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Beyond the Barrel

Equal parts construction and cocktail, this old fashioned offers more than a taste of the tropics.

By: Thomas Ehlers

For eagle-eyed patrons enjoying a drink at the bar in the Georgian Rooms, it’s hard to overlook the collection of coconuts sitting on the counter. Not just decoration, Resort Bars and Spirits Manager Nic Wallace and his team devoted considerable time to the research and development of the restaurant’s new cocktail menu—ultimately drawing inspiration from a fruit synonymous with coastal life.


After renovations were completed in 2023, Wallace set out to build a beverage program for Georgian Rooms that would reflect its new, elevated but lively, approach—a classic American grill with a uniquely Sea Island twist. Inspired by this idea, the presentations for some of the restaurant’s most timeless cocktails were given a modern spin. Today, that includes the on-draft Nitro Espresso Martini and Garden Mule with Sea Island Strawberry Four Peel Gin, among others—but none is more grand than the Coconut-Aged Old Fashioned.


“It was probably the most ambitious of the collection because it involved a lot of trial and error,” said Wallace, a member of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild. That research process began by ideating and finding the perfect vessel. While the resort already offers many barrel-aged cocktails, some with multiple varieties of wood, this was intended to be something different.

“Several different coconut varieties were tested... after settling on the exact right coconut, then came the construction.” - Nic Wallace, Resort Bars and Spirits Manager

Coconut Cocktail

At first, the team mulled on a leather-aged concept and debated the use of several organic or inorganic containers. “We wanted to find something that could be used very sustainably,” Wallace said. “We began looking at things like watermelons and different types of fruits, but then coconuts came to mind.”



Coconut Cocktail

While the coconut is empty, the outside husk is toasted using a handheld torch.

Several different coconut varieties were tested and evaluated for taste, ripeness, and the volume each could hold. After settling on the exact right coconut, then came the construction. “It took a while for us to get the process exactly down,” Wallace recalls. Determining the right sized drill hole to use, that would hold a pour spout tight enough without leaking as the cocktail was poured tableside, proved to be a challenge. “Let’s just say that there were many coconuts that we left on the cutting room floor,” laughs Wallace.


Once perfected, the team began working to find the perfect spirit base. Whiskey, due to the presence of coconut flavor in many whiskey barrels, was ultimately chosen.


Sea Island WhistlePig Piggyback Rye is the centerpiece of the drink, as the six-year, spicy rye pairs well with the coconut flavors. An orange oil-based syrup, featuring a red wine reduction, serves as the cocktail’s sugar and creates a bright citrus flavor profile that blends naturally with the coconut and whiskey. Barrel-aged vanilla and cacao bitters are added as well.


With its components nearly complete, half of the milk is taken from the coconut and used to dilute the cocktail, while the other half is used in a separate spicy margarita drink. “Waste not, want not,” Wallace states. While the coconut is empty, the outside husk is toasted using a handheld torch—maximizing the subtle nuances of the fruit’s flavors. Then, the beverage is poured back into the coconut and is aged for at least 24 hours before serving. Each coconut can hold about two to three servings.


When a Coconut-Aged Old Fashioned is ordered, bartenders and servers often revel in seeing the surprise on the guest’s face. “It’s quite the presentation,” states Assistant General Manager of Georgian Rooms Greg Schutt.


The cocktail is dispensed into a rocks glass over a crystal-clear ice block stamped with a letter “G,” a logo used only in the Georgian Rooms. The drink is finished with a simple, clean-trimmed orange peel. “It’s a really neatly made drink with little frills on the garnish aspect, but more so in the flavor and presentation,” Wallace said.