Louisville, Kentucky has one. New Orleans, Louisiana does, too. But where’s the official cocktail for Atlanta, Georgia?
By Hope S. Philbrick
There’s something appealing about an official cocktail.
For starters, it can help answer the question, “What should I have?”
There’s also inherent satisfaction: Sip a mint julep in Louisville, Kentucky, or a sazerac in New Orleans, Louisiana and as the flavors skip across your tongue you’re mentally doing a happy dance to the tune of, “I’m really here!”
What’s more, you can recreate the drink at home, a ‘liquid postcard’ to commemorate your visit. (Who says there’s no such thing as teleportation?)
The mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. The sazerac, created in New Orleans before the Civil War, is considered one of the first cocktails—if not the first. New York has its Manhattan, Hawaii has its mai tai—that cocktail may have been born elsewhere, but it’s taken up permanent residence on the islands—and Milwaukee is known for its brews not cocktails.
But here in my home town of Atlanta, Georgia, there’s no such thing as an official beverage. You can get any drink you want—which certainly has its benefits, don’t get me wrong. If you specifically want a taste of Georgia, however, good luck: You can perhaps find a peach bellini here or a Gibson with a Vidalia onion garnish there. No common theme exists.
On a personal mission to find the quintessential cocktail of Atlanta, I have found several worth serious consideration.
Try them all as a liquid tour of Atlanta. Or order one and savor Georgia in a glass.
This Southern spin on a Manhattan—a logical theme, since Atlanta is the New York City of the South—features Leopold Bros. Georgia peach whiskey, Four Roses bourbon, sweet vermouth, peach bitters, and a drunken peach slice.
Get it at South City Kitchen Midtown
The concoction honors The University of Georgia with a blend of berry vodka, cherry brandy, lime juice, grenadine and a splash of sprite. The blood orange garnish winks at the team’s quest for opponents’ blood.
Get it at Food 101
Chatham County Line
This liquid treat brings together several classic Georgia flavors in one glass: Pecan-infused bourbon, Savannah sourwood honey syrup, a slice of Georgia peach—when seasonally available, otherwise nectarines and candied pecans pinch hit as garnish—and smoke-infused hand-chipped ice. That’s right, smoke-infused ice! Two bartenders pair up to perform that delicate fire-meets-ice operation each time one of these babies is ordered, so sit at the bar for a cocktail and a show.
Get it at Cibo e Beve
This innovative mix pairs Michael Collins Irish Whiskey with golden beet puree, punt e mes, orange bitters and fresh lemon. It’s a melding of cultures that features local, farm-fresh ingredients.
Get it at Serpas True Food
At first glance, the ingredients are an odd guest list: Scarlet Ibis rum, Cynar, scuppernong shrub—made of native grapes—Pernod and Bittermans Xocolatl Mole Bitters. But like any wild party, it’s the surprises that add the most fun.
Get it at Empire State South
Man About A Horse
This modern interpretation of “The Last Word” classic cocktail is a tasty blend of rye whiskey, yellow Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, fresh lime juice and ginger beer that pleasantly gallops across the tongue. The motto of this laid-back upscale restaurant is “you can’t argue with delicious.” This sipper offers compelling proof.
Get it at Local Three Kitchen & Bar
Milk Punch & Cookies
Spicy and sweet, like many native Southerners. This drink features spiced brandy, lemon, sugar, whey and white chocolate chip crisps.
Get it at The Spence
Old Wives Tale
Even Goldilocks would agree that this mix of Woodford Reserve bourbon, clover honey and ginger beer is not too strong, not too sweet and just right.
Get it at Wisteria
Seas of Europa
Created to commemorate a painting on display in the hotel lobby, this whimsical cocktail’s tasty combination of strawberry, watermelon, sour apple and orange flavors is surpassed only by its visual and textural pleasures. It’s a treat for all the senses, which can also be said about the contemporary hotel lobby bar where it’s elegantly served, and waves at the city’s celebrated High Museum of Art down the street.
Get it at Lumen at The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta
-Images courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta (top); Local Three (left); Wisteria (middle); Food 101 (right)