A familiar face: Jenkins returns to lead Cedar Grove’s bar program

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 6, 2023

Return guests at Cedar Grove Mansion Inn will recognize the man tending bar at the antebellum home’s Chandelier Lounge.

Anthony Jenkins started working at Cedar Grove when he was only 16 years old. Under the leadership of Harley Caldwell and Kendra and Steven Reed, Jenkins is once again at the mansion, this time at the helm of the bartending operation.

“This was my first job. At the restaurant here, I was bussing tables,” Jenkins said. “My reasoning for coming back was simple. I wanted to help Ms. Kendra and Dr. Reed and Harley get this thing up and going.”

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Jenkins said he knows Cedar Grove “backward and forwards.”

With that knowledge and familiarity of the ca. 1840 home of John Alexander Klein comes a ghost story or two. Cedar Grove, like many homes in the city from this time, was used as a hospital for wounded troops during the Siege of Vicksburg. What is now known as the wine cellar was briefly used as a morgue.

General William T. Sherman himself likely intervened to save the home from being ransacked in the Siege, as Klein’s wife, Elizabeth, was a Sherman relative.

Perhaps it was a spirit from the Siege era that left a lasting impression on Jenkins one night years ago.

“I was bussing tables at the time, and me and another guy were the only two people here. I had forgotten my keys in what used to be the wait station of the restaurant,” he said. “I came back to get my keys and there were broken glasses on the floor. Nobody but the two of us were in this house.

“That’s my experience and it’s stuck with me. That’s my moment.”

Those enjoying Cedar Grove in the afterlife aside, Jenkins said one of the main joys of his job is meeting guests who visit the home.

“I love to meet new people and I’m good with guests, and I’m good with interacting and letting them know what is going on. I know some of the history of the house as well,” he said. “The restaurant, the people — you meet a lot of people (in this job). Just last week, we had a couple from London, England. They were wonderful.”

Jenkins can make a variety of cocktails and provide recommendations for wine or beer from the Chandelier Lounge’s handsomely stocked bar.

But two signature drinks, he said, keep customers coming back: The Chocolate Martini and the Lemon Drop.

“Most people say they’re to die for,” he said, adding that an apple Martini is in the development stages.

Jenkins joined the mansion’s owners in extending an invitation to out-of-town guests and Vicksburgers alike to come to see what’s new at Cedar Grove.

“It’s good to get everybody back acquainted (with Cedar Grove); not just the regular hotel guests, but our locals, too,” he said. “You can always grab a drink and go up to the roof to watch the sunset. There and on the porch. It’s nice.”

The Chandelier Lounge is open Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 5 p.m. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5:30 p.m., a 30-minute happy hour tour that concludes in the lounge is also offered.