Year in review: Creative new cocktail bars

LUXURIOUS LIBATIONS: Playing its part in the craft cocktail resurgence, Asheville is home to a growing number of bars specializing in creative mixed drinks. Photo courtesy The Waterbird

Along with being distinctive for its music, arts, food and beer, today Asheville is fully in the throes of craft cocktail culture. This year has seen the opening of several bars focusing on the creative end of mixed drinks. Here are five notable bars that opened this year.

Antidote Bar: A new South Slope bar connected to the adjacent Chemist distillery, Antidote aims for a cozy, quiet and upscale vibe, with Prohibition-style décor that feels like a traditional gentleman’s cigar bar (though it’s happily free of cigars and sexism). Attention to detail shines through both in the design of the building and space and in the cocktails. The latter are mostly traditional choices, but each has a local or regional spin that makes it uniquely Asheville. 151 Coxe Ave., antidote.bar

AUX Bar: Opened early in 2018, this downtown food and drink destination combines the best of two very different approaches to spirits. AUX Bar’s cocktail menu features dive-bar staples like 40-ounce King Cobra malt liquor (with bottle service!) and Jell-O shots as well as more classic (and relatively upscale) libations like the Manhattan and Old-Fashioned, each given a seasonal twist. 68 N. Lexington Ave., auxbar.com

The Continental Lounge: Everything about the Continental Lounge is designed to evoke warm memories of the old-school diner. Food choices are simple — meatloaf, Reuben, burgers and so forth — and most of the drinks on offer are similarly proletariat in nature. But the relatively brief cocktail menu offers intriguing choices, including concoctions using lesser-known spirits like Genever and sometimes featuring locally made ingredients as well. 77 Biltmore Ave., continentalloungeavl.com

Save Me the Waltz: Named after Zelda Fitzgerald’s semiautobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz combines classic Jazz Age style with a modern vibe. While the club features a good cross section of wines and beers (and an intriguing late-night food menu), the cocktail realm is where it truly shines. Perhaps in a nod to the clandestine nature of Prohibition-era speakeasies, all cocktails are prepared without the noisy shaking associated with many mixed drinks. 56 Patton Ave., smtwbar.com

The Waterbird: Though it boasts a mouth-watering sandwich-based menu and a delightful selection of nonalcoholic mixed drinks, The Waterbird truly comes into its own via cocktails prepared with house-made syrups, tonics and sodas. The menu of unique drinks includes unexpected ingredients like Earl Grey tea-infused gin, smoked tea syrup and aquafaba (a fancy word for legume-based “pot likker”). 197 Charlotte St., thewaterbirdasheville.com

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About Audrey and Bill Kopp
Self-described “liquor nerds” Audrey and Bill Kopp enjoy a good cocktail now and then (and then, and then) but always imbibe responsibly. Everyday Americans with upscale tastes, they're always on the lookout for the best values in spirits, clever-yet-legal DIY strategies, and adventurous cocktail recipes. Find them also at http://fb.me.liquornerds/ Follow me @liquornerds

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