Cocktails evoke nostalgia for some Atlanta bartenders

Bartender Mayim Williams and Kathryn DiMenchi of Cardinal created a cocktail for 2020's Team Hidi fundraiser for Giving Kitchen. 
Courtesy of Mayim Williams
Bartender Mayim Williams and Kathryn DiMenchi of Cardinal created a cocktail for 2020's Team Hidi fundraiser for Giving Kitchen. Courtesy of Mayim Williams

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

After a tumultuous year like 2020, a cocktail can be a harbinger of hope or a glassful of memories. Here are the most nostalgic drinks for 10 of Atlanta’s leading bartenders.

For Miles Macquarrie, beverage director at Kimball House and Watchman’s, a sazerac carries the most nostalgia. The drink has been around a long time, but “it is still just as exciting as any new creative concoction, and always reminds me why I have such a passion for what I do,” he said.

“When I moved to Atlanta over 10 years ago, I used to go to Sound Table every Saturday night,” said 8Arm’s Joshua Fryer. “I remember bellying up to the bar whenever I saw Katie McDonald behind the stick. She consistently made the best sazeracs (served with her trademark smile), and I still dream about them. Now, anytime I make or drink one, I think about all the fun nights I had there. It’s sad that, not only did Sound Table close this year, but then we had to witness part of the building crumble.”

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Krista Slater, Partner and Wine Director of Athens’ Expat and The Lark Winespace.
Courtesy of Krista Slater
Krista Slater, Partner and Wine Director of Athens’ Expat and The Lark Winespace. Courtesy of Krista Slater

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Also lost in 2020 was the cozy drinking den Cardinal. Mayim Williams, now bar manager at Best End Brewing Co., often reflects on her time bartending there. “As a new bar, we were extremely excited to have been invited to participate and create a drink for Giving Kitchen’s Team Hidi fundraiser,” she said. She and owner Kathryn DiMenchi created a cocktail called Coco Coffea. “I will always remember that day,” she said. “I can think of those flavors and truly taste it.”

Holli Medley, who opened Cardinal, thinks back to friends when she stirs a Negroni, especially a smoky version. “I first tried the Desert Negroni when visiting a fellow bartender and friend during his bar shift one night,” she said. “His drinks were amazing. He had passion, finesse and fire in his every step, and, heartbreakingly, passed away not long after that night. Today, the strong and bittersweet cocktail reminds me of easier days and lighter hearts, but to always pour some out for lost friends.”

Freelance bartender Tiffanie Barriere remembers her first amaretto sour. “As a young drinker, it was all about being able to order something that sounded cool and delicious. The flavor, color and smell that comes out from amaretto is unforgettable, and classic. ... Now, when one asks for an amaretto sour, it will most likely be made with an egg white, brandy or cognac, and never that bright cherry we used to place on top. However, it will always remind me of the feeling I had as a young drinker looking for my place at a bar.”

Bartender Demario Wallace, who started Social Civics Cocktail Club in 2020, gets nostalgic about daiquiris. Courtesy of Demario Wallace
Bartender Demario Wallace, who started Social Civics Cocktail Club in 2020, gets nostalgic about daiquiris. Courtesy of Demario Wallace

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Demario Wallace shifted gears during the pandemic, starting Social Civics Cocktail Club. Nostalgia for him is remembering growing up on the Gulf Coast. The colorful, frozen daiquiris swirling in machines on the pier at the beach made him drool. He also remembers cocktails in New York City, and “diving deep into rum, one daiquiri at a time, learning the intricacies of the world of spirit, and all of its unique characteristics.”

It all began with a mai tai for Krista Slater, partner and wine director of Athens’ Expat and the Lark Winespace. When she turned 21, her best friend’s parents made her a special dinner. “I had caviar for the first time! And, her father offered to make me a real grown-up drink,” she said. “He made us all a round of mai tais. They were the strongest thing I had ever tasted; I felt like my mouth was on fire. But, it also felt so sophisticated. One of the small but mighty life experiences that led me to the profession I’m in today, I figure.”

For Mercedes O’Brien, owner of Sippn at Home cocktail kits, and former beverage director for Gunshow and Cold Beer, nostalgia comes by way of a slightly dirty martini. “It was my weekly Monday or Sunday order at two of my favorite restaurants: the Colonnade and Highland Tap,” she said. She would go with her best friend, who since has moved away, “and it was always the perfect time to reconnect while watching the top-notch, no-guff women bartenders just dominate a busy service.”

For Talat Market beverage director Adrian Fessenden-Kroll, a frozen drink reminds her of home. “When my Mom wanted a cocktail, it was usually a frozen margarita. Back then, it was bottled margarita mix — just add tequila and ice to a blender. Before I was old enough to imbibe, I would get just the mix blended with ice (sans tequila) so I could have a ‘fancy’ frozen drink, too.”

Forza Storico bartender Jose Pereiro has fond memories of a special mezcal cocktail he created. Courtesy of Jose Pereiro
Forza Storico bartender Jose Pereiro has fond memories of a special mezcal cocktail he created. Courtesy of Jose Pereiro

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Forza Storico’s Jose Pereiro remembers a special mezcal cocktail that he once created. “Canoe Club is a cocktail that reminds me of the good times I had when I used to bartend along with my best friend, times that I don’t know if we will ever be able to re-create,” he said. The recipe for the drink, which has been “on every menu that I’ve put together,” was included in “Miami Cocktails,” by Gabriel Urrutia.

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