It's not often you walk into an unfamiliar restaurant in a new city, ask for a surprise drink, and end up with a glass full of smoke—but that's more or less what happened to us on a recent trip to Nashville. Lured by the promise of locally sourced, plant-based meals, we rolled up to Avo, a restaurant built inside a shipping container emblazoned with avocados in Nashville, Tennessee, and made our way into an airy, light-filled space, complete with a plant-covered living wall behind the bar.
After a delicious meal of marinated zucchini and cashew-hemp seed ricotta lasagna, we sat down at the bar and asked Matthew Brown, Nashville native and bartender extraordinaire, for a drink, any drink. What we received was The Holy Smokes—and holy smokes, was it good. Even though Avo has only been open a year, Brown has been creating cocktails for a decade, and, as head of Avo's bar, he's in charge of writing the restaurant's imaginative cocktail list, which is helping the sustainable restaurant rapidly make a name for itself in the vegan culinary and drink world.
But back to that drink. Appropriately named "The Holy Smokes," the heady concoction is essentially an old-fashioned made with Palo Santo, a natural wood incense. "It is designed to be the ultimate stress-relief cocktail," explains Brown, "as Palo Santo is known for its anti-anxiety and spiritually cleansing properties." Cleansed spirit, here we come!
Brown working his magic and serving up The Holy Smokes.
Brown's process is simple: smoke the Palo Santo incense into a glass and mix Belle Meade Bourbon (made in Nashville!) with Demerara simple syrup, Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6, and Angostura Aromatic Bitters. Add the mixture to a smoked glass with a large ice cube, finish it off with a lemon peel twist, and voilà! A deliciously smoky vegan cocktail with a dash of stress-relieving incense—just in time for the midweek slump.
For more on the plant-based restaurant, check out eatavo.com, or visit Avo at 3001 Charlotte Avenue, Suite 200 in Nashville, TN.