Jon Smith has owned the small wine shop Cork & Bottle in New Orleans for nearly seven years. After the dry cleaners next door didn’t reopen post-Hurricane Katrina, he bought the space and added an adjoining wine bar called Clever.
The two spaces aim to take the snobbery out of wine shopping and sipping, and Smith, with help from bartender Kimberly Patton-Bragg, offers patrons organic wines and cocktails with interesting elements such as port, Lillet and fresh infusions of fruit. The real twist? Some ingredients come from the parking lot.
Each Thursday, Smith heads up a community farmers’ market in the parking lot outside Cork & Bottle and Clever. From mushroom growers to sweets bakers, area farmers and merchants attract crowds. Shoppers then stop in, have a wine tasting and buy locally grown produce.
Patton-Bragg uses the fresh fruits from outside in house-made cellos, which are liqueurs infused with citrus skins in a neutral spirit like vodka. The cellos cost $7 and involve everything from satsumas to clementines.
“It’s fun to attach the words ‘fresh from Louisiana’ and the name of the vendor on the drinks on the menu,” Smith adds. “If you can put something on the menu that explains that the blueberries used were grown 45 minutes away and there is a pile in the parking lot for people to buy and we just put some in the drink, then that’s amazing for sales.”
The bar doesn’t stock organic spirits, but Smith hopes to work some in very soon. He is looking closely at Rain Organics vodka, because a New Orleans resident owns the brand.
“I haven’t spoken to them yet, because I wanted to focus on wines first,” he says. “But I am definitely eager to have an organic spirits section.”