancers appear to welcome you into a tequila-focused nightclub. While at Bodega Taqueria on South Beach, you can order tacos at the front or walk through the bathroom to find a bar tucked away in the back.
I was transported back to my Miami trip when I walked through the doors of Mint To Be Bubbly Bar. The brand-new speakeasy, located in the heart of Savannah’s historic district, sits in the back of Mint To Be Mojito Bar. You may feel as though you have gone too far if you hit the bathroom doors, but persistence and a little searching will find you transported to another time and place.
The Hibiscus Champagne Cocktail with Billy Goat Chips, served at Mint To Be Bubbly Bar.
The champagne-focused bar is the brainchild of owner Alton Brecker. He handpicked and designed every detail down to the imported Italian floor tile. The space was once the home of a Segway tour company, and is now an institution for freely flowing champagne. Transforming the shop was no small feat; the bookcase doorway had to be custom made, the bright blue bar hand-built, the leaves painted by an artist, and neon signs sourced from vintage purveyors.
It all began when Brecker teamed up with Mary Githens of Latin Chicks to open Mint To Be Mojito Bar. Once the backroom became available, he stepped in to create the bar of his dreams.
“I had to redo the whole thing. I just kind of imagined the stuff in my brain,” Brecker explained as he poured me a glass of bubbly. His brain included things like the hand-painted palm fronds, a nod to Brecker’s time living in Hawaii.
The atmosphere is that of an eclectic lounge with a friendly soul. According to Becker, “I said from the very beginning, I don’t want this to be a pretentious place at all. I am not a pretentious person.”
Even the drinks are relaxed. Although it is a champagne bar, anything available will suit any palate that walks through the Instagram-famous bookshelf.
For a straightforward glass to tickle the nose, patrons can pick from the Bubbly Bar’s versatile list of sparkling wines and champagnes. With the help of his distributor, Brecker put together an all-encompassing inventory of bubbly.
“I love the way that they split it up heading-wise. There is delicious and sweet, the fresh and fruity, the exotic,” he explained. Fresh Brioche, which is one of the headings, represents the wine’s sweet and buttery notes, similar to brioche bread. There are also note designations like Amazingly Yeasty and Deliciously Sweet.
Recently Brecker extended the champagne list to include more Proseccos and his handpicked Lambrusco. The sparkling red hits close to home with Brecker.
“When I was little, in Boston, you would go to the Italian restaurant, and they would have Lambrusco, which is kind of like the two-dollar deal,” Brecker recalls.
The menu includes champagne cocktails loosely based on classic champagne mixed drinks. Mimosas, Bellinis, and a French 75 are available, but there are a few additional creative cocktails as well.
The Sav Gal Special is modeled after a French 75, but with a touch of blueberry. It is named after a local blogger who came into the Bubbly Bar and ordered her go-to version of the classic drink. Similarly, Jen’s Jolly Rodger and Abigail’s Melon Fusion are named to honor girls that work at Mint To Be Mojito.
For me, the standout of all of the champagne concoctions is the Hibiscus Champagne Cocktail. It is created by first pouring a base of hibiscus syrup, including the flower, followed by the house champagne. I suggest you eat the flower at the end of the flute. It is like the Luxardo cherry at the finish of an excellent Old Fashioned − a candy-sweet sticky surprise.
In recent years the Aperol Spritz has once again gained acclaim. It is created by mixing Aperol, Prosecco, and sparkling soda water. Spritzers hailed from Italy and were aptly named because of the spritz of sparkle added at the end. Mint To Be Bubbly Bar has an entire menu section dedicated to the Italian libation.
Because of the thick local summertime heat, a spritzer is a go-to midday drink for bachelorettes, brunch, or sightseeing. My personal favorite on the Bubbly Bar list is the Limoncello Spritz. The fresh lemon and Italian Limoncello brighten up the base of sweet champagne.
Both the Double Espresso Spritz and Dutch Chocolate Spritz pair nicely with any of the house sweets for an after-dinner nightcap. Both drinks are well-balanced due to bitter notes from the chocolate or espresso. Brecker throws in a chocolate swizzle stick for a playful twist to both cocktails.
After too many bubbles, there are light snacks available to freshen up the palate. The Billy Goat Chips were sought out by Becker because the chip’s unique seasoning is hard to pinpoint. The potatoes are something between a kettle chip and a classic cut chip, and I detected flavors of garlic and smoky paprika.
The cannoli and chocolate-covered strawberry served at Mint To Be Bubbly Bar.
For the sweets, the cannolis and chocolate-covered strawberries are made by a local cook Sara Lopez Smith from the restaurant All Things Chocolate And More.
“She is called the queen of cannoli because she does this. It’s ricotta. It’s the real McCoy,” says Becker of Smith.
The genuineness of the cannoli can be equated to its preparation. Too often, a cannoli is a limp, soggy mess resulting from improperly frying the shell. All Things Chocolate’s version is light, crisp, and filled to the brim with whipped ricotta. Be forewarned: the chocolate-covered strawberries are the size of a baby elephant, and take a few good tries to eat the entire decadent treat.
Mint To Be Bubbly Bar: 12 W. State St., Savannah. See minttobemojitobar.com for more details, and visit epicuropedia.com to read more by Lindy Moody.