Opera Carolina and The Punch Room concoct a special cocktail for each opera this season

As lead mixologist at what might be Charlotte’s most exclusive cocktail club, Bob Peters has a fun job. The creative force behind The Punch Room at the Ritz-Carlton said the assignment he accepted from Opera Carolina this season – to invite a special drink in honor of each of the Grand Operas – pushed him in exciting, new directions.

But The Girl of the West – set in a saloon at the time the West was still wild – offered him rich possibilities. He started with Bulleit bourbon. (How could he not? This is a gun-slinging town we’re talking about.) He added sweet vermouth from Italy, in honor of Puccini. And he finished it with prosecco, which has been an ingredient in all three opera cocktails this season.

He calls it “The Absent Whistle,” because – after loads of research – he found this moment to be pivotal. “It’s the moment everything clicks for the audience,” he said. “We know the outlaw is falling in love with Minnie when he doesn’t whistle back.”

“It’s delicious,” Peters said of the slightly sweet concoction that’s as likely to be ordered by a man as a woman. “You know how a Kir Royale has raspberry liqueur and champagne? Well, this is kind of like a Manhattan Royale. It’s pure and simple. It’s not so boozy that it’ll knock you down, but there is a kick to it.”

Peters’ other cocktails for the season have been “The Key” in honor of The Barber of Seville. It was made with cynar (an Italian bitter liqueur), Italian vermouth and prosecco garnished with a fig. “The Fading Flower,” in honor of La traviata, contained fresh lemon, Cointreau, Lillet 1872 and prosecco.

Peters sees the signature drink concept as a natural fit for opera. “There’s always plenty of booze and partying in an opera,” he said. “There’s always a love triangle, a fight and a pretty lady.”

“This cross promotion has really worked,” he continued. “The cocktails start a conversation. There’s a story behind each one. Some of our customers – and even Punch Room staff – have tried these drinks and then gone to see the opera they were based on. Opera makes for an amazing date night.”