The vernal equinox is still days away but Atlanta is already in springtime mode. Similarly to the blossoming trees and shrubs, farmers markets are popping with green treasures. After a long winter, there is nothing more welcoming than the first herbaceous greens and bright fruits. As chefs replace hearty brown dishes with vibrant color, Atlanta bartenders are stirring refreshing spring tonics that are aromatic and perfumed as the warm breeze of spring. Botanicals and alcohol have gone hand in hand for centuries. Revive your body with these five local elixirs and a recipe for one you can make at home.
At Westside’s Bacchanalia, sommelier Andrew Harris created a soda that’s a crisp burst of spring. Using a house made Meyer lemon shrub for brightness, he stirs together herbal Pimms No. 1 liqueur, soda charged with flavor-packed Seedlip Garden 108, cucumber, and a fortifying shot of Hendricks gin. The Midnight in the Garden is a refreshing riff on a classic Pimm’s Cup that is as dreamy at the marble topped bar as it would be in a garden with finger sandwiches.
1460 Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard, Atlanta. 404-365-0410, starprovisions.com/bacchanalia/
As greens begin to poke their way through the soil at Kimball House’s yard garden, bartenders incorporate tiny leaves, herbs, and flowers into craft cocktails. The Sorrel Daiquiri is as verdant and zingy fresh as fleeting springtime. Both rum and rhum agricole go into a shaker with lime, lemon balm liqueur, and garden sorrel. It’s so bright and citrusy; you may want to enjoy it on the patio.
303 East Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-378-3502, Kimball-house.com
Like awakening spring in a glass, Better Half’s Run Around Suze gets its flavors from above and below garden ground. Suze is a French aperitif made from the delicately bitter gentian root. It has an earthy sweetness and golden color like the sun. At the restaurant it is mixed with Ford’s gin, lemon, soda, and rosemary from the garden. It’s a perfumed and fresh sipper by itself or with one of Chef Zach Meloy’s 3,5, or 9 course tasting menus.
349 14th St., Atlanta. 404-695-4547, betterhalfatl.com
You can now get cocktails at Krog Street Market’s Varuni Napoli. The new spirits menu includes a bright and energizing Limoncello Lemonade. It’s a quencher that will carry you into summertime. Bonus—you can watch Neapolitan pizzas sliding in and out of the 2 bright blue wood-burning ovens while you sip at the counter.
99 Krog St., Atlanta. 404-500-5550, varuni.us
Barley Garden Kitchen and Craft Bar’s The Shrubbery gets its reddish hue from Cherry Heering. Made in Denmark for 200 years, the cherry liqueur is made by infusing neutral grain spirits with crushed Danish cherries and a blend of spices. Add Seersucker gin, Pimm’s No. 1, ginger beer, and garden thyme and it becomes a fizzy sweet-yet-tart sipper. *Unlike The Holy Grail Knights, after finding The Shrubbery, it is not necessary to cut down the mightiest tree of the forest.
900 Avalon Boulevard, Alpharetta. 678-266-6218, barleygardenkitchen.com
Make your own spring tonic at your home bar using aloe vera juice. The ancient tonic boosts immunity and is know to soothe and heal from the inside. Muddle a couple of cucumber slices in a glass. Add 1.5 oz. botanical gin like Hendricks, 2 oz. aloe vera juice, ½ oz. simple syrup to a shaker and shake well. Strain the mixture over the cucumber and garnish with a cucumber slice. You can easily jazz up your simple syrup by infusing it with spring herbs from your garden.