Winter is here and the snuggle is real. Well, to be fair, winter officially arrives December 21, but grey skies and cold air are here to stay awhile. Not to worry, barkeeps around Atlanta felt the nippy air and answered with “I gotchu, fam.”
A cozy cocktail is so much more than eggnog or spiked coffee. Those clever spirit advisors behind the bar in Atlanta use knowledge of ingredients and classic recipes to mix up the perfect prescription to abate winter’s chill.
Sure, sometimes they use heat to warm us up from the inside. Who doesn’t love a hot toddy? Switching up ingredients is much like putting away summer’s sandals and putting boots in their place. It can be as simple as swapping out peaches for pomegranate. Playing with fire – literally – winterizes a sipper. Earthy smoke takes things to a new level. By using amari, bitter, European style herbal liqueurs, bartenders can add backbone and depth. Peppers and spices are another way.
Warm up and taste the season with one of these snuggly cocktails in Atlanta.
At Mission + Market the menu holds a cocktail that is much like a classic Bramble meets an El Diablo. Smoke on the Water incorporates Lunazul Reposado tequila, rosemary shrub, blackberry liqueur, and bitters. What brings out all the spice is a heavy dose of Barrows Intense Ginger Liqueur. Ginger has inherent stimulating and warming characteristics (thermogenic properties) that stave off chills while also pleasingly aromatic and pungent on the tongue. The cocktail is tempting, nectarous, and packs a punch against nippy evenings
3550 Lenox Road NE. Atlanta. 404.948.2927. missionandmarketatl.com.
Hotel Clermont Beverage Director Daniel Keith aims to warm you up with southern smoke. His Bitter Southerner #9 at Tiny Lou’s has a base of Atlanta’s own ASW Duality Double Malt whiskey. Before the malted barley and rye mixture is added, it undergoes a bacon fat wash. The drink takes sweetness from house made Coke syrup. Some leather and spice notes get dashed in via 18.21 Havana & Hyde and Peychaud’s bitters. Keith rinses the glass with Laphroaig, a final touch that imbues earthy peat. You’ll feel it to the tip of your toes, as if they are resting near a campfire.
789 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE. Atlanta. 470-485-0085. tinylou’s.com.
Midtown’s Bon Ton currently turns into the Sippin Santa version of Christmas themed Miracle Bar Wednesday nights through Sunday, it also has an unassuming winter warmer in its regular menu with the Broken Parachute. A based of dark rum mixes with cinnamon infused mezcal along with grenadine, pineapple, and lime. It’s evidence that a warming cocktail can also have a daiquiri like balance and citrusy crispness.
674 Myrtle St. NE. Atlanta. 404-996-6177. bontonatl.com.
The space next to Atlanta’s iconic Plaza Theater holds two distinct restaurants by chef joey Ward. Georgia Boy is a hidden chef tasting space that requires a ticket (and knowledge of where the door is) for entry. At Southern Belle, bartender Zee Zammit stirs up the aptly named Now Starring that’s a riff on a Negroni. It’s a boozy and bitter glass of Campari, reposado tequila, and blanc vermouth. Tastes great while sitting under scrolling neon that reads, “Bless Your Heart.”
1043 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE. Atlanta. 404-698-3961. southernbelleatlanta.com.
On Decatur Square you can sit outside of The Iberian Pig near patio heaters or get cozy indoors with a warming sipper. Show Your Work begins with Bank Note Scotch, blended Highland and Speyside whisky. It’s sweetened and mellowed with Cachaca and plum. Peppercorns add subtle spice and heat. Order one of their famous charcuterie boards and sip a while.
121 Sycamore St. Decatur. 404-371-8800. theiberianpigatl.com.
Aziza’s Demario Wallace unites Mediterranean spices like sumac and za’atar to match chef Brandon Hughes’ nontraditional Israeli menu. You are instantly warmed up by the snug restaurant with rounded edges, golden tones, and wood smoke emanating from the open kitchen. For further heat in liquid form, choose a glass of Harissa Explains it All. It has the earthy smokiness of mezcal, citrus, red pepper juice, and a scant bit of agave. It’s at first refreshing, then warms from within, finishing with pleasant vegetal flavors.
1170 Howell mill Rd. NW. Atlanta. 404-968-9437. aziza-restaurant.com.
Hop off the Beltline and head to Cold Beer for virtual works of art in a glass. Mercedes O’Brien deftly swirls uncommon ingredients into poised balance, while simultaneously creating striking beauty. A cocktail can taste like a mountain while looking like a mountain. Her Georgia Sour incorporates ASW Fiddler bourbon, butternut squash, lemon, intense makrut leaf, black tea, apricot, sherry, and smoky urfa. It tastes a bit like the swirling leaves swirling in the bracing wind.
670 Dekalb Ave. NE. Atlanta. 404-254-1032. coldbeeratl.com.
Ponce City Market’s Biltong Bar may be the place for South African jerky, but they also have a stellar drink program. A mug of silky smooth drinking chocolate is infused with the mysterious elixir first created by Carthusian monks in the French Alps. Chartreuse Hot Chocolate warms with both temperature and the intense mix of spices and herbs in Chartreuse. White chocolate whipped cream crowns the cup along with a sprinkling of flaked sea salt.
675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE Atlanta. 678-515-0620. biltong-bar.com.
When the wind goes right through you, head to Staplehouse and climb the stairs to Paper Crane Lounge. The cozy salon with twinkling lights is a dreamy oasis with good tunes and personalized service. The menu lends moods rather than drink ingredients. Fairytale of New York is “snappy, seasonal, spiced.” It should also read “belly warmer,” but that goes against the classy aesthetic.
541 Edgewood Ave. Atlanta. 404-524-5005. staplehouse.com.
The folks at Decatur’s Kimball House even think about drifting cold air when they consider your experience in the former train depot. Guests enter through a door a few feet away from the main door when nights are cold. Curl into a leather banquette or saddle up to the bar for their eggnog, which combines aged rum, cognac, maple, and nutmeg. Boozy baking spices equals rosy cheeks.
303 E. Howard Ave. Decatur. 404-378-3502. kimball-house.com.
Ticonderoga Club is the place where everyone is a member. It’s the kind of place where bartenders will greet you with “welcome back, friend.” Haven’t been there before? You will feel like you have. Conversation around the bar will warm you up in no time. To accompany it, they have some of the best cocktails in Atlanta for you. Order She’s the Boss. The riff on an Old Hickory includes a red vermouth from Monastrell that is supple and full of holiday time herbs and spices, vegetal Cynar, and a rich and nutty Amontillado sherry. The finish is bittersweet and herbal. Pro tip: take a couple of quarters to try your luck with the prize dispenser.
99 Krog St. Atlanta. NE. 404-458-4534. ticonderogaclub.com.
You can follow Angela Hansberger on the CurEat App (available for iOS and Android) for all of her recommendations for cocktails in Atlanta. She even has a list for those of you who enjoy sitting alone at the bar.