Carolina Sweet Tart

Carolina Sweet Tart

Kate and Colm

Kate and Colm, many moons ago

After we got engaged Colm and I talked a lot about where to get married. We had no family in Connecticut (we didn’t move to North Carolina until much later) and I really didn’t want to go back to Iowa to get married when most of our friends were out East. Colm joked that we should get married in Belfast (Northern Ireland, where he is from). And I said “Yes, we should! That would be amazing!”

We arranged a trip to Ireland that February to make plans. Colm told me he knew the perfect place to have our wedding, Belfast Castle. We would be in Belfast on Valentine’s Day so Colm surprised me with reservations at their wonderfully extravagant prix fixe dinner. A friend of Colm’s worked at the castle and arranged for us to have the most romantic table in the restaurant. It was in front of a huge bay window overlooking Belfast Lough. We had such a wonderful dinner and while we sat at the table making wedding plans I really enjoyed the Valentine cocktail (or three) they had on the menu. Sadly we didn’t end up having our wedding in Belfast, but I will always remember that special dinner.

Belfast Castle Valentine's Day MenuA few years later I found the menu from our Valentine’s Day dinner in a box of papers and it reminded me of the drink I had that night. I tried to look up the recipe online but there were so many different ways to make a Bossanova Punch (also spelled Bossa Nova) each using completely different spirits, I had no idea which recipe was the correct one.

Some called for dark rum, apricot brandy, Galliano, others for Cachaca (a Brazilian rum) and Hazelnut Liqueur, or cherry vodka, scotch whiskey, and vermouth, and still another recipe called for vodka, strawberries, sugar, and a cherry tomato! NONE of these reminded of the drink I had. So I set out to recreate the recipe.

Carolina Sweet TartI tried many different combinations but nothing really hit the mark. Finally, Colm–a former bartender, decided he was going to help me crack the recipe. He kept trying to tell me that there was no whiskey in the drink, but I insisted it was in the cocktail I had so many years ago. After many a trial and error, we finally created a nearly perfect copy together.

Continuing with my North Carolina “Drink Local” kick, we used TOPO Organic Spirits to create my version of the Bossanova Punch. TOPO (Top of the Hill) Organic Spirits, located in Chapel Hill, is the the first and only fully local and USDA certified organic distillery in the deep South AND the only Green+ Certified distillery in the country! What is a Green+ certified distillery? Here is what they say on their website: “… we take great measures to ensure our building, equipment and products are environmentally sustainable. We’ve reduced our water usage by 70% through the use of a closed loop system, wherein our heat exchanger and cooling tanks reuse the water during the cooking process. Each of our bottles are washed, filled and labeled by hand and our bottles are shipped in 100% recycled packaging.”

TOPO Organic Spirits Eight Oak Carolina Whiskey

TOPO currently offers four Certified Organic spirits, Eight Oaks Carolina Whiskey, Vodka, Piedmont Gin, and Carolina Moonshine Whiskey, all products are wheat-based. TOPO also operates the 8th oldest surviving brewery in North Carolina. “Three beers are maintained on tap year round–the Kenan Lager, Old Well White and Ram’s Head IPA. Three other taps rotate styles that vary between a total of approximately 20 beers being brewed every year out of 60 TOPO recipes. Top of the Hill Brewery is one of the few breweries in the nation to have platinum medals for three separate beers.”

I really love the organic vodka which is distilled from wheat instead of corn. It definitely doesn’t have that hard, almost medicinal, flavor that other vodkas can have. It’s very smooth and has almost a sweet, buttery vanilla flavor, but has a bit of heat at the end. It’s delicious in cocktails, but is also very tasty served at room temperature, sipped slowly to savor the experience. The Eight Oak oak-aged whiskey has a peppery smoothness and tastes very similar to bourbon (which is kind of funny because I’m not normally a fan of bourbon). According to Esteban McMahan, TOPOs Spirit Guide, the Eight Oak refers to the eight combinations of three oaks (one American and two French oaks) and toasts that is used (one has a high vanillin content). TOPO is using techniques that have been used in the wine industry for over 100 years and it enables them to get a flavor that is simply unattainable using a single American oak barrel.

I know that using TOPO Organic Spirits in my our drink creation made it taste even better. The final recipe really didn’t match any of the Bossanova Punch recipes we found, so I decided to name the drink the Carolina Sweet Tart. The name described it perfectly–it’s made with Carolina spirits and tastes like a SweetTart.

I hope you enjoy the Carolina Sweet Tart as much as I do!

Carolina Sweet Tart


Carolina Sweet Tart


  • 1 oz TOPO Organic Vodka
  • 1/4 oz TOPO Eight Oak Carolina Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • 1 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 6oz Sprite
  • Splash of cranberry juice
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Strawberry and mint to garnish (optional)


  1. Mix everything but the Sprite into your cocktail mixer filled with ice and shake.
  2. Pour into a highball glass with fresh ice.
  3. Add Sprite.
  4. Garnish with a strawberry and sprig of mint (optional).
  5. Enjoy!

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Carolina Sweet Tart

While you don’t need any special equipment to make my Carolina Sweet Tart I do love using this Mixologist World Cocktail Shaker Bar Set. It makes easy work of mixing cocktails. The three-piece 24 oz stainless steel cocktail shaker is very well made and will hold up to 3 drinks. I especially like the twisted bar spoon. It stands up on its end so you don’t have to set it down on the table or counter when you are mixing drinks.

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