Monday nights in Asheville are about to take on a cross-country flavor as MG Road cocktail lounge introduces its newest popup concept, Libation Migration, on Monday, Sept. 7.
The series pairs well-known Asheville chefs with bartenders from cities across the U.S. and Canada for a culinary-cocktail road trip. The partnership between MG Road and Bulleit Bourbon will feature cocktails matched with small-plate offerings inspired by the food traditions of each guest bartender’s home city.
MG Road’s Alex Flynn is no stranger to the idea of guest bartending. Having done numerous guest stints behind the bar in other cities and states, he says he finds it to be “a way of sharing ideas, techniques and regional trends in the cocktail industry” that has helped him further his education as a bartender. “It’s a big passion of mine, as I truly believe there’s no faster way to get a feel for a new city and its people than to get behind a bar and sling some cocktails.”
The concept, he says, is a good fit for the Wall Street bar, which is known for staging a constant stream of creative popup dining experiences such as Punk Wok, The Thunderbird, Sausage Party, Girls on Deck and more. And finding bartenders and chefs to participate, he adds, wasn’t that hard.
“The community of cocktail bartenders in this country is insanely tight, and there is a sense of camaraderie that is mind-blowing at times,” he says. “Getting the chefs was easy because Asheville’s culinary community is so passionate about what they do. They are all excited to take time out of their busy schedule to be a part of this, and that kind of love of the industry translates directly into the food.”
Flynn says he and co-organizer Erin Hawley made a conscious attempt not to just spotlight the high-profile cocktail capitals like New York City, Boston and Montreal — although those and more are represented in the lineup. Also included in the mix are cities like Columbia, S.C., and Omaha, Neb.
“Alongside of choosing some people from larger markets like [New York City], I wanted to include some smaller ones that you don’t hear a lot about in the media,” Flynn explains. “They are a lot like us and deserve some recognition. I also want to learn more about their hometowns and look forward to going myself.”
Chefs on the schedule include Justin Burdett of Local Provisions, Nohe Weir-Villatoro of King James Public House, Chris Hathcock of Gan Shan Station and James Albee of Sovereign Remedies. Burdett leads off on Monday, Sept. 7, paired with bartender Dan Lynch of Sweet Cheeks Q and Tiger Mama in Boston, Mass. For the debut event, Burdett is planning a Boston-esque menu of chilled clam chowder, warm Boston baked bean salad with country ham, and brown bread and succotash with butter-poached lobster.
Of the edible aspect of this latest MG Road project, Hawley says, “Our food program at MG Road is constantly changing and evolving. We’ve had the opportunity to work with tons of great talent in this city with our numerous pop up food ventures. … Through these fun events we’ve gotten to know lots of amazing chefs in this town and have become known as a hub for chefs to be able to do creative projects in our space. … As we welcome all of these visiting bartenders to Asheville we’re excited to showcase the culinary talent that our city has to offer alongside that.”
Libation Migration happens 5 p.m. Mondays Sept. 7-Oct. 26 at MG Road, 19 Wall St.
The lineup of bartenders is as follows:
Sept. 7 — Dan Lynch (Sweet Cheeks and Tiger Mama — Boston)
Sept. 14 — Kat Hunter and Kristian Niemi (Bourbon — Columbia, S.C.)
Sept. 21 — Megan Barnes (Mclellan’s Retreat — Washington, DC)
Sept. 28 — Fabien Maillard (Le Lab – Montreal, Canada)
Oct. 5 — Travis St Germaine (Clover Club — Brooklyn, New York) and Brad Farran (formerly of Clover Club and Death & Co. — New York City)
Oct. 12 — Rebecca Monday (Curio — Columbus, Ohio)
Oct. 19 — Luke Edson (The Berry & Rye — Omaha, Neb.)
Oct. 26 — Miles McQuarrie (Kimball House — Atlanta, Ga.)