When you watch bar manager Courteney Foster easily engaging her patrons and her colleagues while working her mixology magic behind the bar at The Junction, it’s not hard to believe that she spent her life in the restaurant industry. Originally from New York, her parents moved the family to Atlanta to open one of the first bagel shops in the area. Years of helping out with the family business and working behind the bar in Atlanta has certainly helped Foster develop the organizational, conversational and operational skills that make a good bartender. She moved to Asheville in July after getting her gig at The Junction and has been happily whipping up potions for patrons since then.
Mountain Xpress: Why do you like working here?
Courteney Foster: Here, my creativity is called upon all the time, and I really get to flex those creative muscles that I have, which is great. And I also get to work with the kitchen. I’m allowed to use any products they have back there. We try to cross the bridge between the front of house and back of house and work together as much as possible.
So do the ideas for your drinks come out of this cooperation with the kitchen?
If there is something fun and different the chef has back there that he is using and he has excess, I always try and pick up on that. We work with very little waste here. Everything is really fresh. I juice fresh every day. All my syrups are made here in the house. With that being said, we do borrow some ideas and some ingredients from each other but I can’t say that it’s 100 percent driven from that. It’s seasonal and it’s me just always craving change in life, I guess.
There’s a cocktail on your menu called You’re My Inspiration, where you whip up something according to the tastes of your customers. Tell me a bit more about that.
I usually sing the song when people order that. Well, I try not to because I don’t want to upset the guests, but sometimes I do (laughs). It’s a great way for me to build relationships with guests. Sometimes my cocktail list is a little intimidating. There are words on there that people are not familiar with, and it scares people sometimes. So I want them to have the comfort to be able to come up to me and say, “You know, this is the spirit that I like. I don’t like things too sweet.”
So do you have a cocktail-making philosophy?
I wish I was that organized! A lot of it is trial and error, a lot of it is starting off with an idea and then adding layers to it. So I say I want you to taste all the layers of the drink. I don’t want anything to be too intense. I don’t want anything to not be noticed.
With cocktails like Some Like It Hot and Slap Happy, you must have a lot of fun coming up with names.
I hate coming up with names! I can come up with a cocktail no problem, but coming up with the name is probably the most difficult part. So I use our wait staff because they are very creative, they’re very much into the scene of what’s going on around town or what’s trending in the world. And I use my guests. Naming is definitely not the most fun part for me.
The Junction is at 348 Depot St.