MINT HILL, NC – Now open in Mint Hill, Cocktail Cakery offers an assortment of boozy cupcakes, parfaits, cheesecakes, whoopie pies, and more based on your favorite mixed drinks and adult beverages.
Cocktail Cakery is the brainchild of Brighton Park residents Melissa “Gigi” Barnes and her husband Todd Barnes. Gigi traces the origins of the dessert shop to a road trip she and her husband took in 2015. “We were leaving Arizona headed towards Illinois. We were passing through St. Louis, and I wanted barbecue,” says Gigi, “so we pulled into a little barbecue joint, and they asked to see ID for a milkshake because they have bourbon vanilla milkshakes.”
It was a revelation to Gigi, who had never thought about using alcohol or cocktails for dessert. “I started playing around with some stuff, found some stuff on the web,” she recalls. “Eventually, I just started creating my own recipes.”
An accountant by trade, Gigi had no experience in a commercial kitchen. “When I was in the Girl Scouts back when I was twelve years old, I learned basically how to do this,” says Gigi, gesturing to the “signature swirl” of icing topping her cupcakes. “We rented a kitchen suite at The City Kitch so I could learn what goes with what and how to work the ovens.”
Gigi and Todd worked out of The City Kitch for six months catering and fulfilling small orders. As demand for their product increased, Gigi and Todd began to think about opening a store. They signed the lease on the 1000-foot space in Mint Hill Festival on December 1 of last year.
Of course, in December of last year, Gigi and Todd had no way of imagining what the world would look like for small business owners now. Because they had their building permit before COVID-19 struck, they were able to continue construction, but it’s still a strange time to open a business. “It gave us more time to get an idea of what our customers want,” says Gigi, reflecting on the pandemic. “It gives us an idea of how much product we should have available on a daily basis.” Ultimately, she hopes her cupcakes will help to lift people’s spirits in a difficult time. “How you love people is how you feed them,” she says. “If I can do a little something different for them to help them out, then, yay!”
Despite the pandemic, Cocktail Cakery enjoyed a successful soft opening on July 5 with a steady stream of customers through the store. Their opening-weekend menu included six boozy cupcakes: Insomnia, a dark chocolate concoction featuring espresso, kahlua and vodka; Racy Reesie, a dark chocolate delight flavored with peanut butter and chocolate vodka; Cha-Cha-Chada, a rumchata-inspired vanilla cake with saigon cinnamon; I Do!, their version of an almond wedding cake with disaronno and almande; Scandalous, a bourbon-infused red velvet cake; and Escape, a pina colada in a cupcake complete topped with rum-soaked pineapple.
“This is just our starter,” says Gigi of the limited menu. “We’re by no means finished!” She plans to cycle a new cupcake in daily and add parfaits and cheesecakes soon. Eventually, they’ll add coffee and tea to enjoy with your dessert at one of their indoor or outdoor tables. They don’t plan to offer alcoholic beverages at the Cocktail Cakery, but they’re open to partnering with local businesses like Pour 64 and Vintner’s Hill to pair sweet treats with their beverages.
“If you have a favorite cocktail, or a favorite beer or something, let me know,” says Gigi, always eager to develop something new. “If you love it, tell someone, and if you don’t, let us know how we can fix it.”
Unlike the barbecue joint, Gigi and Todd visited back in 2015, you don’t need ID to buy Gigi’s desserts. “Everything we make has a lot of alcohol in it,” says Gigi. “We make sure to tell people that so that one, they don’t give it to their children, and two so that we don’t compromise anyone’s sobriety. Mexican Vanilla is 70 proof,” continues Gigi, “but the ABC is the Alcoholic Beverage Control. Because it’s a food, it’s not governed by the ABC.”
Cocktail Cakery is open 11:00 am to 8:30 pm (or until they sell out) Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday, they’re open from 11:00 a.m to 9:30 p.m. Sundays they are open 12:00 t0 7:00. They are closed Monday and Tuesday. Follow @cocktailcakery on Facebook to keep up on their latest offerings!