Cocktail Recipes From Knoxville Bartenders

Formula for a happy hour: drink and appetizer pairings at local restaurants

Wine pairing, beer pairing... what about Happy Hour? What goes with appetizers and snacks? Done—here's how to shake up three signature cocktail recipes from local restaurants, and the appetizer that goes best with each.

The Grill at Highlands Row

Moonshine Mojito with Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

Distinct cuisine with a Southern flair is the watchword at Highlands Row, but they've got a quirky sense of humor, too. How else could they invent a line of moonshine cocktails? This one, the Moonshine Mojito, is fairly simple, and pairs well with any number of Southern-attitude appetizers. Black-eyed pea hummus is a particularly good match, since the mint and lime cut the smooth-salty sensation, and the velvety texture. If you don't have a muddler, notes Joanna Wilde, a bartender from Highlands, anything with a blunt end will do to mash the mint—like the non-business end of a wooden spoon. And, she cautions, make sure to tear the mint leaves before you start mashing, er, muddling. "You really want to release the natural oil, and you don't want the pieces to be too big."

Juice of one whole lime

Around 10 mint leaves, from a single sprig

A little splash of simple syrup (or just some granulated sugar)

Soda water or Sprite, depending on your sweet tooth

1 1/2 oz. Great Smoky Mountain Distillery moonshine

Tear the mint leaves and muddle them in a highball glass. Add cubed ice and moonshine. Fill glass with soda or Sprite, stir. Pour into another glass, and back into the original glass to serve.

Nama Sushi Bar

Green Tea Ginger Gimlet with Maui Wowie Roll

This cocktail uses what restaurant manager Scott Adams, who is currently assisting in a revamp of Nama's cocktail menu, calls a "name drop" vodka—UV Sweet Green Tea Vodka. "It's trendy, but not super high-end," he says, "It's approachable." The ginger and lime give this drink an American-Asian flair, ideal for enjoying with sushi. One must pair it carefully, though, says Adams. "It's already spicy, so you want sushi that's not too savory or spicy—something with a little sweet, like the pineapple salsa in the Maui Wowie, which also includes a crunchy shrimp roll topped with yellowtail and avocado." At either Nama location, the sushi chefs are happy to pair a beverage with any "chef's choice" sushi they prepare, too.

1 1/2 oz. UV Sweet Green Tea Vodka

1 oz. Rose's lime juice

1 oz. fresh lime juice (from a half lime)

2 slices peeled, raw ginger root, each the size of a nickel

Shake all well with ice and serve in a high ball glass.

S & W Grand

Claire-voyant with Oysters Rockefella

The S & W's signature appetizer is over the top with richness: shades of Benton's Bacon, hollandaise, rich creamy spinach... That's what makes this "Claire-voyant," named for owner Brian Balest's fiancee, such a perfect foil. It's light, and the grape juice has tannins. "The tannins will pull the fat off your tongue, and make every bite taste like the first bite," says bar manager Shane Sullins, who learned the trick at a franchise steakhouse, where red wine did the same for prime rib. Sullins claims to have worked in 31 restaurants in his day, and maybe he's serious, but he's been at S & W nonstop since its October opening. This invention of his won one of the Market Square Farmers Market mixology contests; hence its use of fresh, local produce in the form of cucumbers.

3 crescent moon slices of peeled, halved, seeded and pureed (or muddled) cucumber

2 oz. vodka

2 oz. Welch's white grape juice

Muddle or puree the cucumber in a glass. Fill a shaker with ice, add vodka, juice, and cucumber. Shake and pour back into glass.