Arts & Events

Hidden apothecary well worth the visit to Hilltop

I ride my noble steed through the Hilltop neighborhood, crossing MLK Blvd. I seek a newly famed cocktail bar that is rumored to offer wonderfully unique beverage experiences. I turn onto South J Street and accidentally ride past the dimly lit building, which is accented with a modest wooden sign, nestled behind an iron gate—I have arrived at 1022 South.

It is just past 4 o’clock, and I have already scouted my premier beverage choices from the online happy hour menu. The bartender is lighting the last tabletop candles as I enter. She greets me with a drink menu, from which I cheerily order my first drink (and consequently my first recommendation): the Liza Island. The bartender goes to work on my drink, giving me a moment to take in the atmosphere.

A mere two miles from campus, 1022 is modestly decorated, save for the wall behind the bar which is unabashedly stacked with a vast array of liquor bottles. There is no television to be found within view, which I find makes the establishment more welcoming. The atmospheric simplicity of 1022 is largely comprised of ambient lighting, dark wood and a chalkboard that presents the menu. The overall feeling is cozy and comfortable without inducing claustrophobia.

My Liza Island arrives, basking me in its beautiful, luminescent glory. The Liza Island consists of vodka, Licor 43, orange and ginger beer. I have to remind myself to slow down and savor it. 1022 makes all of their cocktails with fresh, seasonal herbs and house-made bitters.

It should also be noted that while the drinks are not “stiff,” per se, they are pungent in character, flavor and alcohol content. Without counting off how many more I consumed on this evening, I will say that I highly recommend the Hilltop New Yorker (whiskey, lemon & red wine rhubarb bitters), the Richmond Gimlet (gin, lime & mint), the 1022 Old Fashioned (bourbon, orange, saffron & cardamom bitters), and the aptly named Endgame (bourbon, kava kava, damiana & birch bitters, & green Chartreuse).

Whereas some taverns or cocktail bars have a leaning towards a particular gimmick (e.g. sports bar, jazz lounge, etc.), 1022 manages to be socially neutral without being bland and ambiguous. As a result, the clientele of 1022 is quite diverse: from hipsters and gutter punks, to professors (don’t get excited, he was not a  professor) and lawyers.

To be clear, this does not mean that the atmosphere is inconsistent, for through subsequent visits to 1022, I have found that it is consistently mellow in character. On the rare night, there might not be seating room and/or the music may be slightly louder than usual, although never too loud to hold  conversation with friends. This makes for an ideal venue to descend upon with a small group to socialize and enjoy exceptional drinks.

One must keep in mind that while 1022’s handmade cocktails are delicious, they can easily put a dent in the average college student’s budget at $8-$10 per drink (save for the Happy Hour drinks, which are around $5 each). This should not dissuade you from visiting 1022, but it does mean that if you intend to get sloppy-drunk, you might consider finishing your night elsewhere.

1022 offers a relaxed, low-key environment that can be conducive to working (I have been known to do homework at 1022), unwinding after a long day or sharing a beverage and snack with friends.

While 1022 does not offer the “get smashed” specials of other local venues, it does offer tasty unique handcrafted drinks, delicious small plates, and a welcoming comfortable atmosphere. 1022 is more than worth the bike ride, walk or bus ride—but don’t drive.