“One of the great fallacies of working and life I find is this “work-life balance.” There is no such thing as work-life balance because my work is life and my life is my work.” – Phoebe Esmon
We met Phoebe at a bar. After all, isn’t that where some of the best friendships start? She was bartending at Gan Shan Station when Tony walked in and asked about the vermouth selection — a little trick he learned from a friend when deciding whether or not you should order a Negroni. Phoebe’s response was simply “I’ll make you a great Negroni.” And that she did.
After a few minutes of chatting with Phoebe and her partner, Christian Gaal, it becomes immediately clear that they know their spirits. While they define themselves as “cocktail bartenders,” we see them as much more than that. They are artists, historians, and teachers. They are two fountains of knowledge overflowing with fun factoids like when the first dry vermouth was born and why the VSOP label on Cognac isn’t actually French.
Through their business, Spirit Animal Bev, Phoebe and Christian work with local businesses to help them craft beverage menus and recipes to fit their brand or event — much like you’d hire a chef to oversee the menu development for a restaurant. They have worked with many local Asheville businesses including Katie Button’s Nightbell (now closed) and Cúrate; Gan Shan Station; and Eda Rhyne. They have also taught classes on amari, trained numerous bartenders and restaurant staff, and worked closely with distilleries in developing new recipes. They’ll even bartend your wedding via their spin-off event business, called Party Animal.
Phoebe is also the Co-Dean of Bartending and Hospitality for Portland Cocktail Week, where she is developing a bartending curriculum with Sother Teague. (Teague is the beverage director of Amor y Amargo, a famous bitter bar in NYC, author of I’m Just Here for the Drinks, and host of The Speakeasy podcast.)
Their latest projects include a running a soon-to-open low ABV and natural wine speakeasy called Pink Moon that will open up behind The Double Crown later on this year.
We hope you enjoy this episode!
Here’s What You’ll Learn:
- Why Phoebe and Christian decided to move to Asheville
- What special projects they’re working on now (spoiler: we told you a little about the speakeasy but that’s not all)
- Christian’s advice for what to do when you see a black bear
- Weird liquor laws in North Carolina
- The two main types of ratios in cocktails
- Why ice is so important when making cocktails and the three steps to making better ice at home
- What you need to stock your own cocktail bar at home
- How to buy better-tasting, purer, and more sustainable tequila
The Four Cocktail Books Phoebe Recommends to Cocktail Newbies
Imbibe! by David Wondrich
Punch by David Wondrich
The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock
The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morgenthaler
Cocktail Bar Essentials
Curacao Liquor, Sweet & Dry Vermouth, Maraschino Liquor (Luxardo), Benedectine, Green & Yellow Chartreuse, Absinthe, Port, Sherry
Base: Vodka, London Dry Gin (Tanqueray), Bourbon, Rye, Rhum
Silicone 2 x 2 Cube Ice Trays
Death Star Ice Cube Trays
During the episode, we get to taste a smoky, Rhubarb-based bitter from Phoebe and Christian’s fridge called Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro by Cappelletti.
If you have friends coming to visit Asheville, where would you take them?
Plant (Vegan restaurant)
Zillicoah Brewery + Taqueria Muñoz
Shakeys (dive bar)
Bull & Beggar
Eda Rhyne Distillery
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest – one of the oldest growth forests in NC
To recommend an interviewee, visit MakingItInAsheville.com/podcast