“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

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 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

Show Notes

Spirit Animal Beverage
Follow Phoebe Esmon on Instagram

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

Young Frankenstein
Top Secret (for the underwater, Old West bar fight scene)

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
Zebulon Brewery
Shakeys (dive bar)
Double Crown
Lazy Diamond
Bull & Beggar
Rainbow Falls
Eda Rhyne Distillery
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest – one of the oldest growth forests in NC

Music by Commonwealth Choir

Curious to learn more about what we do?

Making It in Asheville is a podcast where we go behind the scenes with artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs in Asheville. We learn about what they’re making and how they’re making it in Asheville.

Making It in Asheville is powered by Making It Creative, our boutique marketing and business consulting agency. We help passionate small business owners build and improve their sales and communication strategies. Learn more here.

We appreciate your support!

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribelikereview, and/or share. Each review means than you might think as they help this episode get discovered on podcast players.

To recommend an interviewee, visit MakingItInAsheville.com/podcast