Food & Drink

The Atlanta Bartenders You Need to Know

Published On 11/03/2016 Published On 11/03/2016
Sean Gleason
Sean Gleason of Ponce City Market | Courtesy of Sean Gleason

Sean Gleason

Biltong Bar

Address and Info

Ponce City Market

Everybody just expected there to be beef jerky and a few simple two-ingredient bevvies at best when Biltong first opened. Instead, a serious bar has emerged, led by Leon’s Full Service alum Sean Gleason. In addition to making deliciously boozy and completely unique drinks (bring back the “Dark Side”!!), Gleason directs drinks at sister restaurant Cape Dutch, and is down to talk tonic anytime if you have questions. He occasionally leads cocktail classes, and is particularly keen on showing you why Mai Tais are amazing, as well as show you how he learned to create them on a level that’ll make you realize you might be sexist for not yet gulping one (seriously, they’re outstanding).

Courtesy of Greg Best & Paul Calvert

Greg Best & Paul Calvert (tie)

Ticonderoga Club

Address and Info

Krog Street Market

You can no longer separate the Ticonderoga Club partners now that they’ve bellied up to their own bar. Both have received major respect and notoriety through running incredible bar programs. Best can be credited with starting a citywide mixology movement at Holeman & Finch, while Calvert designed the original drinks of The Sound Table, breathed new liquid life into Pura Vida Tapas, then became bev director for Victory Brands, where he created cocktails that we all drank at Victory Sandwich Bar, Paper Plane (where he was a partner), and Little Trouble. In addition to all sorts of awards, they’ve also collaborated/consulted with Wild Heaven to create local beers (Emergency Drinking Beer and Wise Blood IPA). Both men should be at the top of any list as long as they choose to call themselves bartenders. This year they share a space in both our list and the real-life bar they run together at Krog.

Courtesy of Miles Macquarrie

Miles Macquarrie

Kimball House

Address and Info


The oysters at Kimball House are hard to beat. Still, there are people who don’t eat oysters (shame on them) but swear by the cocktail program Miles Mac made in the old train depot. He’s a three-time James Beard semifinalist who spent time at Holeman & Finch and ran booze operations at Leon’s Full Service before becoming a partner at Kimball House, where everything looks scientific but tastes like flowing art, thanks to the house-made bitters and tinctures used throughout the cocktail menu, whether you’re indulging in the Swiss/French/Californian absinthe program or having a classic G&T, Sazerac, or fancy sour cherry bourbon julep. Hell, the dude even has his own amaro based on the flavor of Coca-Cola.

Courtesy of Kellie Thorn

Kellie Thorn

Empire State South

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She’s known locally as the lady who Hugh Acheson trusts to match his kitchen wit with boss-level bartending skill and taste. She’s an ATL native who’s becoming known internationally, thanks to being picked to craft holiday cocktails live on CNN and winning regional competitions to fly out to the actual city named Cognac. She can do to gin what Billy Dee Williams does to… wait, skip that, since it alludes to a relationship based on Colt 45. Anyway, Thorn is on your side, much like your liver. Let them become friends.

Courtesy of Navarro Carr

Navarro Carr

The Sound Table

Address and Info

Old Fourth Ward

It says a lot about a bartender when he or she can sustain and elevate the cocktail and spirits program at a place with sky-high expectations. The Sound Table is that venue, due to the consistently captivating music and food menu, but it is NYC native and UGA grad Navarro Carr who has managed to steadily surprise guests who are sometimes too busy dancing to realize their drinks are damn good until the second or third sip. He may not be the smiliest dude in the bunch (I personally thought he hated me for years, which would have been fine), but you won’t get a bad drink from his hands. Maybe that’s due in part to his early tutelage from OG ATL bartender Eric Simpkins of The Lawrence, or maybe it’s just because he’s really good at what he does and doesn’t have to smile for your sloppy self. You’ll still suck the last drip out of your highball glass -- count on that.