It’s a wide world of booze out there

Restaurant bars are going way beyond bourbon
Opulent Sparkle

Courtesy of Jeremy Adamo Photography

For a few years there, it seemed that bourbon was the dominant spirit in Atlanta, a natural result of local (and national) restaurants embracing Southern foods and cooking techniques. One obvious outcome of the trend was Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, which opened in 2011: It occupies a space in the InterContinental Buckhead that was previously a French restaurant and accompanying cognac bar. Bourbon Bar offers more than seventy varieties of our region’s whiskey, specializing in flights but also offers cocktails like Run for the Black Roses, made with Woodford Reserve, blackberry shrub, mint, soda, and rose water.

Roswell’s Table & Main opened the same year. With the tagline “Simple, Seasonal, Southern” the restaurant fills its beverage list with bourbon, rye, and other whiskies, all made in the U.S. It even offers a “Girly Drink” (Four Roses bourbon and Nino Franco prosecco) for those who want to venture into the bourbon arena without such a stiff taste.

This year, though, as new restaurants are opening more briskly and we’re seeing a broader range of cuisines, other spirits are starting to grab an overdue share of the limelight. A new Decatur restaurant, Mar Coastal, shifts the focus to tequila in cocktails that sip well with its Mexican-themed cuisine. It offers over forty tequilas (silvers, añejos, reposados) all available as shots (from $5 to $22) or mixed into margaritas and other cocktails. A few smoky mezcals are behind the bar as well.

P’cheen stands out by infusing a liquor less common since the days of Prohibition: moonshine. In fact, “P’cheen” is actually Gaelic for “moonshine.” Cocktails include the Mountain Man (apple pie moonshine, Irish whiskey, calvados, and simple syrup); the Georgiaville Tea (black tea moonshine, peach, lemon, and simple syrup); and the Cancun Cletus (strawberry moonshine, coconut rum, and pineapple juice).

Restaurant-nightclub hybrids, like Czar Ice Bar in the Buckhead’s East Andrews complex, lean toward clear liquors with softer profiles. Czar Bar takes vodkas from around the world and infuses them with fruit and other flavors, then sells them both in sweet drinks and on the rocks.

Opulent, a “global-inspired” American restaurant on Roswell’s Canton Street, expands on the concept of the bellini, bringing Champagne and other types of bubbly to the forefront of its cocktail menu. Its signature drink, the Opulent Sparkle, features Cava Rose, pomegranate, and rosemary. Others like the Thai Royal contrast Champagne’s sweetness with herbs like Thai basil and black pepper.

Of course, Opulent also serves drinks like the Smoked Rose, with Four Roses bourbon, mint, and pineapple. On today’s well-stocked bars and creatively conceived cocktail menus, there’s plenty of room for spirits of all types and potencies to co-exist.