Micah LeMon, The Alley Light, Charlottesville, VA
I think Micah LeMon, bar manager at the James Beard Award–nominated Alley Light in Charlotttesville, VA, wants us to slow down and take a beat, probably over a lovely, stirred cocktail in a fancy glass. On the day we recorded a few months ago, I was at high-energy, just starting Charleston Wine + Food, and I went and collected Micah from the book signing tent to have a chat. Despite all the people buzzing about (literally and figuratively) and despite the fact I chose a room at the Embassy Suites next to the hotel kitchen -- aka, you’ll hear all kinds of ambient noise in this one, including a vacuum down the hallway -- Micah was cool and calm like he’d just left a yoga retreat. We soon delved deep into a chat about cocktails and balance of flavors, and he proved that he really has a scholar’s encyclopedic knowledge of the ingredients he uses and makes. That is fascinating, sure, and there’s lots to learn from him here, but beyond that, probably the main lesson he can teach us is that following passion -- in his case, the combination of ingredients and spirits -- can create doors where there once were none. Charlottesville is not really seen a cocktail-culture stronghold, and yet, the Alley Light has a fervent and loyal cult following. It you stir it, they will come, eh, Micah?