Small Bites: Bar Wars AVL

MIX IT UP; Juniper Cooper, previously bartender at The Barleycorn, was the winner of Bar Wars AVL 2014. Cooper competed to raise money for the children's program at Asheville Community Theatre. Bar Wars AVL champions receive a muddler handcrafted by chair and barstool maker Brian Boggs. Photo by Asheville Channel

Everyone in Asheville — at least everyone who is 21 or older — will have an opportunity to help decide who makes the best vodka drink in the city in the upcoming Bar Wars AVL cocktail competition. The bar battle, which is put on by local cocktail event promoter Spirit Savvy, sports a few changes as it enters its second year. Most noticeably, it has trimmed its list of competitors down to 10 from last year’s 16 in order to give each bar more attention, says organizer Mary Rich.

Bar goers will have two weeks — between Monday, March 23, and Saturday, April 4 — to visit as many of the participating bars as they like and try each mixologist’s offering based on the theme “Iceland.” The only requirement for competing drinks is that they must contain Reyka Vodka. This allows contestants a bit more leeway than last year’s showdown, which asked bartenders to riff on the classic Daisy cocktail.

Bar Wars AVL 2015

The public can vote for their favorites online, and the top four vote-getters will move on to compete at the Final Mix Off at Asheville Music Hall on Tuesday, April 7. “This is where it gets real,” says Rich. The final event will have a new theme and a roster of professional judges, including Dwayne Mitchell, Eater magazine’s 2014 Charleston Bartender of the Year; Stefan Huebner, Charlotte Magazine’s 2014 Best Bartender in Charlotte; and Asheville’s own Donnie Pratt of Cucina 24.

The competition is not just about fun and cocktails. Each bar will team up with a nonprofit organization of its choosing, and for every $10 “Icelandic Cocktail” sold, the bar will donate $4 to its partner. Last year’s event raised over $3,500 for local charities, Rich says. Like last year, Town and Mountain Realty will write a check to the winning bar’s nonprofit partner matching the bar’s earnings up to $500.

Rich also hopes Bar Wars AVL will help highlight the talents of Asheville’s craft mixologists. “My hope for Bar Wars AVL is to bring more attention to the Asheville cocktail scene,” she says. “I’m proud of Asheville [bars], and want to keep them in the spotlight as real cocktail tastemakers.”

As of press time, this year’s competitors and their nonprofit partners are:

For details, visit or

Community input meeting

The French Broad Food Co-op will host a community input meeting on Saturday, March 21, to share visions and ideas for the natural grocery store’s planned expansion — an initiative that with its projected parking garage and other components has the potential to profoundly impact the south part of downtown. Asheville City Council members, architects and co-op leaders will be on hand for the discussion. The meeting is open to the public.

3-5 p.m. Saturday, March 21, French Broad Food Co-op auxiliary building (formerly Build It Naturally), 76 Biltmore Ave.

Mills River Farmers’ Market vendor meeting

The Mills River Farmers’ Market is seeking new vendors of fresh produce, meat, cheese, bread, dessert items, value-added food items and health and body care products. Market organizers will hold a vendor information meeting on Thursday, March 19, for both past vendors and those new to the market. Vendor applications will be distributed, and changes to the market’s operating procedures will be a part of the discussion.

6 p.m. Thursday, March 19, Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, 455 Research Drive, Mills River. Details: Joe Brittain at 891-3332

Business workshops

Barefoot Wine founders Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey will present two workshops for entrepreneurs at UNC Asheville’s Family Business Forum on Thursday, March 19, and Friday, March 20. The couple, who wrote the New York Times best-seller The Barefoot Spirit, began their wine business in the laundry room of their house in 1986 and sold the Barefoot brand to E&J Gallo in 2005. At the March 19 event, they will discuss ways to build a successful brand with little money or industry experience. During the March 20 event, Houlihan and Harvey will offer tips for spouses who are in business together.

How to Build a No. 1 Brand,” 7-8 p.m. Thursday, March 19, Humanities Lecture Hall, UNC Asheville, 48 Relic Lane. Free and open to the public.

Are You Married to Your Spouse, Your Business or Both?” 8-10 a.m. Friday, March 20, Sherrill Center, UNC Asheville, Campus Drive. Free for Family Business Forum members, $80 for nonmembers.


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