Since becoming the dining team’s drinker-in-chief, I’ve spent the year sipping through Atlanta’s cocktails in the name of research. I admit, the job isn’t hard. What I did find difficult was breaking down a year’s worth of tippling into a list of the ten finest. Through a most unscientific process and in no particular order, I give you the top ten drinks I sipped in 2016.
Stinger at Marcel
A pre-Prohibition cocktail favored by the upper crust, this drink was considered the cap at the end of a long night. Comprised of Cognac and creme de menthe, the Stinger leans toward the sweeter side and often tastes of Scope. Marcel’s update swaps out the syrupy creme de menthe for the lighter spearmint notes of menthe pastille for a crisp, modern cocktail.
1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-665-4555, marcelatl.com.
Ivey League at Staplehouse
Staplehouse ends 2016 on a high note with several auspicious nods including best new restaurant from Bon Appetit. Let’s not forget the drinks from the dynamic duo of Shyretha Bolton and Ben Richardson. The Ivey League was created by Richardson in memory of his friend Gregg Ivey who passed before the restaurant's opening. A clever combination of a Manhattan and Old Fashioned, this rye-based cocktail with lavender-honey syrup is an ode to enduring friendship.
541 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-524-5005, staplehouse.com.
Corkage Fee at BoccaLupo
Grabbing a stool at BoccaLupo’s 12-seater bar means you’re in for a fantastic meal and equally fantastic drinks from the team of Austin Huckaby and Hallie Stieber. The Corkage Fee is a riff on the rye-based Boulevardier with the lighter, sweeter Campari replaced by the bitter artichoke notes of Cynar 70. A scotch rinse gives the drink a hint of smokiness.
753 Edgewood Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-577-2332, boccalupoatl.com.
Bamboo at Brush Sushi
Beverage director Jeff Banks took six months to finally perfect the 1890s sherry and vermouth-based Bamboo. The problem? Finding balance between the vermouth and sherry. The solution? Maderize (oxidize over heat) the vermouth with lemon peels. Brush’s equal parts Bamboo is refreshing and light with just enough depth to keep brown spirits lovers happy.
316 Church St., Decatur. 678-949-9412, brushatl.com.
Ode to Viceroy at The Mercury
The Ode to Viceroy is the scotch-based sibling of its bourbon-based brother Goonies Never Say Die from The Pinewood. Tart with hints of ginger and lime, the island vibes this cocktail gives off come from the oft-used tiki ingredient falernum (syrup with notes of almond, ginger, lime) marrying two things I love: scotch and umbrella drinks.
Ponce City Market, 675 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-500-5253, themercuryatl.com.
Aviation at Bread & Butterfly
The pre-Prohibition Aviation is notorious for being unbalanced. It’s challenging to bring gin, maraschino, lemon and crème de violette into harmony with one another. Bread & Butterfly’s exceptional Aviation is a shade of soft lavender, carrying subtle hints of juniper and candied sweetness, and cleanses the palate with lemon between sips.
290 Elizabeth St .NE F, Atlanta. 678-515-4536, bread-and-butterfly.com.
Yankee Dollar at Ticonderoga Club
You’ve gathered I dig dark spirits. But not all brown spirits are alike. Take Cognac and a finely aged rum and their happy marriage in the Yankee Dollar. The cocktail’s base is slightly funky but has the volume (and proof) turned down with vermouth. Add amaro for a colonial-inspired Boulevardier.
Krog Street Market, 99 Krog St. NE W, Atlanta. 404.458.4534, ticonderogaclub.com.
Two World Hero at Empire State South
Kellie Thorn’s award-winning Vieux Carre riff Two World Hero is a perennial favorite of mine. Thorn describes the drink as an “introductory Cognac cocktail for whiskey drinkers.” While the predominant spirit is Cognac, rye is added for familiarity. A 10-minute infusion of black tea melds the dual base to which sweet vermouth and red wine syrup are added. 999 Peachtree St. NE #140, Atlanta. 404-541-1105, empirestatesouth.com.
Chester Copperpot at Ration and Dram
Red sky at night, sailors (and pirates) delight. Another Goonies-inspired drink, this Old Fashioned is comprised of Plantation Pineapple Rum and creme de noyaux (almond-flavored liqueur.) The noyaux further highlights the subtle pineapple notes and gives the drink its ruddy, sunset hue.
130 Arizona Ave. NE, Atlanta. 678-974-8380, rationanddram.com.
Electioneer at Kimball House
I sipped on the seasonally-inspired Electioneer on a post-Thanksgiving evening. Full of four of my favorite ingredients (rye, apple brandy, vermouth and absinthe,) this potent tipple takes its cue from the 1880s Saratoga (Manhattan-esque cocktail) and is given a boost with absinthe. Strong and charming, the aptly-named cocktail campaigned hard for my affection...and won.
303 East Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com.