Happy Hour Test Drive: Imperial Life

Written by: Local taste testers Laura Jones, @lgracejones and Maryanne Pappano, @paydirtmary

Nestled away above the amazing restaurant Table, at 48 College Street in the heart of downtown, is an intimate bar and lounge. For those of you who have not been or have not heard, The Imperial Life is a must for date night, or well… any night. An Asheville native who just happens to be one of the best bartenders in town, Quin, generously agreed to meet with us and introduced us to beautiful, hand crafted cocktails on a Sunday afternoon. I’m not quite sure he knew what he was getting himself into, but alas, I think we all had a great afternoon.

Mixologist Quinton!

The seasonal menu features an extensive spirit selection, local beers, acclaimed craft cocktails and wines showcasing lesser-known varietals. Inventive small plates celebrate all things raw, cured and aged: house-made charcuterie, artisan cheeses, pickles and upscale / southern inspired snacks and small plates.

The Imperial Life is open 4:30pm -12:30am Sunday through Thursday and 4:30pm-2:00am Friday and Saturday. There is a live DJ Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights starting at 10:00 and Quin tells us that a wide variety of music is played including hip hop and jazz. There is a gorgeous bar to sit at, several tables, and a dreamy couch set up in the corner. This quaint cocktail lounge not only serves unique, delicious drinks.

The full menu from its’ downstairs restaurant, Table, is also available at the bar. There are multiple food options and it should definitely be noted that there are both vegetarian and vegan options available. It should also be known that local sourcing of ingredients is an extremely important principle of this establishment.

Back to the drinks…. We expected to sample four drinks from the cocktail menu. We got five, very full cocktails, and we just couldn’t leave until the glasses were empty. Yes, the drinks are that good.

The test cocktails:

3-2 Step– old tom gin, navy strength gin, sloe gin, dry vermouth, blanc vermouth, bitters
Templo Mayor– old overholt bonded rye whiskey, cap corse quina, amontillado sherry, fernet valet, mezcal, black pepper
Toucan Fizz – blend of rums, campari, tepache, fresh lime, aqua faba, & black lemon
Serpent’s Mouth– fernet branca, angostura bitters, anise, orgeat, fresh lemon
Cuffing Season – blend of rye, numerous spices, lemon juice, orange juice, egg, cream and soda

Let me just say that Quin created Cuffing Season on the spot after we had a lovely talk about the tinder app and the upcoming winter season. I’m not sure how he does it, but it was phenomenal. Every single drink that we tasted (drank all of… whoops) was concise, unique, and absolutely delicious.

A little more about Quin, not only was he a welcoming and talented bartender, he was extremely knowledgeable about every ingredient in every drink. He knew the flavor profiles, the backstory of the cocktail names, and the history of each ingredient. We thought maybe he had been to a fancy bartender school, but turns out, his talent and knowledge is all self-taught. He informed us that he reads, travels, and experiences as much as he can in order to bring that knowledge back to his craft. It was obvious that he is truly passionate about creating an experience for his customers.

For those of you looking to escape to what feels like a secret hideaway, be sure to check out The Imperial Life. We had the most wonderful time that was created by our company (thank you Quin!), relaxing environment, and the absolutely amazing cocktails that were served.


Imperial Life
48 College Street
Asheville, NC  28801
(828) 254 8980


Sunday – Thursday 4:30 – 12:30am
Friday – Saturday 4:30 – 2am



Feature Image Credit: @sabrinalouisekolton

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