Which Atlanta bars are best for a classic cocktail?

  • Beth McKibben
  • For the AJC
8:00 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 Food
For the AJC
Share the classic Manhattan tableside with friends when you order the Manhattan for Four at the Mercury. CONTRIBUTED BY THE MERCURY

Elder classics like the brandy crusta can be traced to the 1862 “Bartenders Guide” by Jerry Thomas while others span the post-Prohibition decades and include modern classics like the scotch-based Penicillin created in 2005 by Sam Ross. Here are six timeless drinks and our picks on where to enjoy them.

Considered the original cocktail with roots dating to 1806, the old fashioned is a simple, stirred concoction of whiskey, sugar, bitters and water. The simplicity of the classic is mastered at the Pinewood (254 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-373-5507, pinewoodtr.com). It also happens to be on draft. When the Toasted Old Fashioned hit the menu at Gunshow and then at Revival (129 Church St., Decatur. 470-225-6770, revivaldecatur.com), chef Kevin Gillespie’s favorite cocktail of bourbon, burnt sugar and brûléed cinnamon was an instant hit with guests. The “Goonies”-inspired Chester Copperpot at Ration and Dram (130 Arizona Ave. NE, Atlanta. 678-974-8380, rationanddram.com) is a permanent fixture on the menu made with Plantation Pineapple rum and creme de noyaux (almond liqueur).

She is a seasoned beverage professional and she’s sharing her bartending pet peeves, her favorite cocktail and more. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

This three-ingredient, stirred cocktail of rye or bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters is thought to have been created at the Manhattan Club in New York City around 1880. The Mercury (Ponce City Market, 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-500-5253, themercuryatl.com) offers a classic Manhattan as one of its “tableside for four” cocktails served in a pitcher. Bring three of your friends and drink your way through the pitcher. At Wrecking Bar (292 Moreland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-221-2600, wreckingbarbrewpub.com), long-standing favorite the barrel-aged Manhattan is rested for six weeks in a small, 5-gallon barrel.

The origins of the martini date to the 1880s when Italian vermouth was becoming popular in cocktails and Old Tom gin was the spirit of choice for the classic. The martini is enjoying renewed popularity. Kimball House (303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com) makes a mean made-to-order martini, but try their beautifully balanced 50/50 aptly named Kimball House with gin, Cocchi Americano, French vermouth and orange bitters. The cocktail comes with proper garnish service: a choice of two olives or a lemon twist. 8Arm (710 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-875-5856, 8armatl.com) reintroduced Atlanta to the glory of the Gibson, a super subtle dirty martini of two parts gin and one part vermouth with a house-made pickled onion.

The equal parts cocktail of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth was likely created in Florence, Italy, by Count Camillo Negroni in 1919. Newly opened in Westside’s Stockyards, Donetto (976 Brady Ave. NW, Atlanta. 404-445-6867, donettoatlanta.com), like its sister Colletta at Alpharetta’s Avalon, offers a beautiful barrel-rested Negroni on draft. The mezcal Negroni at Muss & Turner’s backroom speakeasy Eleanor’s (1675 Cumberland Parkway SE, Smyrna. 770-434-1114, mussandturners.com/smyrna/eleanors) is smoky with a bittersweet mixture of the herbaceous St. George Bruto Americano amaro and sweet vermouth. An excellent Negroni for whiskey and scotch drinkers.

For the AJC
The sidecar is a classic sour cocktail containing three ingredients: cognac, lemon juice and orange liqueur. CONTRIBUTED BY MARCEL

Thought to have been created sometime around the end of World War I, the sidecar is a simple sour cocktail of cognac or brandy, orange liqueur like triple sec and fresh lemon juice. It resembles the much older brandy crusta, which, in addition to the above ingredients, also contains simple syrup, maraschino and angostura bitters. Marcel (1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-665-4555, marcelatl.com) offers a lovely version that straddles the line between the classic sidecar and the ancient brandy crusta made with calvados (French apple brandy), combier, lemon juice and lemon bitters and garnished with a sugar rim.

HANDOUT/Jordan Smelt
The Champs-Elysees at Bread & Butterfly is an elegant French classic with cognac and green chartreuse. CONTRIBUTED BY JORDAN SMELT

The earliest known reference to this elegant French cocktail was in 1930 in “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” A possible variation on the sidecar, the Champs-Elysees was originally listed as a six-person drink to be served tableside. Its popularity has waxed and waned over the years, but Bread & Butterfly (290 Elizabeth St. NE, Atlanta. 678-515-4536, bread-and-butterfly.com) is giving the cocktail of cognac, green chartreuse, lemon, sugar and bitters new life.

View full experience