King of Pops is taking over Charlotte this summer, one cocktail at a time.
The new rooftop bar at Le Méridien, City Lights, rolled out the Sparkle & Pop when it opened. It’s a simple combination of a glass of champagne topped off with a whole popsicle.
And they’re starting to show up more and more. Just this weekend, Sycamore Brewing launched their own, adding a Fresh Peach and QueenCityChic Saison popsicle to a glass of Prosecco.
In the last few short weeks, the creations have become increasingly popular, but this isn’t King of Pop owner Brandon DeCurtins’ first go-round with them. As it turns out, they had actually been in Charlotte for a while – just not publicly, until City Lights called.
“We were working with caterers in the past for things like weddings and private events, but had never thought about doing it on a large scale,” he told me. “It was never a commercial setting. We had never thought about doing it on a large scale with local businesses around town until we got a call from City Lights.”
Since plenty of the pops are drink-inspired, it made it easy to come up with the flavors.
“We get a lot of our inspiration from mojitos and margaritas,” Brandon said. “And any time we’re enjoying a delicious cocktail, we think about if we could make it in a non-alcoholic way or into a pop.”
Some are obvious choices, like pairing a Peach Pop with champagne to create a Bellini or an Orange Basil pop with champagne for a mimosa.
When it comes to creating the pairings, it’s a simple science, said Brandon. “Really, it’s just whatever flavor profiles we think would work well with what kind of alcohol it is.”
“We’ve done a lot of personal taste tests, and we try to think about what the customers want,” he explained. “Some want a lot of flavor, like the Blackberry Lemon pop, and some want a little lighter, like Raspberry Rosewater.”
And when it comes to the alcohol, there’s really no limit.
They’ve paired their pops with Prosecco, wine, cocktails and beer, but the possibilities are endless. They’ve even created pops for breweries around the city.
“They also work well just as mixers,” Brandon said. “Just throw it in a blender with liquor.”
The price point that we’ve seen so far is a little steep at $14, but Brandon insists that there’s no upcharging going on.
“I think what it is is that City Lights is a premium rooftop bar,” he explained. “Their drinks are already not inexpensive, and on top of that, they’re using pretty good champagnes and Proseccos. And with the price of our pop, which is all-natural and $3 added in there, it makes sense. They’re not upcharging for it by any means.”
But how do you eat them?
We debated this in the Agenda HQ for a few minutes. Do you dip, bite, repeat? Do you stir, lick, repeat? Do you just let it melt?
“There’s no wrong way to eat them,” Brandon said. “I like to let mine sit in the drink for a while to cool it off and let some of the flavor profile mingle with the alcohol.”
Letting the pop sit also lets it soften and absorb a bit of the alcohol, so his go-to method is to let it soak for a minute or two, take a bite and then stick it back in so that your drink never warms up.
The popularity of the drink combined with the rising temperatures means that these drinks will be out at more places – eventually.
“Nothing’s been set in stone,” Brandon said. “But I think they’ll certainly be out and about more and more.”
They want to bring them to their new brick and mortar, but with no liquor license to speak of, that’s a long-term goal.
“We can’t get a liquor license,” Brandon explained. “It’s certainly something we have on our mind and want to do, that we’ve played with and thought about. But we’re trying to take on one big project at a time, and this year’s was the pop shop.”
But the end product will be worth the wait.
“We’re trying to do some sort of dessert bar with both non-alcoholic and alcoholic pops, along with drinks.”
While you wait, you can make your own at home.
To Brandon, it’s all about the ingredients.
“The better the ingredients, the better it’s going to taste in the first place. So pick whatever flavors you think you’re going to work with.”
But do know that if you’re going to try to make the popsicle, it won’t come out exactly the same way.
“That’s just because of the ability we have with the machinery and freezing methods,” he continued. “But throw some fresh fruit in the blender, add a splash of citrus and some ice cubes. And then pair it up.”
At the end of the day, it’s not about the drink itself – it’s about the experience.
A drink with a King of Pops popsicle isn’t something you can have multiple of.
“You can have or two, max, and then you’ll want to switch over to something else. It’s one of those drinks that you can sit with for a while and make last 45 minutes or so. It’s for the experience.”
Feature image via Instagram