Spirit Savvy ...
We are excited to announce that Asheville Cocktail Week is coming! May 4th-May 8th, 2016. Asheville Wine and Food Festival, partnering with Spirit Savvy, has created the Southeast’s first cocktail week. We will have luminaries from the industry performing events, judging at ELIXIR, conducting seminars and getting to experience Asheville’s fine Cocktail Scene. It’s going to be so fun to show off the bar culture in Asheville!
I had the distinct pleasure of talking with Bob Peters, a renowned bartender from Charlotte. Peters runs the bar at the Punch Room on the 15th floor of the Ritz Carlton. He is always pushing the envelope, learning new things and vowing to stay original. Bob will be one of our esteemed judges at Elixir, May 6th, and conducting an industry seminar about "Nut Milks” at Asheville Cocktail Week.
SS: How long have you been bartending?
BP: About 20 years. I am a native of Charlotte and started working at a dive bar called Elizabeth’s Pub. Since then, I’ve worked in every kind of bar from the neighborhood pub to giant clubs. About 6 years ago, while bartending at Soul GastroLounge, I started dabbling in the ‘Craft Cocktail’.
I cut my teeth on creating a bar program at Pisces. I realized that to stand out, we needed proper presentation, sophistication, good booze and really good ice. I also believe that a well trained bar staff is crucial. Pisces bar program has since gained national recognition, but, more importantly, our customers feel very taken care of.
SS: Who are your biggest influences?
BP: I’m careful not to dig into others’ styles too much, as I want to have my own unique voice.
I am heavily influenced by the seasons. We have a rooftop garden at the Ritz and most of my herbs and botanicals are grown there. “Garden to Glass”. I am excited about the NC distilleries coming along like Cardinal, Doc Porters, TOPO, Durham Distillery and Covington.
I will be showcasing TOPO at a James Beard Dinner. They actually made an amaro especially for the event--an NC Amaro to mimic the Italian bitter Liqueur.
SS: Amaros are pretty complex with such an exquisite balance of botanicals.
BP: Yes, it is very complex but we lightened it up for this occasion. It is beautiful with a balance of bittering agents and a lovely grapefruit essence comes through.
SS: What is your “Go-To” cocktail?
BP: If I’m at a great bar, I like going for “Bartender’s Choice”. Otherwise, I usually will be sipping some Repasado neat.
SS: Your infusions seem to be a favorite among many. And they look beautiful.
BP: Thank you. I like doing infusions with fresh ingredients. It makes a huge difference. Some of my infusions work and some don’t, but I like to experiment and push the envelope. Recently, I created an asian pickle vodka. That was interesting.
SS: What do you think are the trends that are catching on in the cocktail culture?
BP: We are seeing a lot of ethnic Liquors and I hope we see a lot more surfacing. Of course liquors like Pisco, Mezcal, Cachaca and Sotol are or are becoming more commonplace. Keep them coming!
SS: Any last words?
BP: What I think is most important in creating cocktails is the love and intention that goes into it. Like my Mom’s spaghetti. Even with the recipe, it’s just not the same without that ‘Mom Love’. If the bartender love’s what she/he is doing, it certainly makes a difference.
* * *
Bob Peters is actually a Charlotte native, which makes him as rare and as special as the libations you will find behind his bar. With strong southern roots, Bob has always enjoyed the art of dining and taking care of friends. He is well known for his creative palate as well as for his ability to entertain.
When you join Bob for a cocktail, be prepared to linger and let go of the reins. In no time, you will be carried away on a journey sure to delight the senses. Check him out at The Punch Room in The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte (NC). You will be delighted in what you find and heʼll have the hootch ready.
**This is the first blog in a series highlighting the guests at Asheville Cocktail Week. Stay tuned for more to come.**