Food & Drink

Drink Up With Nashville's Very Best Bartenders

Published On 11/03/2016 Published On 11/03/2016
Freddy Schwenk of No Hard Feelings at Bar Sovereign | Courtesy of Freddy Schwenk
Chauhan Ale & Masala House

Jen Fuller

Chauhan Ale & Masala House

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It’s not the easiest of tasks, you know, creating cocktails that perfectly complement the exotic flavors and spices of Indian cuisine. As bar manager of Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Jen Fuller not only makes it look incredibly easy, but her zest for the art of pairing is infectious. There’s rarely a competition she’s not participating in or a best-of list she’s not nominated for. Her speed behind the bar and unpretentious approach is why she thrives in categories for the people’s choice. Prior to Chauhan, Jen tended bar at the Hilton Downtown Nashville and Merchants Restaurant. At Chauhan, she’s attracting new audiences with different specials, like the $6 Tuesday Tastings, where you sample three variations of a spirit, wine, or beer -- and some weeks it’s three spins on a classic cocktail. For something different, try the Faithful Mistress, with kettle corn-infused rum, Amaro CioCiaro, cherry bark vanilla, and sarsaparilla bitters, or the Yankee Rose, with Cathead Honeysuckle vodka, Copper & Kings immature brandy, hibiscus mint syrup, and grapefruit bitters.

Wil Schultz

Ryan Yamada

Marsh House at Thompson Nashville

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The Gulch

The recent opening of the Thompson Nashville has the whole city buzzing, and not just about the hotel’s impeccable style or the much-anticipated arrival of chef John Besh’s Marsh House, but also the cocktail program, which is crafted to highlight Southern flavor with seasonal offerings. Behind the bar, you’ll find Yamada, formerly of Sinema and Embers Ski Lodge in Nashville, and Bar Tonique and Meauxbar in New Orleans before that. The creativity and sense of humor he brings to cocktails -- like his Mango Unchained and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cucumber (served at Sinema) -- is what makes his regulars follow him to any establishment. For Marsh House, he suggests two of his opening cocktails. The Millwood (pineapple rum, lime juice, creme de mure, Velvet Falernum liqueur, bitters, and prosecco) is inspired by the story of his girlfriend's grandmother, Helen, and the first drink a gentlemen bought her in a Louisiana casino. The Honey Island (gin, Bruto Americano liqueur, lemon juice, honey, egg white, bitters, and chinotto Italian soda) is named after the area near the Mississippi/Louisiana border, and pays homage to the hundreds of Ramos Gin Fizzes he made while working at Bar Tonique.

Joey Dykes

Joey Dykes


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During his four years at The Patterson House, Joey Dykes quickly became one of Nashville's favorite bartenders. His talent for making high-end craft cocktails and natural ease with customers makes it all the more surprising that Patterson House was his very first bartending gig. Having worked in almost every aspect of the food service industry from cashier and food prep to cooking up burgers and pizzas, Dykes still always gravitated toward beverages. He worked as a barista, and at one point made high-volume milkshakes for a restaurant. When he was hired at Patterson, he started front of house as a host and worked his way to the bar through dishwashing, barbacking, and serving tables. He had little serving experience, but credits his personality for carrying him through the training. Now at Bastion, Dykes admits the decision to move was tough, but the timing and opportunity couldn't have been better. "I've always admired Josh Habiger and his team," says Dykes. "He is one of the reasons why I worked at Patterson House. I worked at J&J's in Midtown and used to make him coffee all the time when they first opened. He'd tell me to come into the bar, then would make me cocktails. It was awesome."

Courtesy of Freddy Schwenk

Freddy Schwenk

No Hard Feelings at Bar Sovereign

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Freddy has made quite an impression in the local beverage scene since moving to Nashville just three years ago. He’s tended bar at several popular establishments from Pinewood Social to Bar Luca and Old Glory, and he has served as beverage director at Chauhan Ale & Masala House as well as consulting beverage director at Party Fowl. He also co-founded Nashville Ice Lab, a supplier of specialty cocktail ice, fresh juices, non-alcoholic syrups, hydroponic herbs, and bar equipment rentals. However, one of his most popular contributions is the pop-up bar phenomenon No Hard Feelings. When Schwenk saw a need for a unique, weekly event in the city, he booked Tuesday nights at Bar Sovereign, when he invites guest bartenders to collaborate on a six-drink menu of high-end quality cocktails in a casual, come-as-you-are type of setting. The No Hard Feelings pop-up bar serves as a pilot program to test out the concept before committing to a brick and mortar, but the success has Schwenk eagerly shopping for the right space.

Jeremiah Jason Blake

Jeremiah Blake

The Green Hour

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Jeremiah Blake is arguably one of the most recognizable bartenders in Nashville. When the craft movement arrived in town, a broad spectrum of new drinkers -- from millennials to baby boomers -- flocked to see him at Holland House Bar & Refuge, trusting in whatever concoction he was mixing that night. Prior to his long stint at Holland House, he learned the tricks of the trade at Virago and various bars before that. His passion for cocktail culture is infectious and it shows when he takes the time to educate his guests on what he pours. When the owners of Tempered Cafe & Chocolate sought to cater to the after-dinner crowd with an absinthe bar, they enlisted Blake’s talent to navigate the commonalities in flavor profile between the spirit and their chocolates. The Green Hour serves signature cocktails and absinthe drips whenever the green light in the window is lit up (or always at 8pm). At any given time, Blake has roughly 15 different kinds of absinthe on hand, sometimes as many as 25. Try the Midnight Marauder, a black Manhattan with amaro instead of vermouth and a full half-ounce of absinthe, or the Tom Ford, a vermouth-driven cocktail with gin, a little Chartreuse for spice, orange bitters, and pineapple-louched absinthe. Blake demonstrates the absinthe ritual of La Louche (diluting with iced water) for each guest, but uses flavored water to further complement the cocktail. Whether you choose to ease in or fully immerse yourself in the power of the green fairy, for Blake, it’s the experience that matters, and he insists on showing you a good time.

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1. Chauhan Ale & Masala House 123 12th Avenue North, Nashville, 37203

This sexy Indian eatery from celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan is a beloved staple in Nashville's food scene, featuring a wide selection of wines, spirits, and cocktails from all over the world and a menu combining Indian cuisine with traditional Southern dishes. Locals love their lunch and dinner menus, but we are huge fans of their brunch menu (which includes a super helpful cocktail menu labeled Sunday Brunch Hangover Cures).

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2. Marsh House , Nashville, TN

Chefs John Besh and Justin Cameron join forces at The Marsh House at the Gulch’s Thompson Nashville Hotel to deliver rosters of old and new southern dishes on breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. The cocktail program rotates seasonally, and the wine list encompasses both domestic and international wines. Breakfast is the most traditionally southern, with plates like steak & eggs, shrimp & grits, and massive, buttery biscuits from Willa Jean’s Lisa Marie White. Lunch and dinner are more seafood-centric, with chilled, shellfish, and fish offerings, supplemented by Besh’s own family recipe gumbo.

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3. Old Glory 1200 Villa Pl #103, Nashville, TN 37212

Old Glory in Edgehill Village is an architecturally striking bar that is drop dead gorgeous. At the bottom of a sweeping staircase that enters a hidden alley through the middle of the building, this bar is mixing up a constantly changing roster of booze-forward cocktails that delve into the worlds of tiki and rare, hard-to-find spirits.

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4. Bar Sovereign 514 5th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203

You have to know where you’re going to find this tiny cocktail emporium hidden away in a strip mall behind a strip club in SoBro. Look for the small brass sign at waist level to locate the door. Once in, bright decor stimulates the eyes while modernist cocktails and food tantalize the tongue. The crowd at this gastropub ranges from tweed vest-wearing hipsters to fluorescent vest-wearing construction workers sitting elbow to elbow at the cozy bar, enjoying a wide range of drinks from esoteric cocktails to canned beers.

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5. The Green Hour 1201 5th Ave N , Nashville, TN 37208

The Green Hour in Germantown promises a night of absinthe-induced intrigue and very dark chocolate to anyone who comes by the Tempered Café, where the bar is housed, after hours. When the green light in the window is illuminated, signature cocktails, beers and wines, and, most notably, absinthe drips flow freely. The Green Hour also offers a full selection of the Tempered Café’s sweets, including the tempered chocolate that’s made by heating and cooling chocolate in order to stabilize the molecules and put chocolate in an ideal chemical state for ultimate enjoyment.

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6. Bastion 434 Houston St, Nashville, TN 37203

Bastion began as a cocktail bar, where creatively named-and-mixed drinks like the Jack of No Trades, Black Sails, and Punch of the Day were as much of a draw as its addicting nachos. A few months after it opened in 2016, it added a 24-seat dining room. Tucked behind a sliding door around the main bar, Bastion's restaurant serves intricate dishes from an oft-changing menu. Half the seats face the open kitchen, so you'll be able to watch the cooks plate items like chicken & dumplings over cauliflower cream and sunchoke ice cream with foie gras caramel.