The holiday season seems to transform our daily lives into brief winter wonderlands that abruptly get packed away. Now that decorated trees are down, bartenders are “sprucing” up libations with spirits, tinctures and herbs for sips that add depth and breadth to cold winter. These are our picks for cocktails that have the earthy punch of the woods.
Miles Macquarrie’s riff on a Penicillin shakes together blended and peaty Scotch along with ginger, yuzu and lime juice. Pine and pear brandy add warm forest murmurs to the spicy, smoky mix. Macquarrie pours it over an iceberg cube. Close your eyes and you are around a campfire in the pines, open them to oyster happy hour.
Kimball House. 303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com.
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Zirbenz liqueur has an alpine forest fragrance and coniferous flavors of the Stone Pine trees from which it is made. At Decatur restaurant No. 246, beverage supervisor Lindsey Spence stirs it with botanical gin and dry, but sweet Bianco Vermouth for her Royal Tenenbaum. It’s woodsy, balanced and resinous.
No. 246. 129 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 678-399-8246, no246.com.
Flores Para los Muertos
Allspice Dram is a rum-based herbal liqueur flavored with the dried berries of the pimento bush. It’s dark, and a bit tongue numbing with bracing winter spices and aromas like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Midtown’s The Lawrence uses the liqueur as a strong counterpoint to grassy Suerto Reposado tequila, lemon and honey. Herbal rosemary soda is the topper for this winter warmer.
The Lawrence. 905 Juniper St. NE., Atlanta. 404-961-7177, thelawrenceatlanta.com.
Slip into something smooth and dapper. Its moniker would also be the perfect article of clothing to sip this alpine woodland cocktail, which brings together bourbon, Suze, honey, lemon, rosemary and cinnamon. Suze is a type of bitters flavored by the roots of the gentian plant that grow on Swiss mountains. Suze and rosemary lend herbal spice and a delicate bitterness to bar manager Jeff Stockton’s creation at this new watering hole.
Golden Eagle. 904 Memorial Drive, Atlanta. 404-963-1703, goldeneagleatl.com.
Calm and resolute is the frosty saga of the Unvanquished. It’s a hero on the menu at the Sound Table, where cool sultry tunes set the mood for this drink's smoothness. Bourbon, Zirbenz (pine liqueur), maple syrup, lime, orange bitters and cardamom blend for a bold collision of the flavors of the northern woods.
The Sound Table. 483 Edgewood Ave. SE., Atlanta. 404-835-2534, thesoundtable.com.
One Shot Deal
When not swooning over Jordan Smelt’s wine list at Cakes & Ale , take a chance on this one. One Shot Deal uses inky, bitter, chicory liqueur with sweet fruit and a bright dose of citrus. It’s made with dry gin, apricot cordial, lime, chicory liqueur, then topped with tonic. It swirls with bittersweet earthy spice and perky botanicals.
Cakes & Ale. 155 Sycamore St., Decatur. 404-377-7994, cakesandalerestaurant.com.
Aquavit has little presence on cocktail menus but this caraway-flavored spirit was made to pair with Nordic winter food. It adds a bold layer of spice that is rounded out with citrus oils. At Bocado, it is mingled with gin, Suze, cucumber, rosemary and lime for a clean and zesty sipper fit for a Viking.
Bocado. 887 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-815-1399, bocadoatlanta.com.
Rest on Your Laurels
Roswell’s Foundation Social Eatery serves a glass that tastes like a walk through a misty glen. St. George Gin, an elegant expression of savory leaves and spices, combines with Zirbenz pine liqueur, lemon and sugar cane syrup. It’s a refreshing quaff of green herbs with a bright dose of freshness—like when you hike in the morning dew.
Foundation Social Eatery. 1570 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell. 770-641-8877, foundationatl.com.
Queen of the Alps
There is a seductive herbal complexity to Jeff Banks’ riff at C. Ellet’s . Banks proves that gin is not the “Last Word” in his version of the classic cocktail that holds the rich roundness of cognac, yellow chartreuse, Zirbenz and lime. It has a slight sweetness, citrusy brightness, and cohesive mountain feel with the addition of pine liqueur.
C. Ellet’s. 2605 Circle 75 Parkway, Atlanta. 678-996-5344, c-ellets.com.
At the cozy cocktail lounge above Staplehouse , bartender Kate Flowe crafted a drink that is transportive to frosty wonderland in taste and beauty. Permafrost is a savory mix based around Aalborg Taffel, a Danish aquavit with prominent caraway and citrus notes. She adds St. George Terroir gin with Douglas Fir characteristics, grapefruit juice and house-made green herb syrup blended with dill and tarragon. Green powder, re-purposed from the syrup, is dusted atop the coupe in a manner that resembles greens poking through snow. It’s the taste of winter with the promise of spring. Paper Crane Lounge.
541 Edgewood Ave. SE., Atlanta. 404-524-5005, staplehouse.com.