In Good Spirits

A Stroke of
Hometown Luck

By Cheré Coen  |  Photography courtesy of Jeff Moore with Green Olive Media

   Lady Luck could be the perfect at-home cocktail for Valentine’s Day. 

   Like many young people growing up in a small Mississippi town, Matthew McCain envisioned graduating high school and leaving Cleveland for better career opportunities. As luck would have it, those opportunities found him… in Cleveland, in the heart of the Delta.

   McCain is the bar manager of Bar Fontaine, the hip new rooftop lounge at Cleveland’s Cotton House Hotel, and the Delta Meat Market on the hotel’s first floor. Both are operated by James Beard Award-nominated Chef Cole Ellis.

   “I lived in Cleveland my whole life,” McCain says. “I dreamed of getting out of Cleveland and doing bigger things. Now, instead of dreaming of my getting out of Cleveland and doing bigger things, I dream of bringing bigger things to Cleveland.”

   McCain is a self-taught mixologist, learning the ropes behind the bar. When he reached out to Ellis for a job, he didn’t realize Ellis was planning to move his Delta Meat Market from its original location on Cotton Row to across the street in the new Tribute Portfolio boutique hotel.

   “I knew it was a passion and an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” he says.

   McCain studied techniques of his mentors, read every book he could find on cocktails, and discovered a love for pre-Prohibition cocktails. Within months he was heading up Bar Fontaine’s menu of craft cocktails, bourbon collection, and small plates utilizing locally sourced ingredients.

   “It hasn’t stopped since,” he says.

   He loves the classic cocktails, specifically ones using gin. The Negroni, for example, incorporates gin, red vermouth and Campari, an aperitif that’s known for its vivid red color and bitter and herbal flavors. McCain used Campari to create the Lady Luck cocktail, consisting of four simple ingredients.

   “I wanted to bring that colorful liquor to a drink and bring it to the masses,” he explains.

   Campari is definitely bitter, which McCain enjoys in a drink but it’s not as popular with the public. For his Lady Luck cocktail, he mixes the liqueur with Seersucker Gin from Texas, which contains notes of citrus, mint, and honey. The grapefruit juice mixes well with the mint and honey, McCain says, and with the ginger syrup provides a smooth drink that balances flavors nicely.

   Lady Luck isn’t on the menu at Bar Fontaine anymore — they update their menu frequently — but you can make this colorful drink at home, perfect for Valentine’s Day.

   For information on Bar Fontaine and its rotating menu of cocktails, visit

Lady Luck

1.5 ounces Seersucker Gin
1/2 ounce Campari
1 ounce ginger syrup
1 ounce grapefruit juice

Ginger Simple Syrup

10 grams fresh ginger
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

   To make the ginger simple syrup peel the ginger and slice. In medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. Your finished product should be a one-to-one ratio. Combine the simple syrup and sliced ginger into a blender while the syrup is still hot. Blend until the ginger is ground finely. Let cool for 30 minutes, then strain the solution through a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth.

   Mix all four ingredients and pour into an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with dehydrated grapefruit and rosemary seeds.

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