How Selwyn Pub made a name for its cheap $5 Transfusions in a craft cocktail and brewery town

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Selwyn Pub now sells more transfusion cocktails than beers.

That’s insane, but I understand why — it’s a delicious and refreshingly simple cocktail.

And it’s only $5, which stands in stark contrast to Charlotte’s growing craft cocktail scene. The price hasn’t changed since Selwyn Pub opened in 1990.

“Transfusion sales is a wave that’s been building and now has turned into a tsunami,” owner Jim Foster says. He went on to tell me that on a recent weekend, he looked around outside and it felt like every guest had a styrofoam transfusion cup in their hand.

What’s in a traditional Selwyn transfusion? Vodka, ginger ale and a splash of grape juice served in a styrofoam cup. “Just a splash of juice,” Jim says. He explained to me that many bars overdo the juice, which makes the drink too sweet.

Soon, you’ll be able to drink transfusions out of specialty branded cups. “We just ordered 50,000 branded cups,” Jim said. They’re also selling t-shirts for $20.

Additionally, Selwyn Pub recently debuted a full page transfusion menu which includes several transfusions variations including Skinny Transfusions ($5) and non-alcoholic Virtual Transfusions ($3).

“Transfusions can be the modern martini,” Jim says. “It’s an approach, not just a single drink.”

transfusion-cocktail-at-selwyn-pub

It’s a refreshing drink. Many people associate a transfusion as a golf club drink.

transfusion-shirt-at-selwyn-pub

Here’s the new Selwyn Pub transfusion t-shirt. You can buy them. This same design will be on the 50,000 transfusion cups that were just ordered.

transfusion-menu-at-selwyn-pub

Jim told me, “Tito’s is a monster” – which means people freaking love Tito’s.

Even with the fast rise of Charlotte breweries, Selwyn Pub continues to stay relevant and packed.

I’ve argued that breweries are the new public park, but the explosion of brewery popularity doesn’t phase Selwyn Pub. It’s just part of an ever-evolving business.

While Selwyn Pub maintains that old-school, Myers Park neighborhood bar vibe, it’s also a proven innovator. It introduced things like outside TVs and heat lamps that have now become ubiquitous in our city. It also recently installed a tasteful retractable roof.

Foster, the owner, is in his early 60s and he’s a CPA with a law degree as well. He’s a professor at Queen’s University of Charlotte where he teaches courses in ethics and business law.

Jim is a father of three daughters who’s been married for over 25 years — and he’s a strategic business nerd too. I loved talking with him. He’s humble. He’s grateful. And he’s a business guy that puts fulfillment above profits.

“Overall sales have grown, but our product mix has changed dramatically with all of our city’s breweries,” explained Jim. “We listen to our customers. It’s all about the customer and the space. We’re taking care of customers and provide food and beverage that support their tastes.”

Jim is a realist who understands how his customers use Selwyn Pub. He’s never looking to change, but he’s always looking to evolve. In fact, while talking to me about transfusions, he couldn’t help but share his “$15 Bottles Every Day” wine strategy and his upcoming sparkling wine and cider menus to compete with half-off wine nights.

pizza-transfusion-wings-at-selwyn-pub-charlotte

Selwyn Pub was established in 1990 in a what was an old house on the eastern edge of Myers Park. Their bar food is underrated and I especially love their pizza. 

selwyn-pub-charlotte-outside-bar

Can transfusions become the official drink of Charlotte?

I don’t hate the idea.

And a transfusion does feel very Charlotte to me  – in both a good and bad way.

“When you travel to New Orleans, you have to drink a hurricane. We can do the same thing with Charlotte and transfusions,” Jim says. “I don’t just want it to be a Selwyn drink, I want it to be a Charlotte drink.”

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Ted Williams
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Publisher, golfer, dad and magician (seriously).