THE SUN HAS BARELY SET on Friday, yet the bar at Haberdish is two people deep already. The time it takes for many customers to see their drinks and to photograph them ranges somewhere between the length of a “wow” and an “oh my gosh.” Some customers arrange backdrops; others raise cameras coyly and play it cool. Behind the bar, Colleen Hughes shakes a cocktail and watches out of the corner of her eye with a smile. The bar is having fun, and so is she.
Hughes, the bar manager, stirred the cocktail buzz here. She creates the evolving drink menu with the eye of an artist, the mind of a scientist, and the playfulness of a kid.
Her original professional ambition was to design hair and makeup for the theater—she even went to cosmetology school—and now she applies her eye for the aesthetic to her career in mixology. Her drinks are stunning and stage ready.
When Haberdish opened in December 2016, it captured Charlotte’s attention with flower ice, a bloom surrounded by glass-clear ice. The clarity is no easy feat: Water freezes from the outside in, so air bubbles or impurities get pushed to the center, creating cloudiness. Hughes found a way to make the ice perfectly clear—she’s not saying how—and took the bar’s ice another step further: If perfectly clear ice is pretty, then what about perfectly clear ice with flowers frozen inside? She dolled up fun drinks, like champagne punches, with blooms. Even classics such as old-fashioneds become things of beauty with roses suspended inside them.
Soon, people flocked to Haberdish seeking flower ice. Others came demanding it, even sending a drink back if it didn’t come with a bloom in it. One woman sat at the bar and declared that if she didn’t get flower ice in her drink she would leave. Amused but obliging, Hughes gave her the last flower ice at the bar that night; crisis averted.
“We created a monster. … On a Friday night, we would run out of flower freakin’ ice by 7,” Hughes says.