Summer Sips: Locally Inspired “Foxtails” at The Red Fox Inn & Tavern

Written by Victoria Peace
Photos by Michael Butcher 

The Red Fox Inn & Tavern located in Middleburg, Virginia, is the longest continuously run inn and tavern in the country. Established in 1728, the property is steeped in tradition and features historic touches throughout the interior that transport visitors back in time. However, the libations that the inn offers are far from stuck in the past. Tavern Manager Anna Adams enjoys keeping things fresh and inventive behind the bar through an ever-changing variety of seasonal “Foxtails” – unique, elevated cocktails that use local Virginia ingredients and liquors. These cocktails with “a foxy charm” have become favorites of locals and out-of-towners alike.

There are currently four Foxtails on the menu – Sky Meadows, The Thoroughbred, The Spicy Mare, and The First Lady – all the perfect sip on a hot summer day.

Red Fox Inn & Tavern’s locally inspired “Foxtails.” 

Sky Meadows

Named after a popular state park just 20 minutes from Middleburg, Sky Meadows elegantly juxtaposes delicate flavors and a bold presentation.  A combination of gin and housemade cucumber water creates a refreshing, light-green base which is topped off with a white elderflower foam. Adams notes that the base layer represents the lush grasses of the meadows while the foam symbolizes the clouds and mist that frequently cover the rolling hills of the park. Adams sources the gin in Sky Meadows from Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, Virginia. She appreciates how their Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin® has nice floral notes and a light juniper flavor.

The Thoroughbred

The Thoroughbred, a quintessential symbol of Hunt Country, features John J. Bowman bourbon paired with fresh lemon juice, pineapple, and bitters. Adams describes it as a drink that both bourbon lovers and “entry-level” bourbon drinkers can enjoy because of the beautiful balance between the citrus and the bourbon. John J. Bowman bourbon is produced by A. Smith Bowman Distillery located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The oldest distillery in Virginia, it brought home the World’s Best Bourbon award in 2016 among other accolades.

The Spicy Mare

True to its name, the Spicy Mare packs a punch. The spicy notes in the drink come from Adams’ house-made jalapeno-infused tequila. However, the heat is balanced out with a hibiscus honey syrup made from fresh local honey and hibiscus leaves.

The First Lady

“The First Lady [is named so because] the drink is sophisticated but also dainty,” Adams says. “Because it’s not a super heavy spirit drink, it has to stand alone, and I think that kind of describes what our first ladies have to do.” Inspired by a Clover Club cocktail, The First Lady features a house-made raspberry syrup and puree, Flying Fox peach vermouth, and cointreau. Adams loves using Flying Fox vermouth in her cocktails because Flying Fox never puts a definitive flavor profile on their vermouths – they are always seasonal. The peach vermouth in The First Lady perfectly speaks to the sweetness of warm Virginia summers. 

Adams takes great pride in the innovative flavor profiles and creative names of all of the Foxtails. However, if she had to recommend just one, she would suggest ordering The Thoroughbred. The Spicy Mare is a close second, but she says that it’s hard to beat the smoothness of the bourbon-citrus blend.

Left: Anna Adams Middle: Red Fox Inn on a sunny summer’s day. Right: Adam’s adds a final flourish to a refreshing cocktail. 

Looking ahead to the fall, Adams is already brainstorming ideas for new, seasonal Foxtails. Last year she made an apple carrot drink which was very popular. She anticipates a version of this drink will make a comeback this year. She’s also playing around with autumnal flavor profiles such as honey, cinnamon, and figs, and sweet potato and cranberry.

Foxtails have always been part of The Red Fox’s history. However, since taking the helm just over five months ago, Adams has revamped all of the Foxtails on the menu to put her own spin on them

Before taking over the bar, Adams managed The Red Fox Inn & Tavern’s front desk. Adams grew up in Front Royal and attended Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and culinary arts. Though she loved her time there, she felt herself longing to go back to Virginia. The very first application she submitted was to The Red Fox Inn & Tavern. Before she had even returned from North Carolina, she was hired.

After touring the property, she knew she had made the right decision. She loved the “heart and hearth” feel of the establishment and just wanted to “be in the atmosphere” of the historic inn. Within a few months of joining the staff, a position happened to open up in the tavern leading her to where she is today.

Adams strives to offer guests a fine dining experience in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. She takes pride in the fact that while the space appears quaint and cozy, people are always wowed by the upscale food and outstanding service The Red Fox provides.

“We’re a small bar but we have a lot to offer,” Adams says. “We have some really great bourbons, and our list is curated with some wonderful spirits that would 100% be worth coming out and trying.” She suggests stopping by the bar around thirty minutes before your dinner reservation to savor an aperitif that gives you a true taste of the flavors, spirits, and history of Hunt Country. ML 

The Red Fox Inn and Tavern is open from Monday through Friday from 5 to 8:30 p.m. (with the exception of Wednesday) and Saturday and Sunday from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. For reservations, please call 540-687-6301. 

This article first appeared in the August 2022 Issue

Elegant Entertaining Turned Inside Out

Story and Photos by Ashley Bommer Singh

Tying the garden into your next dinner party can make things interesting and fun. We recently hosted friends for a summer garden potluck. The table was set with pink Gomphrena in terracotta pots and daylilies and mint picked by the children that morning. The mint carried out to the cocktails for a refreshing welcome drink. Everyone shared their creations and brought one dish.

The elaborate cheese platter arrived, including one tailored for kids. The salad and beets picked that morning came from a neighbor’s garden. A side salad of fresh peas, radish and feta cheese complimented. There were warm lentils with carrots and garlic. Spicy roasted potatoes with fresh chives. After hanging upside down from a climbing rope hung between an apple and pear tree, the kids ate grass-fed burgers on an Oushak rug under the river birch.

We had a feast surrounded by fireflies under the stars. It takes a village in the summer with school out, and we need each other. My talented event planner friend, Suzi Molak, came early to set the whole table. We picked flowers for the vases. Five families gathered. The party grew like our garden, when more friends popped by for drinks. The children ran free. A sense of happy disorder filled the air with flowers, food, and friends. By all bringing dishes and switching houses each month for entertaining, we manage to stay connected and not overwhelmed.

And by tying the garden into your everyday entertaining, you can feel good about cultivating a strong sense of place. A friend made a dashing pink cocktail with fresh basil, port and bourbon the other day. I was over there helping them plant perennials around their pool. The cocktail was a welcome treat as we added catmint, geranium, scented flowering tobacco and white cosmos “Purity” to the garden. So keep basil and mint (in a pot or it will take over) just outside the door for iced tea or cocktails, not just fresh
pesto and salads.

Entertaining in the garden lets you enjoy the vibrant life all around, so nurture what you love. We add native and tropical milkweed every year. If you plant it, the monarchs come. They lay their eggs. Caterpillars eat the milkweed. You watch the chrysalis become a butterfly. I saw one monarch this morning which made my heart sing.

The bees have feasted on the clover, salvias, Veronica, catmint, African basil and are now moving on to Monarda, Alliums, Agastache, even the Hostas which finally are in bloom. Hostas are an amazing plant. They come up every year stronger and stronger and they are almost impossible to kill. My favorites are the large ‘Blue Angel’ with white flowers and the ‘Patriot’ with variegated leaves and purple flowers. On North facing shady sides, I love tucking the blues in front of boxwood to add depth and soften the lines. Astilbes and Japanese painted ferns are a nice compliment as well.

My Asters are three feet tall so I am cutting them down to grow again and bloom for October. I like making sure the bees have food as long as possible. Another friend mass plants sunflowers for the birds. I have perennial sunflowers in my garden for the bees, transplanted from a neighbor. They tower over me.

British Garden Designer Arne Maynard notes in his book, Gardens with Atmosphere, that “we spend so much time inside looking towards the garden, either from the kitchen sink or preferably from a comfortable chair that the view from the windows is a key to design and planting.” Look out your windows. What do you see? What do you want to see?

Taking a risk, I made a curving path of extra large tumbled bluestone that makes me think of frogs on lily pads. Weeks later and after a lot of digging, children at our summer garden party were hoping from stone to stone down the lawn – just like little frogs.

Our house is playful. The path carries the playfulness outside. Maynard notes, “whatever the style of your interior, the garden should reflect it.” I can’t wait till the gardens near the path start to grow. Hopefully it will be our turn to host the friends again. We can pick a few of our fall Asters and make dishes from the garden and connect once more.

This article first appeared in the July 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.