by Eric Ginsburg
The last few patrons slipped out of Lucky 32 about 20 minutes before the bar closed on a Thursday, heading towards the white Lexus and BMW parked out front. By closing time at 11 p.m., most of Greensboro’s classier bars and kitchens are serving their final drinks or have already shut down their kitchens, coaxing patrons back to their domiciles.
But at 1618 Wine Lounge, the Irving Park crowd and others who look the part were still ordering more rounds. A small group of men lingered near the bar, half-heartedly watching an NFL game near the only seats still available in the popular venue.
Mild Halloween decorations in the form of jack-o-lantern lights and bat stickers on the wall and upbeat music added to the ambiance, but what better defines 1618 is the array of small plates, a craft-cocktail menu and a well dressed doorman welcoming visitors.
At 10, the menu options drop down to a late-night list, which still includes a plate that allows people to supplement their beverages with five cheeses. The cheeses — which for this outing included boursin, manchego, smoked cheddar, Humboldt Fog goat cheese and Eiffel Tower brie — tasted best on small pieces of bread and dipped in a fantastic house-made jam good enough to eat by the spoonful.
The jam isn’t the only impressive thing made in house — there is a tap dedicated to 1618’s homemade ginger beer — but by 11 p.m. that night, everyone focused primarily on getting a little lit.
There are several wines on tap, and 1618 sells small tastes and half glasses, encouraging experimentation. Not surprising for a place with “wine” in its name, 1618 takes its wine seriously, offering a big enough selection to justify separate red and white tabs on its website.
Even beer has a presence here, listed by type (including descriptions often reserved for wine such as “intense, floral, bold,”). Mystery Brewing, out of Hillsborough, was still pouring on several of the taps after a beer dinner the week prior, as is the last of a watermelon beer from High Point’s Liberty Brewing.
But, having only partially explored 1618’s craft cocktails before, I was in the mood to discover. I knew the Foxbite — Death’s Door gin, aperol, ginger brew and lime juice — was a worthy choice, but to avoid redundancy, I ordered the 1618 sazerac. Rule of thumb: If the restaurant tacks its name to the beverage, as it does only with the sazerac, order it.
The Bulleit rye, which is pretty hip these days, comes in a Pernod-rinsed rocks glass with Peychauds bitters, agave and an orange twist placed in the middle. In plain English, it’s a remarkably smooth drink that is more balanced and satisfying than the Aviator —a bluish-purple gin drink I also tried — and though the sazerac looks like a light pour, it is executed masterfully.
Visit 1618 Wine Lounge at 1618winelounge.com or in person at 1724 Battleground Ave, GSO.