Stiff Drinks, Fancy Glasses, Funky Atmosphere: Session Bar Opens Downtown
Session Bar, downtown Tuscaloosa's newest cocktail lounge, has a simple mantra: Stiff Drinks, Fancy Glasses, Funky Atmosphere.
Hunter Wiggins, the bar's owner and operator, said the core idea behind Session is equally simple.
"We’re a cocktail bar that focuses on making classic and modern classic cocktails in a smoke-free environment," Wiggins said. We just want to make kickass drinks for kickass people, and I have a lot of belief in selling honest spirits at an honest price. There won’t be a single bottle in this bar that I wouldn’t drink myself."
Wiggins was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, and after getting his start mixing drinks at various restaurants and bars around town, Wiggins spent brief stints in Fort Collins, Colorado and Portland, Oregon before coming back home to open his own place in the Druid City.
The end result is Session, which opens to the public on University Boulevard in downtown Tuscaloosa Thursday afternoon.
Everything inside the bar and its 14-seat outdoor patio radiates the funky atmosphere advertised in its tagline -- the white quartzite bar mimics old school marble without its tendency to absorb liquids and stain. The barstools are blue velvet. Dark, stained wood abuts exposed brick and the brown leather of high-backed booths. Chandeliers and dim lights accent the quirky art hanging on every wall, and the centerpiece of the bar is a massive deer skull with a rack of antlers stretching almost to the ceiling.
Wiggins said he designed the bar's aesthetic and its menu by picking up ideas and looks from his favorite bars all around the US.
"Fort Collins, Portland, Birmingham, Nashville, Atlanta, Mobile – this concept was really derived from am mixture of bars from all across the country," Wiggins said. "From New York to Portland to New Orleans, there’s bits and pieces from all these different places I’ve been."
The menu is robust but small, offering 15 regular cocktails and 10 happy hour specials that all combine top-quality liquor, syrups and garnishes to create classic, delicious drinks.
"I just wanted to do a very classic cocktail bar and focus on the classic drinks that were so popular before Prohibition – your juleps, your cobblers, your fizzes, your sours – and kind of blend that with some more modern classics," Wiggins said. "We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’re just making all these awesome drinks the way the recipes said they were supposed to be done. The right ice, the right glassware, the right garnish and in the right atmosphere."
Session will serve its cocktails in eight distinct kinds of glasses filled with one of three specialty ices, from small pebble ice to larger old-school cubes.
To keep the menu fresh for customers, Wiggins said he plans to borrow an idea from the world of international sports -- promotion and relegation.
"We plan on rotating our menu every three months but we’re only rotating off the bottom third of our drinks by sales numbers, so the consumer will be picking what drinks stay and what drinks go," Wiggins said. "If you want something to stay on the menu, you’ve got to order it!"
The bar will also serve beer, several kinds of wine and various bubbly champagnes, rosés and prosecco.
Regular menu drinks will cost between $8 and $12, Wiggins said, and happy hour specials will run from $5 to $7.
The bar is located at 2221 University Boulevard next to the Children's Hands On Museum and will be open from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. each Friday and from 2 p.m. until 2 a.m. on Saturdays. For the immediate future, Session will be closed on Sundays as Wiggins and his staff takes a day to evaluate the week before and improve their processes where possible.