Atlanta cocktail collaboration shines light on local food insecurity

Farmers Jam business partners (from left) Jason Waters and James Carr have teamed up with Matt Watkins, bar manager of the Deer and the Dove, on a charitable endeavor. Courtesy of James Carr

Credit: James Carr

Credit: James Carr

Farmers Jam business partners (from left) Jason Waters and James Carr have teamed up with Matt Watkins, bar manager of the Deer and the Dove, on a charitable endeavor. Courtesy of James Carr

Cream-colored elderflowers, emerging in star-shaped umbels in thickets along the road or along woodland paths, are a harbinger of summer.

James Carr is founder of Farmers Jam, an organization that makes products to benefit local family farms. He aims to showcase local ingredients, like elderflowers — and raise awareness about food insecurity — through a collaboration with Matt Watkins, bar manager at Decatur restaurant the Deer and the Dove.

A cocktail named Roadside Nectar hits the bar’s menu this week, along with a limited release of Farmers Jam wild foraged elderflower cocktail syrup, available online. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the drink and the syrup will be donated to Concrete Jungle, a local nonprofit specializing in growing and foraging fresh produce and donating it to food pantries.

The lightly sweet nuances of elderflower pair well with natural fruit flavors and gin botanicals in the cocktail.

“I wanted to keep it local,” Watkins said. He used local Murrell’s Row Tulsi gin, Farmers Jam elderflower cocktail syrup, fino sherry infused with Pearson Farm peaches, lime juice and house-made peach pit bitters.

A portion of proceeds from sales of a cocktail called Roadside Nectar benefit Concrete Jungle, which provides fresh produce to food pantries and soup kitchens. Courtesy of James Carr

Credit: James Carr

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Credit: James Carr

The elderflower syrup is the first in a new line for Farmers Jam, featuring elderflowers foraged in Atlanta and Decatur, cucumber from Woodland Garden in Decatur and thyme from Carr’s garden. The line will highlight unique ingredients, along with three year-round flavors: strawberry lemon, peach basil and spiced apple.

Making a drink with the syrup, Carr said, is as simple as adding the spirit of your choice.

Founded in 2018, Farmers Jam is a play on words that tells the tale of the cocktail syrup company’s grassroots beginnings. Carr, a former sports journalist, took an interest in how food is produced and the impact it has on our economy and health, which led to jobs with local nonprofits, including Georgia Organics, Food Well Alliance and Wholesome Wave. Along the way he met farmers, growers and food educators who played music, among them a jam maker. Their musical jam sessions turned into fundraisers for planting fruit trees.

When the jam maker retired, she gave all her equipment to Carr, who started making jam. Carr’s business partner, Jason Waters, came up with the idea of creating the syrups after he began crafting cocktails from the flavorful jams.

Collaborating with the Deer and the Dove, which has deep connections to local producers and purveyors, was a natural choice, Carr said. The restaurant’s chef-owner, Terry Koval, said he appreciates the opportunity to support organizations like Concrete Jungle, while also getting the chance to highlight interesting ingredients not normally found on Atlanta menus.

“We are particularly fond of Concrete Jungle’s mission and approach to making local food accessible for people in need,” Carr said, “and this felt like a great way to honor their work, while creating something unique to Atlanta.”

“Food insecurity is one of the biggest problems in Georgia, despite being an agricultural state that is filled with so many fruit trees and farms,” Concrete Jungle Executive Director Katherine Kennedy said. “We appreciate Farmers Jam and the Deer and the Dove for helping us spread the word and achieve our goals of reducing food insecurity with fresh produce.”

The Deer and the Dove. 155 Sycamore St., Decatur. 404-748-4817,

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