5.11 INtown.1-22.inddBy A Trio of Adventurous Spirits

Once upon a time, the three girls packed their purses with notebooks and pens and set out to experience Atlanta’s cocktail revolution. It was a rich adventure, an education of sorts, into Intown’s world of handcrafted cocktails brimming with aromas and mysterious flavors. No vodka sodas on this journey. They skipped the scotch on the rocks and said “bye bye” to the cosmo. This is their story and a sampling of what they encountered (from the best of their recollection) as they bellied-up to a few bars.

Pura Vida Tapas & Bar
656 North Highland Ave., 30306

Highlight: Owner and chef Hector Santiago came out of the kitchen to talk about the drinks and how he is updating the menu to include some classics from his native Puerto Rico with his own inventive twist. Lauren, the amazing hostess, who knows everything about what’s going on behind the bar.

The Twist(s): House made everything, including an amazing sour mix. Sugarcane garnish. Herbal-infused cocktails.

What the trio liked: Attention to detail and tastes. Hector’s enthusiasm for infusing his Latin American roots into the cocktails. Pairing cocktails with tapas.

Something new to try: Sex In Santiago – their signature drink with Pisco brandy from Chili, Hibiscus tincture with ginger. Mojitos – the best in town.

The Sound Table
483 Edgewood Ave., 30312

Highlight: The girls got there early, 7:30 p.m., to beat the usual late crowd that comes with the live DJ. The bartender says the cocktail culture in Atlanta is a friendly one and the bartenders are excited and supportive to know what each bar is creating.

The Twist(s): Drinks change seasonally. Interesting selection of bitters, like grapefruit and baked apple. Extensive selection of drinks to accommodate a wide range of tastes.

What the trio liked: Awesome drink names (Whisper & Hush, Stone Mountain, Horse’s Neck). Sophisticated ambience. Friendly bartenders. DJ spinning tunes.

Something to try: The Toronto with rye, fernet-branca, sugar, angostura bitters and flamed orange was really nice with a smoky flavor (not bitter). For a lighter touch, the Mary Pickford is not too sweet and not too tart.

H. Harper Station
904 Memorial Drive, 30316

Highlight: The old train station is a great setting and the décor and bar give it an old-fashioned speak-easy vibe.

The Twist(s): Vintage punch bowls serving four to six can be ordered 20 minutes in advance (hand-crafting takes time!) for communal drinking – Buford Highway Artillery Punch, AWP 290 Punch, Pisco Punch and Café Diablo.

What the trio liked: Again, a big list and great drink names (Ruby Slipper and Fox Confessor). Bartenders wearing suspenders and bowties. Nice garnishes from the herb garden. Quarter-inch ice cubes from a Kold-Draft machine.

Something to try: Hands-down, try the Bufala Negra – a drink created in house with buffalo trace, basil, brown sugar, balsamic and ginger beer.

280 Elizabeth Street, Suite A-III, 30307

Highlight: Realizing there is a grown-up version of a slushy. Inexpensive choices.

The Twist(s): A small drink menu, so makes the decision easier. Classic tastes, but in a bit different format.

What the trio liked: Drinks that are unique without being too complicated (two ingredients!). Smart servers that know who’s pouring what around town. Ping-pong table by the bar.

Something to try: Jackyl Juice, which is a bottle of Mexican apple soda with a little poured out to top-off with Jack Daniels (served in the bottle). Bourbon Slushy, which is Jack Daniels poured into the slushy machine with Coca-Cola and then served in a mason jar.

Honestly, this is a small sample of where the girls know they can find a good cocktail. One of them had amazing drinks at Westside’s Abbatior, another says Decatur’s Cakes & Ale, and Buckhead’s Capital Grille is known for their Stoli Doli, vodka infused with fresh pineapple (large jars sit on the counter filled with soaking pineapple pieces). The fun is exploring and not always settling for “I’ll have my usual.”

So, the arduous journey continues, a serious business but someone has to do it. The three cocktail gals will be exploring more parts of town for special drinks and even visits to institutions for some classics. What will they find at Leon’s or Trader Vics. Just wait until next month to find out.

Do you have suggestions or want to share your thoughts? Leave comments below. Please drink responsibly and call a cab or have a designated driver in tow

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.