Best of Knoxville 2014: DRINK

Best Sweet Tea


The Knoxville-born, World's Fair-approved Petro's may be our best chili-n-chips slinger, but its secret weapon is that Hint of Orange Tea, with precisely balanced fruitiness that keeps you coming back for a refill. (C.T.)

Runners Up: Big Fatty's, Chandler's Deli, Sweet P's BBQ & Soul House

Best Martini


If this category were a sports jersey, it would already have been retired in honor of the countless wins that Sapphire has scored. What's the secret? Simplicity. You just take the best ingredients, mix them in the right ratio with the right amount of ice, and serve the drink at the right temperature; of course, you have to do it right every time—which, judging from their domination of this category, Sapphire does. And it's essential that a winning martini is served in a classy atmosphere, with attractive company, and that is Sapphire to a tee. (D.P.)

Runners Up: The Crown & Goose, Cru Bistro & Wine Bar, Peter Kern Library

Best Margarita

Soccer Taco

Sometimes you want to go to fancy cocktail bar and order a fancy margarita with fresh lime juice and Patron and a jalapeño garnish. And we love those kinds of margaritas. But when you're meeting your friends to watch a two-hour soccer game, you don't want that nonsense. You want a cheap, tasty, refreshing margarita. Actually a pitcher of them. No, make it two. And that's what Soccer Taco serves, and that's why it's a beloved hangout. But if you're planning on watching the U.S. Men's National Team there this summer, playing in their Group of Death in the World Cup, get there early—and up that margarita order. We've going to need a lot of tequila to get through the stress of those games. (C.W.G.)

Runners Up: Cancun, Chez Guevara, Senor Taco

Best Bloody Mary

Bistro at the Bijou

We can't really complain that Martha Boggs upped the price of Bloodies to $4.50 this year—at $3.50, they were probably the cheapest in town. But what's an extra dollar when you're so hungover you were barely able to throw on clothes and stumble down to Bistro and you can't even take your sunglasses off inside because that's how much it hurts? One—or two—of these babies, and the pain is gone. Well, maybe not totally gone, but at least tolerable. Just spicy enough, just boozy enough, with just enough olives garnishing it, the Bistro's Bloody Mary is a steadfast weekend cure-all. Just don't drink so many you end up in the same boat that got you there in the first place. (C.W.G.)

Runners Up: Copper Cellar, The Crown & Goose, Preservation Pub

Best Happy Hour

Downtown Grill & Brewery

Whether you call it "the Grill" or "the Brewpub," for short, may depend on whether you're younger or older than 40, but that variance in itself is testament to the fact that place appeals to a lot of different demographics. Their Happy Hour is not just a good deal on beer; what people come for after work every day is the atmosphere they've created. The Gay Street patio, the big ground-floor room with its island bar, the mezzanine, the game room, the back porch, the combination of high tables and low tables, it's a big place that encourages variety of interaction. People happily spend hours, days, perhaps whole lives here. Sometimes you'll find a card game or even a Scrabble game in progress. Lately some have been claiming its importance goes somewhere beyond mere relaxation, that maybe downtown's revival wouldn't have happened without the brewpub. Developers, architects, investors, politicians, and clients have met here, often accidentally. By the way, this is the fourth and by far most successful articulation of Knoxville's first modern-era brewpub, which first opened in this interesting space 20 years ago this summer, and became an instant gathering place for Knoxvillians high, low, and sideways. (J.N.)

Runners Up: Central Flats & Taps, Preservation Pub, Sapphire

Best Beer Selection (Restaurant)

Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria

See Also: Best Pizza in Food

Runners Up: Central Flats & Taps, Downtown Grill & Brewery, Suttree's High Gravity Tavern

Best Wine List (Restaurant)

Oodles Uncorked
Even a brief glance at Oodles' wine list is enough to excite the adventurous oenophile—the list is full of interesting, well-chosen, and affordable selections. There are plenty of safe and popular choices, but with options like Shooting Star Blue Frank, Hopler Gruner Veltliner, and Parallel 45 Rosé, there's ample reason to explore the road less traveled. The list seems particularly well suited for mealtime enjoyment, which is nice since the restaurant offers excellent Italian fare that practically begs for wine—like an excellent pasta with wild mushrooms and a Tuscan riff on shrimp and grits. (D.P.)
Runners Up: Bistro by the Tracks, Copper Cellar, Cru Bistro & Wine Bar

Best Neighborhood Bar/Pub

Central Flats & Taps

It's only a couple of years old, but for some, it already defines the beating heart of Happy Holler. By day, a restaurant serving flats (for the uninitiated, it's kind of like pizza, generally with less glop), at night it becomes a phenomenon that some are surprised to find compares well to the best of downtown, sometimes with live acoustic music, its back patio often crowded. The amazingly revived century-old neighborhood known as Old North claims it as its own, but a few other north-side sections think of it as theirs, too; and, in fact, some suburbanites like to drive there, and, for a night, flatter themselves by pretending they're locals. (J.N.)
Runners Up: Bearden Beer Market, Preservation Pub, Suttree's High Gravity Tavern

Best Liquor Store

Best Wine Store

Bob's Wine and Liquor
Bob's might not have the specialized liqueurs that Downtown Wine + Spirits does, and it might not have the fancy wine cellar of Ashe's, but Bob's routinely wins our competition every year. Why? Selection and price. Bob's has more wine than you can shake a stick at—everything from the obvious mass-produced choices to expensive boutique productions. It also has tons of booze (although Russian vodka no longer, due to events in the Ukraine). And when Bob's puts things on special, stock up—bottles that elsewhere retail for $12.99 will be $7.99. It's hard to not walk out with way more than you intended to buy. (C.W.G.)
Best Liquor Store Runners Up: Ashe's Wine & Spirits, Downtown Wine + Spirits, McScrooge's Wine & Spirits
Best Wine Store Runners Up: Ashe's Wine & Spirits, Corks Wine & Spirits, Downtown Wine + Spirits

Best Knoxville-Brewed Beer

Saw Works Brewery

Drinking beer these days can be hard. From imperial stouts with 13 percent ABV and insanely hopped double IPAs to wild yeasts and beers aged in bourbon barrels, it really is a new golden age of craft beer, but beer nerds aren't always the most welcoming community—the focus on ever more extreme flavors and hop content can be intimidating, and the snobbery of some Internet message boards can be enough to drive even the most committed craft-brew fan back to six-packs of Sam Adams. Which is all the more reason to appreciate Saw Works Brewing Company. The brewery's stable of regular beers, like its excellent, approachable, and subtle English brown ale and pale ale, is based on drinkability and tradition rather than intensity and grandstanding. There's always a seasonal selection or two available, too, which keeps things interesting. (Right now, a pair of IPAs are on tap at your favorite watering hole.) (M.E.)
Runners Up: Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, Downtown Grill & Brewery, Smoky Mountain Brewery

Best Beer Market

Bearden Beer Market
Admittedly, I am not much of a beer drinker, but that's what I like about BBM. I can walk in, ask the guys behind the counter which beer a non-beer drinker might like, and they'll let me taste their suggestions until I find something I can tolerate. But that's not why everyone else loves BBM. They love the ever-changing selection of beers, and they love the bustling patio, where someone's always playing cornhole or Jenga. I'm not sure that any other bar in town inspires such devotion from its regulars, who run every Monday night, whether its 10 degrees or 100. You could say there's a cult of BBM, and that might be somewhat true, but it's also just a nice place to go sit outside and have a beer—even if you don't like beer. (C.W.G.)
Runners Up: The Casual Pint, Corks Wine & Spirits, Vic's Beer Store & Cigar Shoppe

Best Sports Bar

Runners Up: Bearden Field House, Central Flats & Taps, Soccer Taco

Best Bartender

Zak Klapperich (Central Flats & Taps)

Zak's approach to bartending is simple: "I see my job as more than a way to put yourself through college, and I guess that translates into how I treat people." While he's certainly adept at mixing, shaking, and serving everything from classic cocktails to spur-of-the-moment, customer-inspired creations, he sees the job, like any good, service-oriented professional might, as an exercise in relationship building. And like all good bartenders, Zak's got an interesting history—which, in his case, includes a stint with Teach for America on Chicago's South Side. Maybe you should go buy him a drink. (D.P.)
Runners Up: Kate Coffman (Bearden Beer Market), Maryssa Dishinger (Urban Bar), Amie Snyder (Sapphire)