Old 4th Ward
ATL’s favorite bar to commiserate over politics
The crowd at this recently renovated, famously Democratic, 60-year-old political watering hole may have been on the sadder side of drinking as the Election Night 2016 results came in, but that doesn’t mean Manuel’s won’t survive many local, state, and federal political movements for years to come -- they'll always be ready with a standard, un-fancy cocktail and plenty of Poncey-Highland tradition.
The gritty, little bar that locals don’t like sharing -- so be cool
One of the diviest of Atlanta’s most-loved longtime dive bars, The Local is where you go when you want to be on “the old Ponce.” Smoking has been disallowed (not everything on “the old Ponce” was good for you), but they still have a great beer selection covering hipster PBR tall-boys to exceptional Belgian beers -- and there’s almost no better place in the city for karaoke and trivia (with your Hungarian exchange student, of course).
A beautifully bluesy bar for fun, dirty drinking
In a boxy space that looks almost literally like a hole in the wall, Northside Tavern stands in bluesy, smoky, dirty opposition to every newly developed property along Howell Mill and throughout the greater westside area. The amazingly strong drinks don’t get fancier than two or three ingredients, but that’s only because the booze is basically an accomplice to the live blues and dirty dancing you’ll either participate in, or view from the back corner pool tables.
Old 4th Ward
Edgewood’s all-welcoming Italian food and drink staple
There’s dancing, drag, and good drinking to get involved with at the Italian restaurant that some folks don’t even know plates delicious food. That’s only because the beer selection is super-solid, the cocktails were crafty and delicious long before Edgewood and Boulevard became a thing, and when you’re drinking, it’s totally cool to think about your grandmother, since that’s who the owner named the place after.
The best place in ATL metro for an absinthe drink
Miles Macquarrie and the team at Kimball House turned their private dining room into its own little house of hard-to-get beers, aperitif cocktails, and bivalve fare. If you’ve had one of the liquid creations at KH you don’t need any other reason to give Bonanza a try, but here’s one anyway: the “Sea Glass,” in which honeydew, cucumber, lemon, and Cremant de Loire dry sparkling wine meet Navy-strength gin (like over-55-proof-strong). And yes, there’s plenty more -- find out for yourself.
If it ain’t Georgian, it ain’t pourin’ (note: it's all Georgian)
The Joystick Gamebar family have finally given us a bar of all-Georgia-born beer -- something we barely knew we could one day have. The space, which used to be home to the Edgewood animal hospital, now has a huge backlight marker board with nothing but rotating taps (starting with such seasonal state-made beers as Wild Heaven NitrOde), and a menu of “package beer” separated into browns/ambers (Jekyll Cooter Brown), fruit beers (Three Taverns Rapturous sour), lots of IPAS (Monday Night Slap Fight, Red Brick Hoplanta, Reformation Atlas, Orpheus The Rites), and more than a few sessionables, stouts, porters, pales, wheats, and wits. Oh, and they have an unquestionably awesome walled-in backyard with wooden lawn chairs patio furniture.
Old Fourth Ward
The rooftop bar in Ponce Street Market that comes with a carnival
With the panoramic views from the rooftop of PCM, 9 Mile Station sets an already high atmospheric bar (pun intended), but takes the actual bar part even higher by giving you a beer garden where you can pick your pour from 12 often-rotating craft draft taps, choose from their full assortment of liquors and classically prepared cocktails, or try one of several champagnes and sparkling wines from the “sparkling bar.”
A place to sophisticatedly soak in your bitter feelings… with bitters and amaris
A '70s-inspired, beverage-first storefront on N Highland, AMER is all about Italian amari and bitters, splitting the drinks menu into four groups (“built,” “sodas,” “stirred,” and “shaken”), and employing an all-star lineup of bartenders from some of Atlanta’s most serious places to get liquor-y. These places include Leon’s Full Service, Victory Sandwich Bar, and Joystick Gamebar. It’s designed as a night-starter, so grab a small crew of bev-revelers and get to drinkin’.
Old Fourth Ward
Where the Jetsons would drink… if the Jetsons drank
You’d almost think this mid-century-themed spot that’s currently the only place to buy drinks on PCM’s second floor is a bit conceited, but then you drink their stuff and realize they deserve to be one level up. Owned by the folks who opened The Pinewood Tippling Room in Decatur, The Mercury puts a glamorous twist on American classics like the Aviation and French 75, prepares drinks for four right next to your table (gin or vodka Martinis, Glenlivet 12yr Rob Roys, etc.) and has a superb wine selection that runs the gamut from the Russian River Valley to France, Napa, Argentina, and Oregon.
Old Fourth Ward
Amazing mai tais and other masterfully made libations in PCM
We think pretty highly of Sean Gleason who, in an establishment marketed to sell the air-dried, charcuterie-ish, South African version of beef jerky, has created a truly outstanding bar program. Even if you don’t really drink much, you can’t go wrong with cocktails with names like “Absinthe Father” and “Bizarre Love Triangle,”or those with names that are easier to attach to autumn, such as the bourbon/pumpkin/pecan punt e mes “Harvest Moon” which is finished with a dash of fall spices.
Bartending overlords tirelessly improving your drinking palate
The two bartending all-stars (Greg Best and Paul Calvert) made TC an instant classic, and part of the reason is because at just over a year in age they’re still kicking ass with season-appropriate drinks like the “Dream Lover,” which includes aged rum, moscatel sherry, Gran Classico, and orange and Angostura bitters. Also try the geniusly balanced “Pencil Shifting,” made with Banyuls fortified dessert wine, espresso liqueur, lime, salt, and Pineau des Charentes French aperitif.
Monumental cocktails that raised the bar in Midtown
Hugh Acheson is cool, but as far as reasons for visiting ESS, bar manager Kellie Thorn’s beverages are just as important. Pretty much all the cocktails have an ingredient you either have to Google or you're not sure how it works with other ingredients, but then you try it and say words like, “Hot damn,” although with great class, flair, and sophistication. It’s a particularly good spot to enjoy inventive rum drinks, such as the herbal and bubbly Exile on Martinique, which also has green chartreuse and sparkling wine mixed in, or the sweet and spicy Rum the Jewels, with pineapple rum, ancho, elderflower, and sherry.
The bar that made Buckhead actually bearable
You always want to try every drink on the menu at the not-too-bourgeois Buckhead bar -- and not just because you’ve heard how well they pair with cheeseburgers. It’s intimately sized and welcoming to all, whether you’re wearing a sport coat or an Adidas track suit. They take their time making drinks, whether you order a classic boulevardier or something creative like the Beatrix Kiddo, made with mezcal, pineapple, lime, and yellow chartreuse. And don’t forget to grab a free pen on your way out.
Everybody’s favorite Blade Runner-inspired drink spot
Just like the name itself, this place is hard to stay out of. The iconic neon “LT” sign has a life of its own on social media, and you might be surprised by how great the small plates of shishitos, Asian buns, spicy wings, and meats on sticks are. But the drinks are where it gets special, and the music is fantastic. It’s hard to trust the availability of their online menu at any given time, but just ask for a Paper Plane or The Biggest Bird, or whatever they’re doing with bourbon at the moment. Become a regular and they might just pour you a shot of sake when you check in at the bar.
The place to wage an upscale war on thirst
Since it opened during summer 2016 in the space of old Atlanta lounge/institution Shout!, the Charlotte-born restaurant and bar, with words from the famous Sun Tzu book written all over the walls and ceiling, has made major strides toward becoming a place Atlanta will love for a long, long time. The addition of brilliant lead bartender Keyatta Mincey has stirred things up significantly with her own creations, such as The Art of War, with rye, house-made fig preserve, lemon, Bénédictine, and bitters.
Sophisticated Spanish drinking in Krog Street Market
The Castellucci Hospitality Group, who’ve given us Cooks & Soldiers, Double Zero, and other great bars and diners, figured we didn’t drink enough Spanish wine in ATL, and they were right. Since opening a few months ago in Krog, this vibrant, brightly colored bar (inspired by Madrid food markets) has become an instant Eastside favorite. They’ve got 22 reasonably priced wines by the glass (from $5 red to $14 sherry), the notorious Spanish mixture of Tempranillo and Coca-Cola, and funky cocktails that range from sangria to rum punch.
A gorgeous global bar for when you wanna escape ATL but can’t
It’s hard to exaggerate the sheer flyness of this plush drinking establishment. The brick walls, beautiful art, purple velvet upholstery, and great music selection blend just as well as mixologist Michael Jones’ cocktail craftwork. Even the drink menu is a play on globetrotting: Try the “Resident” section’s Old Fashioned, which is reimagined with peach, mint, and citrus oil, or get Brazilian with the cachaça-based Hapi, which also includes Madeira and a collard green shrub that somehow makes perfect sense. They’ve also got a worldly collection of beers, with representation from China, England, France, Germany (of course), India, Kenya, Spain, Turkey, and other countries you need to visit when you stop spending all your travel money on cocktails.
New Orleans and Vietnam had drinks together and then made a bar baby
You’ve gotta love Bon Ton just for the silliness of its website, but even if you don’t have their outstanding Vietnamese-Creole food, you’d be crazy not to try one of partner -- and long-respected ATL bartender -- Eric Simpkins’ drinks. He’s put together offerings like tapped Sazeracs, drinks that sound crazy but taste/feel great like the Hanoi Hurrah (rum, brandy, orange, cinnamon, and Vietnamese coffee), a frozen Pimm’s Cup, “Beer and a Shorty” combos like Tokyo Black Porter and Fernet Branca Menta, and a ton of tapped, canned, and bottled beers, including a few 750 milliliters. They also have an amazing red neon sign against one of the gray concrete walls that simply says “Fancy Service.” It’s a great place to have good times without rolling to Louisiana.
A tiki party across from Ponce City Market
Inside the restaurant 8ARM, you’ll find a minimalist, white-walled and wood-tabled den with delicious food by the plate. Outside, next to a covered patio, you’ll find fruity, boozy tropical drinks under tiny umbrellas, coming from a bar built into a renovated shipping container, which is covered with weird murals and funky lighting. This spot is also the site of a weekly jam hosted by DJ Ree de la Vega called Chaka Khan Hacienda. You're still in Atlanta after all.