Anthony Auger is the bar manager at Benne on Eagle in Asheville, NC.
What was your first bartending job?
What is your favorite spirit to work with at the moment?
Right now there are a bunch of local gins that have been very interesting to play with. I really like The Chemist Gin specifically.
The restaurant’s cocktail menu is an ode to the restaurant’s Appalachian-African-American roots. What are some examples of these influences?
Benne on Eagle’s cocktail menu pulls influence from the Caribbean and West Africa through spices and spirits and pairs those with regionally sourced Appalachian ingredients. For instance, the Chili + Lemongrass is born from the collective influence of West Africa + Asheville. The drink uses a local gin from Asheville’s Chemist distillery as its base.
Paired with chili and lemon juice, the cocktail is served over ice with a lemongrass and lime garnish. The gin’s citrus notes are a perfect accompaniment to the spicy chilis and tangy lemongrass, with just a touch of sweetness.
The Pumpkin + Clove combines pumpkin falernum, hailing from Barbados, with Four Roses bourbon and Angostura bitters, then served in a coupe glass with a lemon peel and clove garnish to complement the pumpkin.
Where do you find some of the more unusual ingredients for the drinks?
Through online research! I order things online and see how I can work with them.
What’s the most popular drink on the list at the moment?
We are selling many Chili +Lemongrass cocktails.
How would you describe the current cocktail scene in Asheville?
The cocktail scene in Asheville hasn’t quite caught up to the beer scene yet, but it’s definitely moving in a positive direction. There has recently been a chapter of the USBG added to Asheville, and I think that has had a positive impact in bringing bartenders together and talking more about cocktails.
There have also been some new bars that have opened recently that are really pushing the cocktail scene further and further. The Times, Save Me the Waltz, and Antidote are all fairly new to town, and they have some pretty talented bartenders that are helping mold the cocktail scene.
What’s your current go-to cocktail or beverage?
I’ve always had a soft spot for an Old Fashioned. Simple and delicious.
Would you share one of your favorite drink recipes?
The Cardamom + Banana, inspired by New Orleans, Jamaica and Trinidad, is a play on the New Orleans Vieux Carre. Highlighting Giffard Banana liqueur with Rittenhouse rye, Muekow Cognac, cardamom syrup, cardamom bitters and Angostura bitters, this libation is finished with cardamom syrup and lemon oil and served over ice in a rocks glass. The drink’s seasonal flavor notes, such as the natural spiciness of the rye whiskey and cardamom balancing the sweetness of the banana, and the Angostura bitters evoking cloves and cinnamon, allow for a perfect pairing.
Cardamom + Banana
¾ oz. Rittenhouse rye whiskey
¾ oz. Meukow Cognac
¼ oz. Giffard Banana liqueur
¼ oz. Cardamom syrup*
2 dashes Angostura bitters
4 drops Scrappy’s cardamom bitters
Build in a rocks glass over a large ice rock. Finish with lemon oil, to balance out the sweetness of the liqueur and syrup.
*For Cardamom syrup:
16 oz. Water
16 oz. Sugar
1 tbsp. Powdered green cardamom
Add ingredients to sauce pan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain.
Finish with lemon oil, to balance out the sweetness of the banana liqueur and cardamom syrup, and serve on a large ice rock in a rocks glass.