Written for PUBLIC GOODS
Nashville: a vibrant city that is synonymous with both music and decadent southern cuisine. Of course what goes hand in hand with both of those things? Booze.
Nashville’s bustling bar scene spans the city from honkey tonks hosting open-mic nights on Broadway to intimate cocktail bars packed with discerning hipsters on the east side. On a recent visit, one such intimate establishment caught my attention for its quiet yet widespread efforts in sustainability, The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club.
The Fox is not the kind of bar you stumble upon by accident. Located on the backside of a building and below a vintage shop/music venue, The Fox is a destination.
I was lucky enough to partake in a private cocktail making class as a part of a press trip. It took me less than five minutes to understand why this hidden gem is such a favorite among Nashville’s most stylish locals. With an impeccably and thoughtfully appointed interior, plus bartenders who take their job very seriously without intimidating even the most noviced of drinkers, there leaves little to be desired and every reason to declare this your new favorite bar of all time.
As you’d expect from any southern watering hole, whiskey drinking carnivores will be well satisfied by the bar menu. What’s more surprising is that their vegan and more health-minded customers will be, too.
Treats like bountiful vegan meat and cheese boards and hot chicken hummus (spiced with chicken seasonings and no actual chicken) and even a southern favorite, pimento cheese, are all rendered without animal products of any kind and comprise nearly 50% of the menu. As my eyes scanned the dozens of craft cocktails on the menu (all organized by glass type and booziness to help you navigate it’s many pages) I was immediately drawn to one called the Clockwork Orange. Being the health-nut that I am, I couldn’t resist the combination of turmeric (superfood extraordinaire) mezcal (arguably the “healthiest” alcohol out there) and carrot (so now it’s basically a smoothie). To my delight, it tasted as great as I felt afterward.
As I sipped my bright orange concoction, I listened to the bartender describe the garnish dehydrating process that renders gorgeous dried citrus rounds that are as tasty to nibble as they are pretty. It turns out the impetus for this unique approach was not merely aesthetic but actually to avoid the waste of using fresh citrus that would otherwise be routinely cut and dumped daily.
Apparently, limes and other citrus fruits are some of the largest and most wasteful resources in the food and beverage industry, and the damage starts long before the cocktail is made. Not only is the growth process taxing on the environment and potentially toxic to nearby crops, but a large percentage of product doesn’t even make it to the market for reasons of aesthetics or freshness.
One London bar came up with a way of making “citrus stock” boiled down from fresh peels that would otherwise land in the trash, a process The Fox has adopted in lieu of using fresh citrus. Going one step further, they actually appropriate peels from a neighboring juice shop, thus avoiding the need to buy any fresh citrus at all. Other small details like metal straws and reusable black linens all pointed to a business culture that is head and shoulders above many of its neighbors in regards to sustainability.
But perhaps the most surprising discovery was still to come: Nashville doesn’t recycle glass. How a city as metropolitan as this one could be so behind in basic civics was beyond me. Evidently, the costs of recycling glass are too high for the city to maintain, so Nashville sends all of the glass bottles amassed at the hundreds of bars and restaurants in town straight into landfills. To give you a sense of just how much waste that is, the city’s most famous honkey tonk bar, Tootsies, can turn out 11,000 beer bottles on a busy Saturday night. And that is just one of the dozens of similar venues in town.
The Fox saw this problem and decided to circumvent it stylishly by providing wine on tap and beer in cans: a material the city does recycle. Despite all of these efforts toward running a socially conscious business, one would not necessarily know any of it without asking. You won’t find any mention of eco-friendliness on the website, no fanfare for their endeavors and no bragging about being “woke” on their social media.
At the end of the day, The Fox is just a business executing their craft to the best of their ability, while seamlessly doing their part to protect our planet. And isn’t that the utopic American dream we can all hope for?