Posted on | February 18, 2015
Written by | Alia Akkam
Christian Todd, Bar Manager, Acme Feed & Seed, Nashville, TN
Whether locals come to Acme Feed & Seed for the hot chicken, Bird in the Bush cocktail (Corsair gin, blackberry shrub, mint, lemon soda) or acoustic string band, Christian Todd, bar manager of the popular entertainment venue in Nashville’s Lower Broadway, says the “different vibes combine to create one hell of a time.”
The Beverage Network:
The Nashville food scene has exploded in recent years, and naturally, exciting beverage programs have followed suit. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen behind the bar?
Christian Todd: We have seen a major culture change behind the stick. The bar has been raised, so to speak. If you are going to meet the expectations of patrons, you have to have your ear to the ground on trends, be knowledgeable and actually know what you’re pouring into the glass. The days of restaurants compiling lists of drinks regurgitated off the back of a liquor bottle are over, thank goodness.
TBN: What do you find most thrilling right now?
CT: There is great talent perpetuating our bar culture. That being said, Nashville is still Nashville, and there is an inherent pride inside of her. Chic L.A. clubs and exclusionary NYC speakeasies can’t just copy and repeat here. The city demands the best in a way that dresses up her outfit, not changes it totally.
TBN: Are guests gravitating toward certain types of experiences?
CT: When I first started pouring in Nashville, the customer base was ordering a light beer, Purple Hooter Shooters and maybe a Cosmo if they were in a fancy mood. Now the bar has turned into a classroom of sorts. People are curious and want to know what, why and where. Questions of which craft beers you carry, what is an amaro and what have you been working on are a nightly occurrence. People aren’t scared of mezcal, bitters or an after-dinner digestif anymore.
TBN: What is making a particular impact on the menu?
CT: Nashville is a whiskey town through and through, so anything with the brown nectar ends up being ordered a good bit. The excitement is seeing the spirits that have forever been wallflowers finally joining the dance and becoming favorites in front of some of the mainstays like rum and gin. Brandy cocktails are gaining speed, I have a Pisco one—the Pisco Peche with crème de peche, lime, egg white and bitters—that has met a wonderful reception and those old bartender handshakes, Fernet and Chartreuse, are now being sampled and explored by the masses.
TBN: Acme Feed & Seed is unique in that it unites food, drink and music. With customers coming for different reasons, how do you create a beverage program that appeals to all, yet manages to be distinct?
CT: Acme is a wonderful place in many aspects. To put it briefly, we managed to fit all the colors of crayons in one box. The first floor is our ‘funky tonk,’ so craft beer and some quick-build cocktails with levity are the focus—for example, the Poor Man’s Fashion with Old Forester, which replaces the muddling with house grenadine and orange soda. The second floor has a lounge feel with more involved cocktails. The ingredients include a blackberry/balsamic shrub and smoked stone fruit puree. We also feature an extensive list of 64 different whiskies, including our own single barrel of bourbon. The roof is a favorite place for many. We look forward to doing some nice bourbon tastings and a champagne brunch as the weather starts warming.
TBN: Southern hospitality is a cliché for a reason. What is your particular ethos?
CT: Southern hospitality isn’t just something to be found here in the South; it’s a basic way to treat people with respect and camaraderie, and we should hold on to these qualities as a species.