The Spirit of the Island | Callawassie Island

The Spirit of the Island

Meet the “Madison” behind magic as a masterful mixologist joins The River Club.

Coming down the Okatie Highway from the Old Bull Tavern in Beaufort, Jared Madison was newer to mixology, but he’s one of those natural scholars who seems to master crafts instantly and has certainly done so with his creative craft cocktails. Bringing artistry to both the glass and the description of place and process, Madison pours pure poetry when he talks about the “secret ingredient” to his success:

“Thanks to the trust and leadership of my direct supervisor Edmund Romano and our Executive Chef Clayton Rollison, it’s like I have my own bar at the River Club. It’s like how some gallery directors determine exactly how you need to paint each painting hanging on the wall and others say, ‘I know you’re talented, so just paint’ – I have a director in Romano who encourages me to paint.”

And paint he does. In fact, they’ve created an entirely new drink menu and threw away the old. You can certainly wander in off the recently renovated Tom Fazio links and order a G&T, but when in Rome, may we recommend you ask Madison what luxe elixirs he’s mixing today.

For instance, let’s hit one of the many featured cocktails named (naturally) after golf terms:

The Eagle:
Made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Grand Marnier, fresh orange, lemon, and cherry juices, three different bitters, and his signature honey simple syrup, this drink is all things to all people as the significant acidity, strong sours, and soft, subtle sweetness all blend to create a perfect BALANCE – literally the middle name of the Callawassie brand.

It’s not just the balance – it’s the rest of the brand too, with “warmth” and “connection,” which Madison fosters intentionally by taking his creations and work ethic personally. “I make all fresh juices at the bar. It changes the quality of the drink and what you can do with it. Fresh juices are dramatically different from store bought in that they’re so much less artificially sweet, so the acidity is stronger and you can taste the citrus and change it with the honey simple syrup.”

“More importantly,” Madison imparts, “when you’re making a one-of-a-kind unique drink for someone it opens opportunities for creativity in what you’re making and for connecting over care and quality – it opens conversations, which opens all sorts of doors. We have some people who just come to the bar and when I keep items of interest there – like the habanero pepper in glass display jars – all these pieces are conversation starters and conversation changes things.”

Conversation Changes Things

Whether ordering your “regular” or opting for creative concoctions, the members themselves say Madison mixes it best. That’s not platitude – you can read in the Lynch Family’s Coming to Callawassie blog,  Tom Lynch mentioned Madison by name, unprompted, when describing the appeal of the River Club including “the Cheers mentality. I like to go where people know my name and I know theirs. The bartender Jared – he knows when I walk in the door, he can fire up a drink that I told him he makes better than anyone else, and he’s only been a mixologist for a couple years.”

That drink? An Amaretto Sour, extra cherries. The secret? He says, “I make my own sour base.” That twist makes for more than a good drink, it’s his baseline for excellence in all he does. The reason for that base isn’t just quality control of product. Madison’s motivation is people – being relational, making connections, sending a message. “Anything you do – if you take extra care to do it in an excellent and advanced way, people most often realize that if you’re taking care and consideration with what you’re doing, they’re more appreciative and they want to search out more and get to know other aspects of you.”

He’s not the first bartender to wax philosophical, but he’s on the wiser side, which is another card in his deck behind the bar on the island. You can have a drink with a ‘keep whose wisdom and poetry runs deep – so deep he has currents running through multiple creative channels including 60-second inspirational clips for his Insta The Magical Minute, the podcast featured on his website Dialing the Divine, the book he’s working toward publishing, or his advanced education interests as he plans to pursue  “quantum physics or genetics in graduate school.”

How Good Can I Make This?

Asked how he keeps these plates spinning, Madison’s spirit is more of ‘how could I not do everything?’ He explains, “In general I want to be the best at things and not in a competitive way, but in asking, ‘how good can I make this?’ You’re essentially rediscovering yourself each time that happens. At the gym, or if you play sports, artists, writing – whatever you do, pushing yourself to new heights, you find new pieces of yourself and realize how much you can do. Everybody benefits because then you push yourself the same way doing anything that, at Callawassie for instance, serves others. Going back to the gallery analogy, because [Rollison] gives me free reign, knowing I’ll push for the best in all situations, that opens so many worlds we can fill with new ideas and new experiences.”

Of these worlds and experiences, Madison notices of himself and the world that’s brewing on both sides of the bar at the River Club, “I think – I hope – it’s changed the weather for the place. I’m at a blossoming place – blossoming into the person I’ve always wanted to be.”

It’s clear the feeling is mutual among mixologist and members – as Madison blossoms, so does the magic of the moment, when you raise a glass to the “spirit” of the island, and the friends and neighbors who call it home.