13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs and bartenders 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen and bar. Greg Best is the co-owner of Ticonderoga Club and one of the original founders of Holeman and Finch Public House.
What is your snack food guilty pleasure?
Peanut M&Ms, the family-size sharing bags but I don’t share it. I’ll tuck them away like a squirrel and have just four a day. I’m weird because I grew up with five siblings, so I used to have to hide them.
What was your first drink?
A gin and tonic. I was 10 or 11 and at my cousin’s wedding. The adults were all hammered and having such a great time, and I couldn’t figure out why everyone went from stuffy and uptight to having fun. So I decided to attach a bunch of straws together and try what the adults were having and that did not go well. I ended up passed out under a table. I remember the gin and tonic partly because it’s what my relatives drank, and it was such a bizarre flavor for a kid—so bitter, dry, and tannic. I thought, “What is this? It tastes like a Christmas tree.”
What was the last TV show you bingewatched?
The Black List. I got totally hooked on James Spader just being a creep, which he does so well.
What’s your hangover cure?
The most effective for me is a ton of water, then a Chik-fil-A spicy chicken sandwich or an ungodly amount of eggs over-easy, like six eggs. But the easiest way to tell if I’m hungover is I won’t be drinking coffee.
What would your superpower be?
Teleportation, so I could be in all the places I always want to be as quickly as necessary: events, work, concerts.
What’s one cocktail trend you can’t stand?
I don’t necessarily see the logic in the whole liquid nitrogen thing with drinks. If they go past a certain temperature, cocktails close up, and you don’t get much flavor out of them. I don’t understand the logic of liquid nitrogen outside of pure theatrics, and theatrics for the sake of theatrics tend to be more novelty and that’s a troublesome rabbit hole to fall into.
What was the biggest culture shock moving from Poughkeepsie to Atlanta?
I got here via Las Vegas, and the biggest culture shock was Vegas in general. From Vegas to here, the biggest culture shock was a positive one. The culture shock was how amazingly warm and friendly everyone is. Coming from New York, they’re all very much guarded. Ultimately, it’s the reason I chose to stay here.
What’s your favorite dive bar?
I really love the Righteous Room. When I go out, I usually default to a beer and a shot. I almost always drink Guinness. At most bars I go into, they start pouring it before I even order. The shots vary, sometimes tequila, Fernet. Dive bars are the most important foundation of drinking culture. If you don’t know where the proverbial bottom is, how can you find the top? You have to understand the entire landscape to be an active and meaningful part of it.
What would you be doing if you weren’t bartending?
I’d probably be one of those weirdos who dresses up in costume like at historical sites. I could see myself doing a Civil War reenactment or being a Medieval Times court jester.
What was the last great book you read?
I reread The Moviegoer. Paul [Calvert] gave me a copy for my birthday last year. It’s a great example of stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world around you.
What’s your favorite city to drink in other than Atlanta?
Probably New Orleans because of all my friends there and all the history there. Napoleon House is my favorite bar. It’s a fantastic example of a place that history has imbued with a personality.
You work with a lot of other famous Atlanta bartenders. Do you guys ever get competitive?
No. The thing that is most endearing to me about this city and the thing I am so proud of is that our competition is all based in camaraderie. We love sharing ideas and each person manifesting them with their unique twist. But whenever we do an event, we see who will sell out of their drink first.
What’s the worst drink you’ve ever made?
One day I went through a variety of mixers and came up with something with whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. Then I realized I had just invented the Manhattan in front of my entire staff. It was really embarrassing.