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Whiskey bar takes over former downtown Greenville coffee spot | Food

GREENVILLE — It happened quietly, which was partly intentional but also partly the way the owners of COS, a new whiskey bar at 109 West Stone Ave., want the place to feel.

With COS, Jarvis Nealy has created what he hopes is a relaxed, unpretentious space to cozy up and enjoy interesting spirits. COS’s offering is focused on lesser-known, harder to find spirits, with a collection that includes rums, gins, whiskeys, scotch, tequilas and more than 147 bourbons. All have been carefully selected by Nealy, with at least 100 bottles pulled from his own personal collection.

“This gives you an opportunity to come somewhere instead of having to go downtown,” Nealy said. “And if there is something you have thought about trying but you don’t want to pay $70 for a bottle or you don’t want to pay $140 for a bottle, you can come in here and try it.”

The idea for COS grew from several things: the pandemic, which made available the former Coffee on Stone space that COS occupies, the desire to offer something unique for those in the neighborhood and beyond, and Nealy’s extensive spirits collection.

Dana Lowie, Nealy’s wife, who owns Coffee Underground downtown, opened Coffee on Stone Westone in 2018. She also opened World Piece, the pizza-focused restaurant next door. But while World Piece found a rhythm, Coffee on Stone never quite could.

After the coffee shop closed, Nealy and Lowie put their heads together about other uses for the vacant café space. Nealy immediately thought about his spirits collection. The collection of over 500 bottles from around the world was amassed over 40 years.

With an empty space and a fair amount of appreciation and knowledge, Nealy suggested a whiskey bar that, while offering a chance to explore the world of spirits, also offered a laidback, unpretentious atmosphere.

COS has no TVs, no bright lights and no loud music. Instead, the space is cozy and small. Perfect for having a conversation, Nealy said.

The list of cocktails follows a more classic style, with sips like a paper plane, a gimlet, a martini and a whiskey sour. At COS, a paloma is made with Squirt, the grapefruit flavored soda, not grapefruit juice, “the way it’s supposed to be made,” Nealy said proudly.

“You can go anywhere and take 30 minutes to get a drink,” said Nealy grinning. “Watch somebody put smoke in your glass or light a pecan and put a cup over it.

“The feel we were going for was an old retro, easygoing, laid back, classic.”

COS opened quietly in late October with an offering that includes many of Nealy’s collected spirits from around the world, along with many lesser known and harder to find offerings.

The idea behind the curated collection is to offer people a chance to try something they might have heard about, or might have wanted to try, but couldn’t see spending hundreds on a whole bottle. Nealy also hopes COS will provide a place for people to discover new likes.

The menu includes an impressive list of spirits available in 2-ounce pours. Furthering the idea of approachability and discovery, prices for all single-pour spirits include tax and the price for using it in a cocktail. An old fashioned with Buffalo Trace will cost a flat $14, the same as a 2-ounce pour.

“Everybody’s heard of Makers Mark, everybody’s heard of Makers Mark 46, but have you heard of Heavens Door?” Nealy said. “It has the same taste profile as Makers Mark but it tastes better.”

While you will absolutely find Jim Beam and Makers Mark at COS, the beauty is in the variety of lesser known brands and ones that are newer to South Carolina. Take Rabbit Hole for instance, a Kentucky distillery that makes bourbon and a bespoke gin, the former of which won top prizes at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. There is also Taconic, a brand out of New York that has just become available in South Carolina.

For those seeking the familiar, no problem, Nealy said. But for those who may want to explore the world of distilled spirits, they can. And that world is ever larger. Eventually, Nealy hopes to add flights as well, allowing people to try various spirits side by side.

COS doesn’t serve food but guests can order from World Piece next door. Wine or beer can also be ordered from World Piece.

Moving forward, Nealy plans to add barrel-aged cocktails to the menu. He is currently working on a batch of Manhattans that will be ready mid-January.

He is open to suggestion on spirits to carry.

“We hope people can try something a little different than you’re used to,” he said.

COS is located at 109 West Stone Ave., Greenville. Current hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

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