Story by ADRIANNE MURCHISON/Photos by JASON GETZ
Tucked away in Roswell’s Oak Street neighborhood is a new eatery that opened last June with a few welcome surprises. Here are seven things to know about The Whiskey Project.
Word has spread about The Whiskey Project’s vast selection of spirits and co-owner Marcus Bifaro’s approach to memorable cocktails. Using juice from fruit fresh-squeezed daily, along with organic spices, he crafts some cocktails by pouring his mixture in a barrel for aging. For others, such as a “Rye Tai” — made with Michter’s Rye, a pineapple coconut infused rum and a curacao that Bifaro specially prepares — he separately places bananas inside orange curacao and stores it in the refrigerator for a week to let the bananas break apart. That allows the flavor to seep into the liqueur. “Then I puree it and fine strain all the banana junk out,” Bifaro says. “It has this really rich banana flavor inside this curacao. Then I blend in a little brandy and cognac, [as well as the rum and rye].”
He presents a hip, adult atmosphere. Aged whiskey is for grown-ups, and crowds fill The Whiskey Project throughout most of the week. For cocktail aficionados, Bifaro has more than 1,000 spirits in his small establishment. More than 30 cocktails appear on the menu for nearly every mood. Feeling brazen about your day? Have a “Barrel Aged Manhattan” made with 1792 Bourbon, Rittenhouse Rye, Carpano’s Dry Antica Formula vermouth, Amarena Cherry and Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters. In a mischievous state of mind? The “Laurel and Hardy” mixed with Olmeca Altos Tequila and St. George Spiced Pear liqueur might be fitting.
Industrial décor adds to the experience. Bifaro and his partner Andy Stallworth designed the restaurant themselves and created the tabletops, bar and shelves with white oak wood, the same material that whiskey barrels are made of. Even that required an aging process, Bifaro says. They mixed steel wool and white oak in a bucket with small holes for four days to get an iron acetate, and to acid wash the wood. “Then we spray-polyurethaned the wood,” he says.
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Service is key for Bifaro, who wants everything to be top quality. The food menus appear leather bound and feel like a keepsake. Inside are black and white photos of classic film stars like Errol Flynn, fun movie quotes and a diagram of the whiskey-making process. Diners are treated to different amuse-bouche nightly, such as salmon tartare. “I try my best to treat this as my house,” Bifaro says. “It’s like I have guests coming over to my home.”
Keep The Whiskey Project on your radar for outdoor dining. Currently, there’s uncovered seating to accommodate 18 guests. However, Bifaro and Stallworth would like to have covered outdoor seating for a total of 30 guests, in addition to heaters, lights, fans and a stone-stacked fireplace within the coming weeks.
Expect quality cuisine that goes beyond the amuse-bouse. Both Bifaro and his executive chef worked at South Main Kitchen in Alpharetta as director of operations and sous chef, respectively. Some of The Whiskey Project’s more hearty menu items include osso bucco, duck breast and an 8-ounce filet mignon.
Yonkers and Yankees come to mind for those who know Bifaro. He’s a native of South Yonkers, N.Y., and grew up near Yankee Stadium. While no doubt his beloved New York still has a place in his heart, the restaurant owner says Roswell is a fitting city for his growing family. “My school bus rides as a kid were very adventurous to say the least,” Bifaro says. “Here, schools and neighborhoods are very nice. I have two boys and a [daughter] on the way. Roswell is the place for us.”
The Whiskey Project. 45 Oak St., Roswell. 678-373-1981. twpatl.com
Hiding in plain sight at The Whiskey Project is distinctive green wallpaper. Patrons have occasionally noticed that it’s Brooklyn Toile wallpaper inspired by Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys. The images are an ode to Brooklyn and include the late rapper Biggie Smalls, subway cars, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, the Coney Island Cyclone, bicyclists and more. “I’ve had that wallpaper for two years,” Bifaro says. “Brooklyn was the last place my wife and I lived before moving here.”