You may not be familiar with the name Eric Duncan, but his fingerprints are around the city. Today, he is co-owner of Bourbon and the forthcoming Black Rooster with Columbia restauranteur Kristian Niemi, involved in the contemporary art scene in Columbia. When he’s not doing that his main gig is Chief Technology Officer of Synergi Partners in Florence. We caught up to see what he loves about Columbia.
Q. For people in Columbia looking for a great place to eat and drink, tell us more about Bourbon.
A. We have excellent Cajun-Creole food, and fantastic whiskey-centric cocktails. But that’s only part of it. We are located in the historic Brennan building on Main Street. For a long time, long before Bourbon, our building has been part of the forefront of Columbia’s Main Street. I remember the first time I saw the space. The history was palpable. I’m not sure if we chose this building, or if the building chose us. Kristian did an amazing job preserving the history of the space, and that is one of the most defining characteristics of the restaurant. The old subfloor became part of the bar and a prominent wall. Floor joists from other renovation projects around Columbia became bar shelves and tables. And we left one wall unfinished to showcase the history of the building. Before we ever opened, this space had years and years of stories, and it’s ready for yours.
Q: What’s your fave cocktail on the menu?
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A. That’s like asking your mom which kid she loves the most. Granted, I am neither a bartender nor a chef, so none of these are my recipes or anything like that, but still. There are three that I find myself regularly migrating to. When I’m more serious or getting ready to settle in for a long conversation with friends I’ll order the Heart of Darkness (Woodford Double Oaked Bourbon, Hoodoo Chicory, Thai tea syrup, Burlesque and Hellfire Bitters, served in a snifter with hickory smoke.) Earlier in the evening, or when it’s hot outside, I’ll go for an Island Chupacabra (Beam Double Oak, Mt. Gay Black Barrel Rum, passion fruit, pineapple, pomegranate, cinnamon syrup, herbsaint.) Finally, when I’m indecisive or just can’t make up my mind I can never go wrong with a classic Old Fashioned.
Of course, if I’m not in the mood for a cocktail, I can always fall back to one of our 250 or so whiskeys. Or maybe it’s 350. I really can’t keep up with how many we have anymore!
Q. Investing in a business is acknowledging growth in Columbia. What does this city offer that other places in the Southeast don’t?
A. When I came here to study music theory and composition at the University of South Carolina, I really didn’t expect to stay here after graduation. However, the city and the people really grew on me. I’ve heard many people say that Columbia is a small town disguised as a city, and for me that’s a true sentiment. Most places I go I see someone I know, and pretty much everywhere I feel welcome.
The feeling that Columbia is a city on the move is widely acknowledged by most people I interact with, and that’s helpful to any business in Columbia, but that’s not the reason I invested here. My friends and family are here, and this is my home. That’s really all the reason I need to know that this town is a sound, and valuable, investment.