Opening a business just a couple of weeks before the pandemic shut down the economy may seem like spectacular bad luck. But Cory Atkinson made it work. Like liquor stores in Georgia and across the country, Atkinson’s then brand-new boutique bottle shop at the corner of North Highland and North avenues was deemed essential and able to stay open. Atkinson responded to the threat of COVID-19 by closing the shop’s doors to browsers and creating a touchless environment, with online-ordered alcohol available for door-side pick-up—and soon, the store was doing brisk sales.
Looking more like a modern wine shop than a regular old package store, Elemental Spirits Co. occupies nearly 1,800 square feet, carved out of what used to be a windowless private dining room inside fabled Manuel’s Tavern. Its inventory focuses on small-batch spirits, low-intervention/mostly natural wines, and rotating craft beers sold by the single can. European aperitifs, high-quality mixers, clever bitters, and vintage barware are more useful than ever, especially to a clientele that used to frequent the neighborhood’s cool bars and now drinks mostly at home.
Atkinson, who lives around the corner from Elemental, has a background in retail (he used to work for Macy’s) and e-commerce, but he’s a cocktail hobbyist at heart. Originally, he was interested only in selling spirits, not beer and wine. After consulting with neighbors, though, he wisely decided to diversify. With the help of his wine buyer, the passionate Jesse Kirkpatrick, who used to manage Holeman & Finch Bottle Shop in Buckhead, he has assembled a collection of wines farmed and produced with an eye toward sustainability, including growers’ Champagnes, pet-nats, chillable reds, and a whole shelf of orange wines. Drink it now, and drink it young is the store’s philosophy, which I wholeheartedly embrace.
Shopping on Elemental’s website is no less fun than wandering the brick-and-mortar. The shop’s inventory is intriguingly organized, with spirit subcategories such as “Single Village” for mezcal, “Pot Still” for r(h)um, and “Sweet/Grapefruit” for vermouth. The suggestions and descriptions make a lot of sense without overwhelming you with esoteric details. My own exploration led me to my favorite boxed Spanish wines (from La Nevera) and whiskeys I’ve never seen before (an unpeated single-malt Maris Otter finished in a Resurgens Rye cask at Atlanta’s own ASW). You can indulge your curiosity about beer styles by creating your own six pack, build your own Paper Plane or Negroni with a three-bottle cocktail pack, or spring for a sampling of Meinklang lively biodynamic Austrian wines. But, please, do Atkinson a favor: If you buy any of the dozen canned wines, pour it into a glass instead of chugging it from the can, you animal!
This article appears in our September 2020 issue.