by: Amy Ciarametaro
If you have not dined or imbibed at The Whiskey Jar in Charlottesville, Virginia, then lean in and pay attention to this story (then immediately make plans to go). The Whiskey Jar is a Southern-sourced restaurant and bar where everything tastes like mamma’s love; that is, if your mamma loves you enough to give you whiskey. Focusing on all things local, they try to have as much quality Virginia products on their menus as possible. “Buying from your own community just makes sense. We help ourselves when we support our neighbors,” explains Bar and Events Director Leah Peeks.
Leah is throwing out some serious ”Virginia spirit” in her beverage program. “I have 24 draft beer lines, and at least half of them are always from Virginia. Right now, I’m offering about a dozen Virginia wines and about two dozen #VaSpirits.”
If you’re in the Downtown Mall of Charlottesville during September #VaSpiritsMonth, make sure to stop by The Whiskey Jar and ask our featured Tastemaker Leah Peeks for the Appalachian Iced Tea or the Charlottesville Ambrosia (or better yet, BOTH)! I can personally attest that both drinks are delicious! Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at prepping these delicious cocktails at home.
The Appalachian Iced Tea, featuring Filibuster Boondoggler
Glass: Mason Jar
1 1/2 oz. Filibuster Boondoggler
5 oz. house-made black and mint teas
1/2 oz. lemon
5 sprigs of mint
1/2 oz. or to taste of brown sugar simple syrup
The Charlottesville Ambrosia, featuring Vitae Spirits Platinum Rum
Glass: Tall Collins
1 1/2 oz. Vitae Platinum Rum
1 oz. house-made moonshine pineapple cordial
2 oz. fresh orange juice
Coconut milk whipped cream on top
Okay Leah, we get it! You like Virginia! You really like us! Tell us more about your support for all things Virginia *bats eyes*! “We offer a Virginia Whiskey flight, or pick from one of our many cocktails that feature Virginia spirits. We have friends who run some amazing local breweries, wineries, and distilleries…. Champion, Three Notch’d, Virginia Distillery Company, Vitae, Blenheim, Foggy Ridge…. The list goes on and on. We are proud of the work they are doing and the quality of the products they put out make it super easy to have a Virginia-focused bar program.”
Now that my thirsts have been quenched, let’s talk about the food menu. While dissecting Chef Will Richey menu, it’s nearly impossible to find anything that’s not locally sourced from his farm, Red Row, or from other farms likely within an hour’s drive. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at this excerpt from The Whiskey Jar menu:
FRIED CHICKEN AND COLLARDS: Sustainably raised Mennonite farm chicken, dusted in locally milled Byrd Mill flour and generously coated in our house blend of Bantry Bays locally-provided herbs, spices, and seasoning. Fried in Peanut Oil and served over local, organic, slow-stewed Collard Greens with Kite’s Virginia Country Bacon.
Chef Richey likes to focus on organic, sustainable products, and heritage breeds, which he says provide a “richer, healthier, and more fulfilling eating experience.” He also commissions highly-skilled foragers to bring forth some of the Piedmont’s wild bounty (ramps, morels, fern heads, and other fine delicacies). Whatever he prepares, it’s guaranteed to be made entirely from scratch, authentic and served to you at a reasonable price.
*Rapid Fire with Leah Peeks of The Whiskey Jar*
#VaSpirits: Where were you born?
Leah: Johnson City, Tennessee.
#VaSpirits: When you’re not behind the bar, what do you enjoy doing?
Leah: One great thing about bartending is that, if you’re lucky, it affords you enough free time to pursue other passions. For me, that was always art. I’ve been painting for as long as I’ve been bartending. Being in management makes it harder to make time for my art practice, but last summer Whiskey Jar gave me a long hiatus so that I could do an artist residency program in Key West. I made art for a month straight and came back to my Bar Manager job. It was an amazing experience and a testament to the awesomeness of my staff that I was able to step away for so long.
#VaSpirits: When you’re not drinking Virginia spirits, what do you enjoy drinking and why?
Leah: It depends on the day and the weather, and how I feel and where I am. I always have a bottle of Plymouth Gin or Hayman’s Old Tom Gin at home, and as many flavors of La Croix as I can get my hands on.
Photo credit: Jay Paul