Drink | September 2014
in a Glass
McEwen’s Grove-inspired cocktail blends simplicity and freshness, rendering the perfect tailgating drink for the fall
Story by M.B. Sellers
Photos by Casey Hilder
There’s nothing better — or more important, come football season — than finding the perfect tailgating cocktail. As Southerners, tailgating is an integral part of the sporting experience, regardless of teams, wins, or losses. Sharing food and drink with friends and family has always been a central part of the human experience and rightly so. A tailgating cocktail should be relatively simple to make, as well as appeal to a wide variety of people. Luckily, McEwen’s, located on the Square in Oxford, Mississippi, has just the drink.
“We’ve been down here about two and a half years,” says Burton Webb, general manager at McEwen’s.“The owners really didn’t know if they wanted to tap into here quite yet, because with them now coming into Oxford, they had to push their restaurant as a chain. And literally, chains have never actually done well in Oxford. It’s been more the mom-and-pop, and, of course, you have John Currence at City Grocery, as well. When they came in, there was a lot of skepticism, because if McEwen’s was successful, then other chain restaurants would come in.”
Memphis also lays claim to the restaurant, and Webb explains that they did, in fact, change the menu in order to suit Oxford better. “With McEwen’s here, we did change a little bit from the menu in Memphis and also with our specialty cocktails,” Webb says.“We hired a firm to come up with all of the cocktails for us.”
However, the restaurant’s “The Grove” in a Glass was actually crafted by one of the first bartenders at the Oxford location. After a customer exclaimed that she would enjoy drinking the cocktail in the Oxford Grove, the staff decided to go ahead and make the famous tailgating spot the drink’s namesake. With simple syrup, Grand Marnier and some fresh mint straight from the owner’s garden, the concoction is as quick to make as itis refreshing.
“Most of our cocktails are Southern-driven,” Webb says.“We have three signature drinks, which are “The Grove,” “Daddy’s Little Princess” and “Faulkner’s Spirit.” We try to, with clientele we have coming in, to have that traditional drink that they know, that they’re used to, but then with a little bit of a twist. Oxford isn’t known for going way outside the box.”
Webb has been working at McEwen’s for two years and originally started as a pastry chef, which he still continues to do. He also has his own catering company. “I also wanted to learn a little bit more from the front of the house, because I would like to own restaurants as I progress in my age and also my learning,” Webb says.“So, they were able to give me a server position. From the server position, I’ve been moved up to general manager.”
Webb says that in every restaurant, there are three main factors that contribute to its success: ambiance, service and food. “If you look at our décor, our paintings, just the way the lighting hits — and service, that’s one thing I want to maintain at the highest level,” Webb says. “That’s what I came in here for, that’s my job.” He also adds that knowing their customers on a name-to-name basis is incredibly important and provides for a better overall feel when it comes to dining at McEwen’s. “We just want to make the most pleasurable experience on the Square.”