Once upon a time, Guinness Stout was the standard at every Irish pub. But, nowadays, menus are just as likely to include local craft beer, house cocktails and rare whiskeys.
In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), which begins a weekend of revelry at establishments all over metro Atlanta, here are a few places with drinks that offer a little something different than a pint of plain.
Guinness cocktails at Fado Irish Pub
Atlanta-based Fado Irish Pub company has locations in Buckhead and Midtown as part of a nationwide chain that features craft beer, cocktails and plenty of whiskey, alongside modern and more traditional fare.
Two of Fado’s current cocktail features are made with Guinness, though it’s much more of an ingredient than the whole show.
On the heftier side, Irish Poet mixes cold-brewed coffee, Bulleit Bourbon, brown sugar and orange bitters, served in a goblet.
On the lighter side, Irish 75 features Hendrick’s Gin, lemon and honey, topped with sparkling wine, served in a flute.
“We wanted to give people who don’t think they like Guinness a reason to think about it differently,” says Lee Johnson, Fado’s resident drink enthusiast, who built them.
“We get Guinness out of the big pint glass and get it into two sexy vessels, our new Guinness goblet and flute. We’re the only place we know of in the U.S. that’s using those.
“Guinness’ flavor goes great with coffee and we love cold brew. Gin is making a huge comeback in Ireland, and it’s largely misunderstood. How can you combine Guinness and gin to make a drink that’s light and easy to drink? From there, the drinks were born.”
273 Buckhead Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-841-0066. 933 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-260-7910, fadoirishpub.com.
‘Chocolate Milk’ at Meehan’s Public House
Meehan’s Public House has five metro Atlanta locations — Sandy Springs, Buckhead, downtown, Atlantic Station and Vinings — that serve as elevated Irish eateries as well as neighborhood sports bars.
On the menu at every Meehan’s is a concoction referred to as Chocolate Milk. It is quite simply Guinness with a shot of rich, locally made 18.21 Bitters coffee, vanilla and cocoa syrup. But it is much beloved by almost everyone who tastes it.
“The history behind the chocolate milk isn’t a great story,” admits David Levins, Meehan’s director of operations.
“We put that together in order to have a sweet, more palatable offering for people who tend to stay away from Guinness because they think it is too heavy. Even people who aren’t Guinness drinkers love it and agree it tastes exactly like chocolate milk.”
“It’s definitely a fan favorite from regulars at Meehan’s, some even claiming it takes them back to their childhood,” says Shelly Brown, assistant general manager at Meehan’s in Buckhead. “It offers that feeling of nostalgia, and it reminds me of going to a malt shop as a kid.”
2810 Paces Ferry Road N.W., Vinings, plus four more locations. 770-433-1920, meehanspublichouse.com.
‘Baby Guinness’ at Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub
Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub leans toward a more traditional experience, with locations in Milton and Brookhaven. In fact, in 2015, it was chosen Irish Pub of the Year by the Irish Pubs Global Federation of Dublin, Ireland.
“We don’t necessarily highlight cocktails for SPD,” says Olde Blind Dog’s director of operations, Geoff Kokoszka. “Most of our business is a perfect pint of Guinness and a Car Bomb.”
But that doesn’t keep the bartenders from playing around a bit, if you’re willing to wait for a drink.
Akin to a Car Bomb, the Baby Guinness is a kinder, gentler shooter that calls for one-and-a-half ounces of Kahlua poured into a Kahlua shot glass with a half-ounce of Baileys Irish Cream floating on top to resemble a mini pint.
“The Baby Guinness is cool because it looks and tastes like Guinness but is a quick shot and less filling,” says Kokoszka. “We sell a lot of them when people don’t necessarily want to drink a Car Bomb, which is a lot more filling.”
12650 Crabapple Road, Milton. 678-624-1090. 705 Town Blvd N.E., Atlanta. 404-816-5739, oldeblinddog.com.
Irish Coffee at Brick Store Pub
While Decatur’s Brick Store Pub is widely recognized as one of the best craft beer bars in the world, its St. Patrick’s Day bona fides are ensured by yearly celebrations of traditional Irish music, food and drink.
The enthusiasm of its Irish-American co-owner, Mike Gallagher, is a big part of that.
Gallagher favors a precisely poured pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson, which are staples of the Brick Store menu. And he really enjoys whipping up an Irish coffee, which isn’t listed on the menu, though regulars know it’s always available for the asking.
The BSP version, based on the recipe San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe perfected in 1952, is built in an iconic glass mug, with house brown sugar syrup, Jameson and fresh brewed coffee topped with a float of lightly whipped cream.
“You can always get one, even though it’s not listed on the menu,” Gallagher says. “I’m always thinking we should just put it in the menu.
“We keep the coffee fresh all of the time. We use the brown sugar syrup to give it toffee and caramel notes, not just sweetness. You really want to be able to taste the whiskey. And the cream shouldn’t be fluffy, but just a nice, rich layer on top.”
125 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-687-0990, brickstorepub.com.
Irish whiskey flights at Mac McGee
With locations on Decatur Square and in historic downtown Roswell, Mac McGee Irish Pub features a made-from-scratch menu and a well-curated draft beer list that includes both British Isles classics and American craft favorites.
But it’s the big book of spirits that draws connoisseurs and oohs and aahs. And if whiskey in all its forms is the king of that list, numbering nearly 600 selections, Irish whiskey is the house favorite.
For those who love to sample, Mac McGee Decatur’s general manager Anton Quinn offers regular tastings and whiskey flights, ranging from new releases to rare and collectible cellar offerings. And you can always build a flight to suit your own fancy.
“I like to talk about whiskey from all over the world,” says Quinn, who hails from Ireland, “but I take a lot of pride in my Irish category, and I like to focus on that whenever I get the chance.”
Among the super premium bottles you might find at Mac McGee, Quinn is excited by Yellow Spot, a soft, sophisticated 12-year-old single pot still Irish whiskey. “It’s one of my favorite whiskeys in the world,” he says.
There are also iterations of the elegant Midleton Very Rare Irish whiskey, and the singular and sublime Redbreast 21-year-old whiskey.
“It you take the classic pot still Irish whiskey with unsalted barley, it has a lot of green spice, with cracked black pepper in the middle, and it’s creamy, and warm and lingering in the end,” Quinn says. “But it’s more delicate than most whiskey.”
Local Irish stout at Eventide Brewing
Eventide Brewing, which opened in Grant Park in late 2014, is part of Atlanta’s craft beer boom, producing a variety of styles, including a German-style kolsch and an American-style pale ale, served up in a tasting room that has become a neighborhood destination.
But the surprise of the portfolio is an improbably tasty and true to style Irish dry stout, with a few craft brewing tweaks.
Served on nitrogen at the brewery, and at beer bars around town, it comes out cascading in the glass, with classic roasted flavors and aromas and a super-creamy mouthfeel.
“I always enjoyed Guinness and Murphy’s, but I thought they were lacking a bit in flavor,” says Eventide brewer Geoffrey Williams. “So I wanted to keep to the traditional style and spirit, but also make something that had a little more of those roasted flavors, and those smoky, coffee, toffee, dark chocolate notes. And it’s still light, with a dry finish.”
As with classic Guinness on draft, Williams says it’s the nitrogen that makes Eventide’s Irish stout stand out.
“If you served this beer on a normal CO2, it would be a bit more bitter, a bit more harsh, and sharper than it should be,” Williams says. “On nitro, you lose some of that bitterness, and it rounds the edges, and you get this nice, smooth creamy mouthfeel. And that’s what it’s all about.”
1015 Grant St. S.E., Atlanta. 404-907-4543, eventidebrewing.com.