In the late 1880's, the dry and refreshing turpentine laden atmosphere of Summerville figured dramatically in a declaration originating out of Paris, France where a Congress of Physicians named it one of two places in the world best suited for the treatment and cure of pulmonary disease. The impact was almost immediate and the town was launched into a Golden Age of economic prosperity and international fame.
The anticipated rise in tourism energized the local government and plans were inaugurated to address the incursion of visitors. Grand inns were built and opportunistic residents turned their homes into bed and breakfasts. To entertain the visitors during their leisure time, tourist attractions were incorporated and tours of local points of interest were arranged. Over time, social, economic and natural upheavals blew through the Flowertown in the Pines and the days of prosperity went quietly into the night.
In 2012, a beloved local magazine dedicated to "celebrating the character, beauty and pace of the South Carolina Lowcountry with Summerville at the center" stepped out on a pretty thick pine tree limb and made a dramatic declaration pronouncing Summerville as the Birthplace of Sweet Tea.
A new day dawned and the town has since been launched into a new Golden Age. Local organizations committed to bettering the community and its businesses embraced the sweet tea renaissance. The Sweet Tea Trail was inaugurated and tours highlighting Summerville's illustrious past and present have been organized in partnership with the Lowcountry Trolley. The Good Eats on the Sweet Tea Trail has been a huge success.
The newest addition to the Trolley Tours was previewed on Saturday, July 19th called Sip and Savor or Drink the Ville. A cocktail hour trolley tour beginning at 4 pm, it takes you on a scenic drive through the historic district of Summerville stopping at three of its favorite establishments. Cocktails, wine or samples of local brews await your arrival for you to sip and savor--bartenders choice. It departs from Oscar's Restaurant on the 3rd Saturday of the month and tickets are $27.
After a couple of pictures in Oscar's reception area and a few welcoming words by our guide, Tina Zimmerman, we were instructed to gather at the bar and choose between two cocktails named Old House Crown and South Cackakackey(Cackalackey is a nickname for Carolina). If you were there as a couple and you incorporated a bit of shrewdness, the choice was easy and rewarding--each mark a different selection and enjoy both cocktails by sharing.
While we sipped the outstanding drinks Tom, Oscar's representative, introduced the bartender and shared the contents of the cocktails. While going over the dinner selections for that evening, he flavored his narration with some humorous quips, also introducing himself by what he referred to as his Indian name, Running Tab. Crab dip on a small cracker was placed before us as a teaser. The sly maneuver left you wanting more.
After a pleasant ride on the trolley, our second stop was Miler Country Club or better known by long time residents as the Country Club of Summerville. An interesting piece of golf course history mixed in with a full glass of a refreshing sweet tea concoction and cups of Palmetto Cheese and Chicken Salad was offered up.
We were cooled by the "Big Ass Fan" while sitting at tables on the Candlelite Pavillion. Another group picture and we were on the road to the "C" of Summerville or Coastal Coffee Roasters, our third and final stop.
The "C's" community table was lined with glasses of Sierra Nevada and platters of jelly covered bread. Those who didn't want to drink beer were accommodated with a replacement beverage.
Brad Mallett, owner and orchestrator of the "most popular venue in Summerville", welcomed the group and spoke about the "C's" driving force, community spirit. Besides roasting the finest coffee, it is a gathering place for talented musicians and artists, imaginative writers, and aspiring entrepreneurs. Plans are underway for a brewery on sight.
The group ended the visit gathered at the painting of Bill Murray drinking coffee for a parting snapshot--something of a tradition these days.
After the tours completion, feedback and suggestions on ideas or improvements were encouraged. In my humble opinion, the three stops were an appropriate number. A fourth stop might have put me over the edge of feeling pretty good. The scheduled hour and a half went by quickly. Depending on distances between stops, possibly 5 to 10 minutes, it appears twenty minutes was enough time to complete your drink and if not, you were allowed to bring in onto the trolley to finish off while traveling to the next establishment. When you consider drinks cost on a average of $5 to $7 dollars, adding appetizer teasers, the $27 ticket appears reasonable.
It doesn't take much to please me. I am happy doing most anything along as I am doing something. The tour introduces you to Summerville's drinking establishments and a preview of what they have to offer residents and visitors. It was a pleasant romp on the trolley. I didn't pay much attention to the passing scenery--more occupied with conversation with fellow participants, which was a gratifying by-product of the tour. After all, drinks and conversation go together like Summerville and sweet tea.