Georgia’s sprawling capital has far more to offer than biscuits and gravy and The Real Housewives. It’s home to an excellent food scene, with an array of creative chefs making their marks on the national stage. And boy do Atlantans know how to drink well: The city’s undergoing a craft-cocktail boom that now rivals those of other major metropolises.
When it opened in 2008, Holeman & Finch jump-started the ATL’s cocktail movement. The bar’s extensive list of excellent drinks made with fresh produce and small-batch spirits was among Atlanta’s first and has spawned countless imitators. Founding bar manager Greg Best left in September to open his own place, but his influence (and the mixologists he trained) lingers. If you’re hungry late-night, try the legendary burger: Only 24 are made each evening, and you can’t order one until precisely 10 PM.
What to drink: Eleanor of Aquitaine (armagnac, Fernet-Branca, Rabarbaro Zucca Amaro, lime juice, cane syrup)
King & Duke, 3060 Peachtree Road Northwest, 404 477 3500:
This joint (pictured) from prolific local chef Ford Fry is on fire, literally: It features a 24-foot open hearth, in which nearly every food item is cooked. To match the spot’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–inspired name, there’s a literary drinks menu pairing each cocktail with a quote from a classic novel.
What to drink: Prince of Whales (Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Champagne, charred-pineapple syrup, Angostura Bitters)
Mac McGee, 111 Sycamore Street, Decatur, 404 377 8055:
We’ve already dubbed this pub one of the best bourbon bars in America. And its selection of whiskies of all kinds—well more than 400, including nearly 200 Scotches—is also world-class. A second location in suburban Roswell has a list that’s only slightly shorter.
What to drink: Whiskey
Octopus Bar, 560 Gresham Avenue Southeast:
One way to find great bars is to ask where chefs and bartenders hang out post-shift. In Atlanta, that place is Octopus Bar. The after-hours joint doesn’t open until 10:30, when it puts out creative seafood dishes with exceptional cocktails that run the gamut from strong and stirred to light and bubbly.
What to drink: Dixie Cup #2 (E. H. Taylor, Jr. Bourbon, Smith & Cross Rum, peach, grapefruit, Peychaud’s Bitters)
One Flew South, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Terminal E, 404 816 3464:
Atlanta’s airport offers what is almost definitely the best airport bar in the US. This calming oasis in the middle of the Hartsfield-Jackson chaos (it’s the nation’s busiest airport) is the perfect place to spend a long layover. Order one of the unique sushi rolls and a round of creative concoctions.
What to drink: On a Pear Tree (Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, basil, pear, grapefruit bitters, soda)
Paper Plane, 340 Church Street, Decatur, 404 377 9308:
It hasn’t quite been open a year, but bartender Paul Calvert’s sort-of-speakeasy (there’s one unmarked door in an alley and another in the back of Victory Sandwich Bar) is already getting national attention. The drinks list changes frequently, and all the options are noteworthy.
What to drink: Voodoo, Baby (tequila, Punt e Mes, Becherovka, cranberry, lime)
Proof & Provision, 659 Peachtree Street Northeast, 404 897 5045:
The basement of the historic Beaux-Arts-style Georgian Terrace Hotel hides this elegant bar. The skilled crew of mixologists barrel-ages cocktails and assembles a nightly bowl of punch. They also mix up individual drinks that range from deceptively simple to mind-blowingly complex.
What to drink: Garden Party (Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin, Strega, maraschino liqueur, lime bitters, celery soda)
Seven Lamps, 3400 Around Lenox Road #217, 404 467 8950:
This casual spot in the tony Buckhead neighborhood hits lots of drink trends, serving house-made sodas, carbonated cocktails, alcoholic slushies and even artisanal coffee from Batdorf & Bronson. After dinner, don’t miss the Four Roses Bourbon ice cream float.
What to drink: Shelter from the Storm (High West Double Rye! Rye Whiskey, Martini Gran Lusso Vermouth, nocino, apple bitters)
(Photo courtesy Andrew Thomas Lee)