Charlie Hodge brings his cocktail wizardry down to earth with a farm-to-bar venture
Charlie Hodge is no stranger to the cocktail scene. After helping to open Chestnut and developing its beverage program, he went on to head the bar at Bull & Beggar, developing the popular Monday “Recession-Proof Mixology” nights that target service industry workers. And that doesn’t include his incredible track record having helped open the legendary Clyde Common in Oregon and helping to organize the Portland Bartenders Guild. His newest venture is a farm-to-bar cocktail joint called Sovereign Remedies, which began demolition last week on its tiny 800-square-foot space at the corner of Walnut and Market streets.
“The reason that I love the concept of Sovereign Remedies is because Asheville, historically, was a remote area and people had to figure out how to heal themselves,” says Hodge. “[The question was] how do you make yourself better, stronger? So something that I’ve been trying to do behind the bar for 10 years now is take away all the synthetic ingredients and bring out true flavors and true ingredients.” And how does one do that most effectively? By going directly to the source.
Sure, Sovereign Remedies offers the promise of zinc countertops that will age and weather with time and wear, Brazilian walnut tables and waxed cotton upholstery matched with exotic hardwoods designed by local furniture maker Parker Reid. And yes, the metalwork will all be done by the insanely talented Tina Councell of Iron Maiden Studios at the Wedge. But these things are not what will make this bar truly special, explains Hodge.
“I think what sets us up as something different is our connection with Patchwork Urban Farms,” he says, referring to his partner Sunil Patel’s burgeoning urban farm, a network of neighborhoods, community gardens and independently sourced property that utilizes unused land to turn it into productive, biodynamic farmland. “I think that part of Sunil’s mission is to figure out how to create a relationship between farms and restaurants. So, how do you do that? You open a bar, a restaurant and a farm all at the same time! And that is what we’ve committed to doing.”
Patel says, “Patchwork Farms is multiplot farm that makes land partnerships with anyone. It can be someone’s backyard, schools, hospitals, community gardens or wherever it may be. It’s a farm that functions through crop sharing.” The harvests of the farms first go to neighbors and community through a community-supported agriculture program and work shares. Beyond that, the plan is to focus on supplying restaurants and bars as well as running a produce stand on Choctaw Road.
“If there is a particular yard that can grow tomatoes amazingly, then that is what that whole yard does, and if another yard can raise chickens really well, that is what their farm does,” Hodge explains. “So what Patchwork does is utilize all these different plots that each have different advantages and harness those advantages to share what we harvest with everyone in the program. So it breaks down the my-yard-your-yard barriers and builds the idea of community by saying, ‘Here are your tomatoes, and here are some chickens from over here.’ It’s about creating food in the best places possible for that food and then sharing it.”
“One of the major forces in funding this bar has been trying to figure out how to ingrain the farm in the bar,” Hodge says. “How do restaurants become more connected and share the responsibility of creating that food so that it is not just up to the farm to have to do it? We have CSAs, but how do we create a relationship with the people that are selling lots of food, like restaurants or bars, in a way that supports the farmers? We want both our food and beverage programs to really try to walk that talk and to truly source locally.”
As for the bar itself, Parker Reid describes the aesthetic as “Victorian greenhouse,” a look that was chosen as intentionally as the farms from which Sovereign Remedies will be supplied. “You have to subscribe to a particular ego to go out specifically to have a nice drink, and we want this space to speak to the drink,” says Reid. “Greenhouses really have this inherent beauty in that they were engineered to produce a specific product, and we want the bar to feel the same way, like it was engineered to produce cocktails.”
And as for what Hodge is cooking up for the tipplers? Expect more of his trademark focus on classic cocktails, tradition and history. “There’s a whole new science of how you deconstruct things, reconstruct things and build in these whole new experiences, and I definitely enjoy that. But what really intrigues me is the history of it all and that lineage of how we’ve been interacting with alcohol, plants, vegetables and fruit for centuries.”
When asked the prospective opening date, Hodge quips, “Anywhere from two to 14 months.” Personally, I can’t wait.