In early 2020, just before the world as we knew it changed, Laura Unterberg found herself in a new city looking for a fresh start. After nearly a decade bartending in Virginia and New York, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee. “It’s a beautiful city with an exciting drinks scene, and I was hoping to contribute to that growth,” she says.
Unterberg was fortunate to land a job right away as a bar back at The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club. “For decades, bartending has been treated as a journeyman’s trade in which you ‘pay your dues’—so I accepted a position as a bar back even though I had extensive bartending experience, since I knew I wanted to work there,” she explains. “It’s been an incredible privilege to learn the program from the inside out. I’ve bar backed, cooked, worked the door, and everything in between.” A bartending position quickly became available, and Unterberg moved right up—and then the pandemic hit. “Everything changed—our staffing structure, what we sold, how we sold it—it was a completely different business every day,” she says. Thankfully, The Fox survived and today Unterberg is head bartender, and now that the world has gone back to “normal,” most of her role involves beverage menu development, as well as training bar staff. “We have a truly exceptional team at The Fox—they kill it behind the bar and also make a meaningful impact in the greater bartending community,” she says.
As for the venue’s impressive beverage menu, Unterberg notes that there are more than 400 spirits brands represented. “While the spirits selection leans heavily toward American whiskey, I work hard to stock a diverse selection honoring hard-to-find historical products and ethically produced bottles,” she says. The menu also features 30-plus signature cocktails that change monthly, and each drink is created with a focus on minimal waste (cocktails are $15-$26). Unterberg’s Hillbilly Highball ($16) comprises Fords London Dry gin, Byrrh Grand Quinquina, cacao nib-washed Campari aperitif, Giffard Crème de Fruits de la Passion passion fruit liqueur, beet juice, and seltzer water, while her MCM Old Fashioned ($17) features Weller Special Reserve Bourbon, Laird’s Straight Apple brandy, Angostura bitters, and Bittermens Orange Citrate. “I often pull inspiration from the culinary world and try to impart whimsy with surprising ingredients,” Unterberg adds. “Drinking should be fun!”