From the moment I entered Rocket Surgery, I realized how much Travelers Rest has transformed in the last few years. This beautiful, quaint town blossomed, and we’re all the better for the many creative talents that have shared their food, beverage, art, and other wares here along the Swamp Rabbit Trail corridor.
Rocket Surgery is a refreshing new restaurant that isn’t overly crowded in space. With beautiful exposed-beam ceilings, you instantly feel rejuvenated just from walking into their earthy and open barn-style setting. It’s stunning, but the best thing to greet you is a smile from head bartender Casey O’Mara.
Casey moved to our area from Rochester, N.Y., with the opportunity to engineer the craft cocktail menu at Rocket Surgery. Without hesitation about missing snow, Casey moved south, and for the last year has played a key role in helping Rocket Surgery come to life.
The first thing I learned from Casey is the phrase that started it all. “It’s not serious. It’s rocket surgery!” It’s a nod to the spirit of food and beverage. The work to win over every customer and earn raving fans is real, but the team laughs a lot along the way. Owned by the duo that started Sidewall Pizza Company and Monkey Wrench Smokehouse, they’re no strangers to creating good food, beverages, and an awesome experience.
Casey is humorous, intuitive, and definitely a people-person. His cocktails have unique ingredients and delicious flavor. But, he doesn’t credit the ingredients as the inspiration: he credits his guests. “I really like to create stuff people like. That’s why we’re here. Hospitality as a whole inspires me. When you do that well, everything else is background noise.”
There’s so much style to Casey’s creations that it’s not just about having a drink, but an experience when you watch him work. We saw crushed rosepetals line a glass for the Sweet Summer Sun, a rose’ cocktail. Two sprays from a mister kiss the top of a beautiful Thai-insipred drink called Typhoon. Casey takes pride in both the beauty and the flavor of his work. He creates his own tinctures, which are concentrated extracts that are scratch-made and add lots of flavor. I was really touched by the High Five cocktail. Each quarter, a portion of proceeds benefit a different local charity. (And of course, you get an actual “high five” from the staff when ordering!)
To keep Rocket Surgery fresh, cocktail menus are seasonal, with some standard favorites. For my visit, Casey whipped up the creation he is most proud of… the Gabrielle. I’m amazed at how simple the ingredients sound, but yet together, how this really could be called “the perfect cocktail.” It’s light, smooth, and refreshing. On a hot spring evening, we jokingly called it the balance between libation and hydration.
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 ½ oz. Plymouth Gin
¼ oz. St. Germain Elderflower
¼ oz. Suze
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
¾ oz. honey syrup (mix honey 1:1 with water until dissolved)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, blend, and serve over ice.