You’ve heard us and probably everyone else in town talk about how excited Memphians are for patio season. I mean, with great weather and so many local bartenders showing off their skills, there are plenty of reasons to be hyped! But it’s not just about the patios–it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Even though our friends at Central Station have the perfect patio for some South Main fun, their lobby bar, Eight & Sand, is where you need to be.
We caught up with Will Davenport, Eight & Sand’s general manager, and learned a little about him and how the cocktail program at the bar combines with the most chill atmosphere to make one unforgettable experience!
We Are Memphis: What do you love about working at Eight & Sand?
Will Davenport: I was born and raised in Memphis and I have so much love for this city and the people and stuff that comes out of here. I also have a really soft spot in my heart for Memphis music so here I get to blend my love of cocktails–we do a very Memphis forward program here where we try to highlight Memphis products and producers and locally owned companies through our menus and products that we bring in. So I’m happy to work on that side and also as far as the atmosphere we’ve got a killer music program.
WAM: What makes Eight & Sand different from any other bar in town?
Will: Most of my career, I was working in fine dining restaurants which I had a lot of fun with and it was where I was able to grow a lot of my knowledge and ability to build beverage programs. Eight & Sand has been a whole changeover. We’re a bar so I’m able to focus in on that. It provides a really fun atmosphere with great drinks behind it and making it very accessible–I want everyone to come in here and have a good time.
WAM: What are your top two favorite drinks to make?
Will: I love making a drink called Boulevardier it’s a negroni riff–I usually use rye whiskey in mine because I love the bite and the extra heat you get from that and then Campari which is a bitter orange liqueur and then just a good sweet vermouth usually those are done in equal parts but I usually bump the rye up on mine and drop the sweet vermouth down so you get this nice a little bit bitter but real boozy kind of whiskey style cocktail. I think it’s a nice little sipper. Another favorite is just a classic margarita. It’s actually my parents’ favorite cocktail, so I’ve got a lot of practice in!
WAM: What’s your favorite dish from the bar menu?
Will: That’s a tough one–I think I’m going to have to go with our wings. They’re just super tasty and they’ve got this sweet and spicy Asian style sauce and this blue cheese ranch on the side. I absolutely hate blue cheese, I can’t eat it with anything but with those wings it’s really really good.
WAM: What should someone order for the first time at Eight & Sand or their first time at the bar in general?
Will: Honestly what I encourage a lot of people to do is to just come up. We have a lot of talented, well-trained bartenders and just kind of come in. If you can’t find anything immediately off the menu, just ask them to whip you up something! We all do that, it’s one of our favorite things. It’s just a time to get creative and make something custom and unique for each individual person. But if that’s not your speed and you want something off the menu, I recommend an Andrew Michael Old Fashioned. It’s just a tried and true classic and it’s hard to beat.
WAM: If you could make a classic “Memphis” themed cocktail, what would you make? What about something more modern?
Will: For a classic one, just kind of taking our Old Fashioned on the menu is a great idea. I use Old Dominick’s Huling Station for the base in it and then we make bitters in-house to go along with it. It’s a very local thing. For a modern style–getting into spring and summer things I like to do that I don’t see very often are shandy style cocktails–so incorporating beer in some way. So I’d like to make some light patio sipper that has a cool local beer on top of it.
WAM: What is your advice to someone who is a beginner looking to get into mixology?
Will: I would say just have fun with it. The way I got into it was through cooking. I love to cook a lot so I took that passion and threw it into bartending. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but you kind of just learn more every single day. Then, you get to a point where you’re just creating stuff. And sometimes it’s not going to be good–you’re going to make some bad stuff every now and then but don’t get discouraged by it. At the end of the day, you can just shoot it back and start over!