Greg McGehee has been experimenting behind the bar at Lemaire for the past decade. Now General Manager and Wine Director, his excitement about new and regional ingredients and his obsession with crafting unique flavors while paying homage to cocktail classics have helped to create one of the best bar menus in Richmond.
Behind the Bar: Greg McGehee
How long have you been bartending?
I’ve been at Lemaire now since 2005 - so over 10 years.
How did you get into it?
I like coming up with new things, expanding my palette, learning about different spirits, their history - I’m thirsty for knowledge about new things. I want to know why things taste the way they do.
Favorite classic cocktail?
Negroni. I had my first when I was in New York City - right before dinner when you’re supposed to have a true aperitivo. We have a full negroni menu now with different riffs on the theme. I love the “Never Say Die”, and the mezcal one is pretty cool.
What is the best part about working at Lemaire?
We’re lucky because we’re supported fiercely by Richmond - but we also see guests from all over the world and get to expose them to Virginia cuisine and ingredients. It’s a beautiful setting.
What makes the bar at Lemaire unique?
With it being 3 sides each area is kind of its own micro bar. Front is more exposed, the side is pretty private, the back has a great view. You can order from the dining room and bar menu. Happy hour is tremendous and we do it 7 days a week. It’s a cool mix of people - students, and businessmen, couples on dates, folks who are in their 70s having cheeseburgers… it’s a great place to see different age groups.
Cocktail you hope people ask for?
Negroni, manhattan, gimlets. Classics. There is a reason they’ve been around forever.
Favorite cocktail to sip on when no one is looking?
Strawberry daiquiri mixed with pina colada. I’ve heard it called the Miami Vice. And Washington Apples were fun back in the day…
Who are the bartenders in town you seek out most?
Mattias (Heritage), T (The Roosevelt), Beth Dixon of Pasture, Justin from Saison, and Scott Harris - the beverage director for Toast. Everyone that works here. We’re spoiled to have so many talented people in Richmond.
Favorite Lemaire food + cocktail pairing?
We have a drink called the Jack Rose (apple jack brandy made with apples from Shenandoah valley with Jack Rudy grenadine from Charleston and lime juice) It’s super refreshing and goes well with just about anything on the bar menu.
What is your pro-tip for new or home bartenders?
If it has fruit juice in it you shake it, if there is just liquor stir it. use a jigger - that’s the best way to get a good measure.
Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us?
Sure, I call this the Old Pompey - it’s named after the last alligator that lived in the fountain in the Palm Court here at The Jefferson Hotel. He died in 1948.
Cocktail: Old Pompey
1.5oz Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
1oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1 oz house made honey thyme gastrique (equal parts vinegar and honey simmered with fresh thyme)
2 dashes lemon bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake and strain over fresh ice. Garnish fresh thyme and lemon zest
Photography by Alexander Kreher.