North Myrtle Beach’ SeaBlue raising the bar on its bar selection

For Weekly SurgeDecember 31, 2013 

Behind the bar at Sea Blue Wine Bar & Restaurant. Photo by Kevin Hoover for Weekly Surge.

It is one of the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America, according to Opentable.com, the top reservation Web site in the land.

The same Web site honored its wine list as one of the Top 100 Wine Lists in America for the last two years.

Wine Spectator Magazine, the wine lovers guide to anything drinkable, has bestowed it with the Best of Award of Excellence for the wine list the last two years. This honor is reserved for only 850 restaurants nationwide and it is the only restaurant on the Grand Strand to earn the category.

Instead of becoming complacent after five years at the helm, Ken Norcutt, proprietor and chef of this food and drink mecca, aims to take Sea Blue Wine Bar & Restaurant (503 U.S. 17 North, North Myrtle Beach) to a new level in 2014. A feat that many, present company included, did not think possible after the national accolades of the last two years.

Norcutt, by nature and occupation, is a chef. A real chef. One where taste trumps cost every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Just peek at his food menu where he uses local sources for as much as possible and serves both American Waygu and Japanese Kobe steak. When the vision for the bar program came about, he wanted the same principles that he uses in the kitchen to showcase something that we have not seen before on this scale in the Myrtle Beach area. Sea Blue is not just squeezing fresh juice and pouring a mid-level, mass-produced vodka as its so-called “house liquor.” This is the next plateau.

First, the bourbon list at Sea Blue will hold 25 bottles from distillers that would occupy the bourbon hall of fame, if one existed. Currently, the prizes of the list are Pappy Van Winkle 10, 12, 15 and 20-year bourbon. This alone trumps some of the best bars in the world. Yes, the world! To add to the roster, Elijah Craig 21-year, Jefferson 25-year and Prichard’s Double Barrelled Bourbon are the backbone for the notable selection. Norcutt says the bourbon list will be a static lineup that changes as he acquires new bottles.

Sea Blue is one of the only places north of Charleston to showcase an aged rum list. Mount Gay 1703 Oak Cask Selection, Mount Gay Extra Gold Reserve Cask and Ron Zacappa XO are making grand appearances for the rum fanatics. Sipping rum that is hand-crafted is the mission.

Speaking of sipping, The Macallan 30-year Single Malt Scotch is on display at Sea Blue. Sure, the bar has the 12, 18 and 25-year Macallan as well, but the 30-year is something special. I haven’t seen it anywhere else on the beach. While this is the pinnacle of any scotch list, Sea Blue has the best bottles from every region in Scotland.

Sitting at the bar in Sea Blue, I noticed something that had been eluding me since it was bottled. I finally saw, first hand, a bottle of Grand Marnier Quintesscence. The highest quality cordial that exists, possibly, was in the rotation. Retailing for around $800, Sea Blue is not the place for average. It is the place for excellence.

Truth be told, you can not just stock the bar with high-end bottles and become a great cocktail bar. You have to know how to serve them, mix them and handle them. Tracey Smith, proprietor and beverage expert at Sea Blue, is making her own bitters, tonics, shrubs and syrups. Her goal is to eliminate all already-flavored spirits and use only natural ingredients in her cocktails and mixers. On behalf of all quality cocktail drinkers in Myrtle Beach, we thank you.

Aside from making everything in the bar from scratch, just as they do in the kitchen, Smith is possibly the area’s authority when it comes to prohibition era cocktails. She promises some renditions of timeless classics including the Sazerac, the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan. As I watched her cut citrus like a surgeon saving a life, I knew that she was serious.

Outside of cocktails, Sea Blue is boasting nearly 60 wines by the glass. The addition of the Coravin System this month allows for by-the-glass offerings beyond your imagination. This precision wine preservation technology offers glasses from the famed producers of Opus One, Italy’s finer varietals such as Brunello di Montalcino and, maybe, some world class Bordeaux labels. The possibilities are endless.

Imbibing in the Myrtle Beach area is reaching a level of national notoriety and Sea Blue appears to be poised to be a leader in our beverage scene. Sea Blue is setting the bar, pun intended, very high.

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