Thirsty? You’re in luck. In Paste’s drinking-and-traveling series, City in a Glass, we mix up a city’s signature swills and slide them down the bar to readers. Grab a stool. This round, in Atlanta, Georgia, is on us.
Atlanta is not only the most traveled-through city in the South, it is also home to the busiest airport on earth. Here, local culture and global ideas mesh on every level, most visibly in the city’s intertwined restaurant and bar scenes. Because the state of Georgia requires all bars to operate functioning kitchens, Atlanta’s cocktail style can’t help but be influenced by its culinary style, says Paul Calvert, co-owner of the Ticonderoga Club. “We have more interaction and collaboration between chefs and bartenders and pay a greater deal of attention to food and drink pairings [than other cities],” Calvert says. At Seven Lamps restaurant, for example, beverage director Madison Burch always tries to match what’s coming out of the kitchen with what’s coming from the bar. “Sometimes it’s just a basic flavor profile that fits,” she says. “One cocktail could work with six different things on the menu.”
But bartenders are drawing inspiration from outside their establishments as well. Cole Younger Just, beverage director of the Last Word, says many bartenders are taking cues from the past. “We are seeing more and more upperclassmen so to speak,” Just says, “who are moving further away from the use of a 1,000 unknown ingredients like rattlesnake testicles and tormented oak leaves in a drink. We are returning to a simpler style where the classic on which the drink is based is the star.” A style that also lets Southern hospitality shine. “Of course, I also believe that Atlanta’s cocktail culture is defined by a larger commitment to service that has always been a part of eating and drinking in the South,” Ticonderoga Club’s Calvert says. “In Atlanta, no drink is more important than the person requesting it.” On this city drinks tour, we’re going to introduce you—the most important person in the room—to three Atlanta-only cocktails, show you where to find them and even how to replicate them at home.
Where to order: Seven Lamps
New Orleans-style coffee is known for being a combination of coffee beans and chicory root. This woody plant is roasted, ground up and used as a coffee additive or substitute all over the world (even though chicory does not contain caffeine); New Orleanians adopted the practice when their coffee supply ran low during the Civil War and have been using chicory to flavor their coffee ever since. At Seven Lamps restaurant in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, you can sip your chicory from a cocktail coupe. Here, beverage director Madison Burch combines Mississippi-made chicory liqueur with Tennessee-made whiskey, Applejack and potent ginger juice for a sweet and smoky drink she calls the Highwayman (pictured at top). “The chicory liqueur and the whiskey are aged in used bourbon barrels—charred American white oak,” Burch says. “So there are a couple of different woods playing around in there. The tannin from the woods gives it a lot of complexity.” The drink also contains Tuaca, an Italian liqueur that’s made in Kentucky, which gives the drink some warm orange and vanilla notes.
1½ oz. Chattanooga Whiskey 1816 Reserve
½ oz. Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur
½ oz. Tuaca
½ oz. Laird’s Applejack
1 barspoon of ginger juice
Mist of absinthe
Combine all ingredients except absinthe in a mixing glass with ice. Stir. Strain into a coupe. Mist top of drink with a spray of absinthe. Optional: Garnish the glass with a slice of ginger root.
2. Thread and Theory
Where to order: Ticonderoga Club
Photo courtesy of Bart Sasso
Southern-themed bars are popping up all over the country, but in Krog Street Market, there’s a curious new bar that’s reminiscent of the northeast. Ticonderoga Club—named after Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York—was founded by five men, four of whom grew up in Yankee territory. “‘Ticonderoga’ is a Mohawk word for ‘the place where two rivers meet,’ but for us the name is more associative; it reminds us of the pubs, taverns, locals and townie bars that dot the landscape in the places where we were raised,” co-owner Paul Calvert says. “We felt that while the word ‘Ticonderoga’ would be somewhat familiar to our guests—suggestive of colonial American drinking—it is also obscure enough to let us get away with our own brand of madness when it comes to food, drinks and design.”
One of the bar’s maddest drinks is the Thread and Theory, a rum-based cocktail that includes apple cider vinegar and sorghum syrup. The Ticonderoga team created the cocktail in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to celebrate the American flag’s 250th birthday. “We wanted the drink to represent a sort of historically relevant take on an old fashioned style of drink,” co-owner Greg Best says. “The taste is reminiscent of a colonial punch: a touch sour and a touch sweet, with a great complexity of cooked cane and spice.”
Thread and Theory
2 oz. Rhode Island-style rum
¼ oz. Gran Classico bitter
¼ oz. unfiltered apple cider vinegar (such as Bragg’s)
¼ oz. sorghum syrup (such as Muddy Pond) (diluted; 3 parts sorghum syrup to 1 part hot water)
2 dashes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until cold and slightly diluted. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
3. Scuppernong Sour
Where to order: Last Word
Photo courtesy of Cole Younger Just
Scuppernongs are a variety of grape indigenous to the Southern U.S. They are a type of muscadine, namely the bronze- or greenish-colored ones, and are cultivated from the end of summer to mid-fall. One day last September, the staff forager at Last Word restaurant in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward brought in a whole bunch of Scuppernongs for the bar team to play with. “Scuppernongs have a fantastic flavor that is interesting to capture in a cocktail,” beverage director Cole Younger Just says. “They really taste like sunshine and nectar. They’re just delicious.”
He turned the bounty into a variation on the pisco sour, a classic Peruvian cocktail made with pisco—a type of South American brandy—lemon juice, simple sugar and egg white. “This was our first egg white cocktail at Last Word and we wanted to showcase a little technique,” Just says. So he infused some bottles of Macchu Pisco (a Peruvian distillery owned and operated solely by women) with the Scuppernongs using a vacuum-sealer. He then clarified the spirit using a centrifuge. “Not everyone has those gadgets in the kitchen, but the infused pisco will practically last indefinitely without degradation of the flavor.”
2 oz. Scuppernong-infused pisco (recipe below)
½ oz. fresh lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup (1 part sugar to 1 part water)
1 egg white
Amargo Chuncho bitters, for garnish
Make Scuppernong-infused pisco: Halve and remove the seeds from 1 lb. Scuppernongs. Place cleaned grapes into a vacuum-sealable bag with a 750-mL bottle of un-aged pisco. Vacuum-seal the bag. Let sit for one week. Open bag and strain out Scuppernongs through a chinois or sieve. Toss grapes. To further clarify the pisco, run it through a centrifuge or filter it through four layers of cheesecloth and then once through a large coffee filter. Store in a sealed container.
Make Scuppernong Sour: Combine all ingredients except bitters in a shaker tin with ice. Hard shake for 45 seconds. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a few dashes of bitters.
City in a Glass columnist Alyson Sheppard writes about travel, restaurants and bars for Playboy.com. She spent many years drinking in New York before resettling in the great state of Texas.