The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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Page 58 of 112

58  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2018 W hile Nashville is known worldwide for its burgeoning music scene and hot chicken, well-crafted cocktails have never exactly topped the city's list of accolades. However, a number of local spots now boast dynamic bar programs that defy these managed expectations, and Henley—a modern American brasserie located on the quiet end of the famous Broadway strip— has established itself as a go-to for locals and visitors alike since it opened eight months ago. The man in charge behind Henley's bar since the outset is Jon Howard, an industry veteran whose stints at Saxon + Parole, the BLT Restaurant Group, and Old Glory in New York City have established him as a cocktail connoisseur. With nearly 20 original cocktails, Henley's bar menu embodies Howard's skill at crafting a lineup specifically tailored to food-friendliness: The drinks pair seamlessly with menu items like smoked duck egg gemelli or heirloom grits with chicken-fried sweet tooth mushrooms. "I try to avoid polarizing flavors like amaro and bitters. Instead, we focus on ingredients like vinegars, salt, and shrubs—flavors that are lighter and brighter," Howard explains. "Even our whiskey drinks are on the lighter side." In an effort to prioritize sustainability, Howard also works with Henley's kitchen staff to utilize regional fruits and vegetables wherever possible. "We're trying to create less waste here, so we don't use twists as garnishes, and everything's dried or in oil form," he says. The bar menu often changes depending on what's in season and on hand at the restaurant. Two drinks, the Simple Ration and the Immediate Impact with Bulleit Bourbon, both list rotating "local produce" among their ingredients: The former uses a rotating seasonal shrub mixed with gin and produce, and the latter recently featured the rarely-seen flavor combination of grapes and shiso leaf. "Our kitchen works backwards—they ask the farmer what's available and work on their menu from there, so our bar is the same way," Howard explains. "The kitchen recently gave us two cases of sprouted coconuts, so I ended up coming up with a coconut fat- washed cocktail." Despite Nashvillians' collective love of heavy barbeque and beer- and-a-shot combos, patrons have carved out a place in their hearts and stomachs for Henley's more delicate fare. "We know it's differ- ent that what people expect when they come to Nashville, but we've been received really well by everyone, and I think they appreciate giving their palate a break!" Howard says. With a full beer and wine list in addition to its plentiful beverage options, which include eight Manhattans, non-alcoholic libations, and dessert drinks, Howard has made good on his quest to create an expansive and creative list that's welcoming to everyone—not unlike Music City itself. Breaking the Nashville Norm by Jesse Hom-Dawson CRAFT COCKTAILS AND MODERN AMERICAN CUISINE FROM HENLEY ARRIVE IN MUSIC CITY The Simple Ration cocktail with gin and tonic reflects Jon Howard's commitment to utilizing local produce: It features a seasonal shrub that changes depending on what's available. PHOTO COURTESY OF HENLEY NASHVILLE Jon Howard is the Lead Bartender at Henley in Nashville, TN. NASHVILLE

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