On the outside, Il Giorgione appears to be a traditional Italian restaurant.
But make no mistake: The restaurant’s sauce – “gravy” – runs garnet.
OK, maybe that’s a stretch. But George Kessler, owner and head chef at the Devine Street restaurant, studied all things Italian, and traveled to Italy, while a student at USC.
Since opening in 2012, it has been a tradition behind the restaurant’s bar to wish the Gamecocks well by taking a shot of bourbon.
Fighting Cock bourbon, to be exact.
“My husband used to do this back in college,” said Monica Kessler, George’s wife and business partner. “But Dave Ward, head bartender, decided to make a nicer cocktail out of it. A Manhattan, with some sweet vermouth and some grenadine, to make it tastier.”
The cocktail is aptly named, the Gamecock Manhattan. Ward is as big a fan of classic cocktails as he is the Gamecocks, which explains the drink choice.
“My idea for a football season-themed cocktail is it needs to be something you can make at the tailgate,” said Ward. “We wanted something simple but strong that people can make and enjoy at the game. There’s nothing to it. Anybody at home could make this.”
As for the pending season, they are counting it down. Literally.
Behind the bar, a Gamecock shrine includes a chalkboard displaying the countdown to the first kickoff of the season. Saturdays will soon become “football Saturdays,” with staff members wearing Gamecock gear.
“We’re big Gamecock fans around here,” said Monica Kessler. “I went to Boston College, but George totally converted me to a USC fan. He’s always been a big Gamecocks fan – all sports. And Dave is a big Gamecock fan.”
Dave’s thoughts on the upcoming season?
“I think everybody is excited about the state of the football team right now,” he said. “We’ve got three core returning players and a coach in his second year. There’s going to be a little bit of hysteria for the first few games.”
And if your feathers get too ruffled, you know where to go for a “Cock”-tail.
Dwaun Sellers, firstname.lastname@example.org