I spent much of 2017 sipping cocktails around Atlanta for both work and pleasure. Many of those drinks ended up being the subject of a story for the AJC. Thinking back on the cocktails that wowed me this year had me scrolling through my Instagram feed to come up with a top 10 list. In no particular order, these are the 10 drinks that made a lasting impression.
This circa-1880s sherry-based cocktail is said to have been named for the first Broadway show with over 500 performances. Golden Eagle has resurrected the oft-forgotten classic made with Alvear sherry, sweet vermouth and orange bitters. A sophisticated, low-proof alternative to the boozy Manhattan with the rich flavor one expects of the cocktail, the Adonis is skillfully executed at the diner’s club in Reynoldstown.
Golden Eagle. 904 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. 404-963-1703, goldeneagleatl.com.
The Panorama is the first Japanese whisky-based cocktail to make the menu at Kimball House in the bar’s four years in business. Made with Suntory Toki, cardamaro, citrus bitters and yellow chartreuse, the cocktail sips like a polished, balanced variation on the Brooklyn, the Manhattan’s edgy, streetwise cousin.
Kimball House. 303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com.
The cocktail list at Paper Crane Lounge upstairs at Staplehouse doesn’t come with a list of ingredients but rather descriptors of the flavors and mood individual drinks are meant to invoke. Permafrost blends beauty, a skillful build, and a deep understanding of ingredients. This slightly savory and herbaceous sour cocktail brings together aquavit (herbal, neutral spirit akin to gin), terroir gin, chives and tarragon.
Paper Crane Lounge at Staplehouse. 541 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-524-5005, staplehouse.com.
The first published mention of this savory martini was in 1908 in William Boothby’s “The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them.” When the Gibson at 8Arm debuted on the menu this past winter, it quickly became a favorite among Atlanta’s martini drinkers. The cocktail of two parts gins and one part vermouth is garnished with a house-pickled onion to create a subtle version of a dirty martini.
8Arm. 710 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-875-5856, 8armatl.com.
The swizzle is a sour-style cocktail consisting of crushed ice, rum (usually), citrus juice, sugar and bitters, but the name is derived from the way the cocktail is stirred — with a traditional Caribbean swizzle stick. S.O.S. Tiki Bar in Decatur gives the tropical classic a booze-forward update using gin, boomsma (Dutch malted gin), green chartreuse and a key Tiki ingredient, falernum.
S.O.S. Tiki Bar. 340 Church St., Decatur. 404-377-9308, vicsandwich.com/sos.
There’s the classic gin martini, the elegant, equal parts vermouth and gin cocktail, the 50/50 spiced with orange bitters, and then there’s Bon Ton’s equal parts martini riff with gin, Manzanilla sherry, lillet blanc with a hint of absinthe from the rinse. The use of dry sherry strikes just the right balance for the martini drinker not looking to stray too far from their comfort zone or for those seeking to give the martini a try.
Bon Ton. 674 Myrtle St. NE, Atlanta. 404-996-6177, bontonatl.com.
Dead End Street
This cross between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan at Ration and Dram in Kirkwood is best sipped on a Southern fall evening on a patio with just a hint of chill in the air. Beautifully bold and balanced, the Dead End Street is made with bourbon, brandy, chinato (bitter liqueur) and amaro montenegro.
Ration and Dram. 130 Arizona Ave. NE, Atlanta. 678-974-8380, rationanddram.com.
Few places in Atlanta have mastered creating a well-made, low-proof cocktail like Ticonderoga Club. There’s always one on the menu. However, the Champ-Ale from the Fall 2017 menu became an instant favorite among regulars to the club. It’s made with Spanish vermouth, sparkling wine, lemon and is topped with the old-school Genesee Cream Ale.
Ticonderoga Club. Krog Street Market, 99 Krog St. NE, Atlanta. 404-458-4534, ticonderogaclub.com.
The Hapi Cocktail
This masterful daiquiri riff from the Consulate in Midtown made such a lasting impression, it was named cocktail of the week in October. The Hapi Cocktail contains the rum-like Brazilian spirit cachaça, rainwater Madeira, a brown butter tincture, house-made collard green shrub and lemon. The list of ingredients may seem far from the daiquiri’s roots, but upon sipping, there is little doubt it is indeed a daiquiri.
The Consulate. 10 10th St. NW, Atlanta. 404-254-5760, theconsulateatlanta.com.
The made-to-order martinis at the 28-year-old Highland Tap along with the service they receive makes them a winner even before the first sip. Order a martini any which way and receive a solidly stirred drink that comes with a sidecar (of vodka or gin) to top off the cocktail. A martini made with little pretense in a relaxed atmosphere paired with a steak is hard to beat.
Highland Tap. 1026 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-875-3673, nightcapfoodandspirits.com/highlandtapmain.