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Move over, New York and San Francisco: Music City is also Cocktail City.

Nashville has long had honky-tonks, dive bars and a Southern weirdness all its own. But now that it’s been deemed an A-List hot spot, the city has become as good a place for a fancy libation as for a PBR. Cocktail bars like Patterson House and Holland House Bar & Refuge are as creative as any you’ll find in bigger cities, and you’ll like their prices much more. Some, like Bar No. 308, make their sodas and syrups from scratch, while just north of downtown, Corsair distills its own spirits (its $8 distillery tour is highly — and tipsily — recommended). Then there are the drinks infused in-house with fruits, vegetables, chocolate, bacon and — well, you name it, and someone in Nashville has found a way to mix it with liquor. Habanero and lime-infused rum, anyone? Why, yes we will.

Holland House Bar

Source: Holland House

Some of the best drinks nearly came to an end this summer, when a new and some say overeager official from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Keith Bell, announced his intention to enforce an obscure 2006 beverage law, which, as he interpreted it, amounted to an effective ban on infusing spirits in-house. Technically, the law wouldn’t have made it impossible to infuse spirits, just a lot more expensive and time-consuming. Bartenders would have to infuse drinks à la minute, just before serving, instead of in batches over long periods of time. Were it enforced, the law would have had the perhaps unintentional effect of banning premade margaritas and sangria.

None of this went down well in Music City. Bell’s announcement provoked an outcry from cocktail aficionados, tipple fans, bartenders and restaurant owners. Within a week, the commission announced that it would suspend enforcement “indefinitely” while it worked to establish some guidelines.

We hope they’re the right ones. In the meantime, we share some of our favorite boozy infusions inspired by Nashville’s best cocktail bars and encourage you to experiment with your own versions at home.

Bacon-Infused Old Fashioned - Holland House Bar & Refuge

Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 strips of thick-cut, smoked bacon
  • 750ml bottle Bulleit bourbon
  • ¼ ounce grade B maple syrup
  • 2 dashes lemon bitters
  • Twist of lemon or orange

To infuse the bourbon:

  1. Cook bacon.
  2. Drain fat into container, and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Eat the bacon. (This is crucial.)
  4. Pour bourbon into large bowl and add bacon fat. Let sit for 4 to 24 hours.
  5. Remove fat and strain bourbon.

To assemble the cocktail:

  1. Pour 2 ounces infused bourbon over ice in shaker.
  2. Add lemon bitters and syrup.
  3. Shake, stir and let settle.
  4. Pour over one large ice cube in chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon or orange twist.

Vanilla Mint Moscow Mule - Corsair Artisan Distillery

Ingredients:

  • For the vanilla-infused vodka:
  • 4 vanilla beans
  • 750ml bottle vodka
  • For the cocktail:
  • 2 ounces vanilla bean vodka (see recipe below)
  • 4 ounces ginger beer
  • 4 large mint leaves, muddled
  • sugar cube

To infuse the vodka:

  1. Split vanilla beans lengthwise.
  2. Add to bottle of vodka.
  3. Cap tightly.
  4. Store in a cool, dark place for at last three days and up to one week.

To assemble the cocktail:

  1. Muddle mint and sugar cube.
  2. Pour muddle, along with alcohol and ice, into cocktail shaker.
  3. Strain into chilled glass and garnish with mint.

Mizuwari (lemongrass whiskey and soda) - Bar No. 308

Ingredients:

  • 2½ stalks lemongrass
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 cups sparkling water or club soda
  • Whiskey

To make the lemongrass soda:

  1. Bruise lemongrass and chop into small pieces.
  2. Place in pot with water and sugar and heat until boiling.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Strain and add to soda.

To assemble the cocktail:

  1. Pour 2 ounces whiskey over ice in cocktail glass.
  2. Add lemongrass soda.
  3. Garnish with twist of lime.

The Existentialist - Whiskey Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • ¾ ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • cucumber slices
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • soda
  • mint sprig or twist of lime

To assemble the cocktail:

Combine all ingredients except soda in a shaker, and muddle.

  1. Add ice, cover, and shake.
  2. Pour into Mason jar and top with soda.
  3. Garnish with mint sprig or twist of lime.

Hush & Wonder - The Patterson House

Ingredients:

  • ¼ ounce Crème de Violette
  • 2 ounces Matusalem rum
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 10 drops of lavender bitters

To assemble the cocktail:

  1. Pour Crème de Violette into coupe glass; tilt glass and swirl liquid so the inside of the glass is fully coated. Pour out Crème de Violette.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a shaker with ice.
  3. Shake well. Strain into cocktail glass.

Top Image Source: Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation

Ozy

Chris Dickens

Ozy Author

Chris Dickens writes about Kentucky history, rock 'n' roll and racehorsing, among other things. When he's not elsewhere, doing elsethings, he keeps chickens and bees on a small urban farm in East Nashville.