What do you do if you love cocktail lounges, but you can't find a good one in your city? If you're Aaron Morales, you open one yourself. That's the short story behind Morales' Agave Vintage Cocktails in downtown Terre Haute.
Agave Vintage serves Prohibition-era cocktails in an intimate bar filled with local art, and outside on a roomy patio. It is one of the wonderful establishments that serves Cardinal Spirits in cocktails like the Champagne Cosmopolitan (Cardinal Spirits Vodka, champagne, cranberry, lemon and lime juices, and house-made grenadine) and Caramel Apple Martini (Cardinal Spirits Vodka, apple and butterscotch liqueurs, and house made caramel).
“It's bigger than just slinging booze,” says Morales, a professor, novelist, and founder of Agave Vintage Cocktails. He sees the education and betterment of spirits and cocktails in his community as his paramount ambition. “It’s not just drinking responsibly, but drinking well."
Cheers to that. We chatted with Aaron about filling the cocktail void in Terre Haute:
CARDINAL: What was the inspiration for founding Agave?
AARON: The idea came from book tours where I would travel to major cities, and I always had a passion for cocktails. When my fiancé and I went out for dinner (locally) there was no place to find a nice cocktail, and I thought, why don’t we open a nice cocktail lounge in Terre Haute? Pulling from influences of different cocktail lounges I had seen throughout the country, particularly in Chicago and New York.
CARDINAL: What's the philosophy behind your bar?
AARON: To create a new, upscale place that uses high quality spirits, fresh ingredients, and reintroduces tequila as something you can actually enjoy, not have a bad experience with. People are used to shots and used to margaritas and almost always those are painful experiences. Enjoyment and education. We refuse to let people suffer through their drinks. We’ll take it back and get some different.
CARDINAL: Your bar is filled with artwork. What’s the relationship between art and Agave Vintage?
AARON: We make a point of supporting local art in general, partnering with community theater, with Wabash Valley Arts Spaces, Symphony Orchestra, and Swope Art Museum. Our bar is built by Mark Nicklasch, a local metal sculptor. We want to generate interest in the arts and pair the younger professional culture that is starting to move to Terre Haute.
CARDINAL: A handful of drinks on your menu are made with Cardinal Spirits. What do you like about the products?
AARON: What I love about Cardinal Spirits is the attention to the subtle details fresh ingredients will bring out. The reason a lot of people bury spirits in Coke or mixers is because the spirits themselves don’t really warrant paying attention to. I think that Cardinal has done a good job making sure their spirits are sophisticated enough that a lot can be done with them or they can just be enjoyed straight. Cardinal and us are kindred spirits in a way because we started at the same time and we are both supportive of our local communities.