Food & Drink

The Best Cocktail Bars in Atlanta

Published On 12/05/2013 Published On 12/05/2013

Summer wouldn't be complete without some amazing cocktails. To make sure you're only imbibing the best, we scoured the city for the best speakeasies, neighborhood pubs, farm-to-table tipple spots, and everything in between.

Seven Lamps

Buckhead

Opened by a former ONE. midtown kitchen king, this rustic joint boasts an open kitchen and bar that blend with granite & wood dining tables and brick walls, all lit by architectural desk lamps -- a nod to the book The Seven Lamps of Architecture, which is a set of architectural principles laid out by John Ruskin: sacrifice, truth, power, beauty, life, memory, and obedience. That dude was kinda weird... or he'd had one too many of the blood orange & bourbon Red Derbies being made behind said open bar.

Miller Union

Miller Union

West Midtown

A farm-to-table-style eatery in the old stockyards, MU doesn't just do food: the swillables list includes things like the Miller Thyme w/ Miller’s gin, lemon & thyme, and the vodka/ green tea/ grapefruit/ lemon/ rosemary Soliloquy, which you probably won't be able to shut up about.

4th and Swift

Midtown

Helmed by a former Georgia Restauranteur of the Year, this Old Fourth Ward eatery pairs its constantly rotating menu with a slew of specialty tails like the Knickerbocker Gin/ yellow Chartreuse/ byrrh/ strawberry-agave sour The Right Stuff, that you'll presumably want to (Tom) Wolfe down.

Amer

AMER

Inman Park

Emphasizing Italian amari and bitters, this small, retro, cocktails-first spot is a 1970s-feeling fun-starter for your afternoon and evening, and has all-star bartenders from a where’s-where of Atlanta watering holes (Leon’s Full Service, Victory Sandwich Bar, Joystick Gamebar, etc.), plus a menu separated into four drink-preparation methods -- “built,” “sodas,” “stirred,” and “shaken.” From that last group be sure to try the Bone & Mast, made with bourbon, rum, banana, a stout reduction, allspice, and lime.

Little Trouble

West Midtown

It’s a ramen spot, a living monument to Blade Runner and Big Trouble in Little China, it has amazing music (check the playlist), and it features a randomly changing drink menu, which has included various cocktails, from the smoky mezcal/rye Found Art, to current concoctions like the herbal liqueur Green-eyed Monster and the funky coffee/amaro/vermouth/cacao Tiger Uppercut.

Kimball House

Kimball House

Decatur

Most people became familiar with Kimball House due to its incredible oyster selection, but the famous ATL mixer Miles Macquarrie is a partner, which means that this old rail station in The Dec will boost your caboose with a Herbsaint daiquiri served with tarragon oil; the Cherry-Coke-ish Cowboys & Indians, with Colorado whiskey, Madeira, kirsch, preserved cherry, and cola bitters; a serious absinthe service program; and a bottled Old Fashioned that serves four for under $40.

Himitsu

Buckhead

Reservations are the only way you’ll get any refreshment at this super-exclusive cocktail parlor connected to sushi restaurant Umi. The name means “secret,” the space is intimate (though two stories), and the staff serves guests according to the practice of Japanese “selfless hospitality” (omotenashi, if you wanna get technical). It’s run by T. Fable Jeon (The Lawrence, etc.) and Shingo Gokan, who’s famous in NYC for a similarly hard-to-access Japanese speakeasy called Angel’s Share.

Ticonderoga Club

Ticonderoga Club

Krog Street Market

Greg Best, Paul Calvert, and the rest of the TC gang are a drinky dynasty similar in spirit (ahem) to a 2016 booze-mixing version of the ‘99 Lakers. It will be you, however, who feels like the repeat champion after hitting the bar (pay homage to the Biggie Smalls painting if you can snag a table upstairs), where you should sip the signature house punch over crunchy ice in a metallic cup, or super-strengthened libations like the Holland Tunnel, with rye, Quina aperitif, amaro, and Angostura.

Bitlong Bar

Biltong Bar

Ponce City Market

Most people don’t expect a place selling South African beef jerky to become a great cocktail hangout, but ask beverage director Sean Gleason to make his favorite drink for you, and you’ll never look at Mai Tais with touristy disdain again. While you’re there, ask him when he’s bringing back the Dark Side -- a dark rum, sherry, and imperial stout reduction masterpiece -- and he’ll probably say “Soon!” or “In fall, maybe!” or “Tell Mike Jordan to f*ck off!” He’ll know who sent you.

The Mercury

The Mercury

Ponce City Market

The folks that gave us Decatur’s Pinewood Tippling Room (specifically co-owner Julian Goglia) have provided us with mid-century modern in the form of an upper-level PCM perch with old-school flavor (note the awesomely cheap art vending machine near the door), and approachable, glamorous beverages, be they classics (Scofflaw, Aviation, French 75), or tableside-service drinks for four, including Rob Roys with Glenlivet 12 Year, and other throwbacks that sound simple, but that you probably can’t make taste as delicious.

Joystick Gamebar

Old 4th Ward

Nobody expected a “barcade” to be as wild with its tonics as Joystick has been since opening. Co-owner Brandon Ley has meticulously put together a highly respectable program that takes fortified wines as seriously as it takes random cosplay parties and the hosting of weird local podcasts, and sexy liquid inventions like the Donkey Punch.

The Lawrence

The Lawrence

Midtown

Partner Eric Simpkins, who’s been a fixture of alcohol-based mixtures in ATL since the mid-aughts days of TROIS (remember that joint?), has been the steady hand that pours success out of this once-untenable building. With The Lawrence, he makes sure that you get serious liquid sustenance, including several creations made with house infusions (lavender mint tea vodka, cinnamon-chipotle-infused añejo tequila, lemongrass-infused rye) and other ass-kicking drinks like the Armagnac-mixed Brooklyn Social Scene, whether he’s there or not.

The SOS Tiki Bar

Decatur

The Victory gang may have shuttered Paper Plane, but they kept the space and made it a tropical paradise on Church St. Go there on a festive eve and get your Dr. Gonzo on with a Singapore Sling. Go Wu-Tang Clan on a Ghost Face Kula with five-year rum and a bunch of other madness. Hell, bring a friend or three and get a larger shaken or stirred tropical bevvy for $30, or go full-crazy on a $100 punch bowl for six to eight drinkers. Actually that last one. Do that one.

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Mike Jordan loves cocktails, and needs to drink more of them because all this summer beer has made him a little too cuddly. If you have a suggestion not on this list for where he can find a good stinger, hit him on Twitter at @michaelbjordan.

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1. Seven Lamps 3400 Around Lenox Rd, Atlanta, GA 30326 (Buckhead)

This rustic resto is serving craft food and drinks, which means artisan cheeses, handmade pastas, and, naturally, things like their Smoked Bramlett Trout Mousse. Drinks run the gamut from jerk sodas to beer-tails to speciality 'tails.

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2. Miller Union 999 Brady Ave, Atlanta, GA 30318 (West Atlanta)

From its post on the Westside, Miller Union features unpretentious yet sophisticated New American cuisine with a Southern bent. The menu changes seasonally, but staples like the feta snack, butter bean or field pea hummus (depending on the season) with house-made lavash, and the celery cream-baked farm egg are indispensable starters (and if you happen upon the shrimp and andouille gumbo, add that to the list). The wine list is approachable, affordable, and organic with a global reach, though most of its attention leans towards the food-friendly wines of the old world. It’s also worth noting that the house-made ice cream sandwich is only available at lunch.

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3. 4th & Swift 621 North Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 (Old 4th Ward)

Located in Atlanta's historic Old 4th Ward district, 4th & Swift serves up a seasonally changing menu, with options (sometimes) including pan-roasted snapper, veal chops, and spinach tortellini. You know it'll be fresh: Chef Jay Swift and his culinary team source ingredients from their on-site garden, nearby micro-farms, and several local and regional food purveyors.

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4. Amer Inman Park, 299 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30307 (Inman Park)

This small, retro, cocktails-first spot has a 1970s feel and emphasizes Italian amari and bitters. A fun-starter for your afternoon and evening, it has all-star bartenders from a where’s-where of Atlanta watering holes (Leon’s Full Service, Victory Sandwich Bar, Joystick Gamebar, etc.), plus a menu split into four categories: “built,” “sodas,” “stirred,” and “shaken.” Try the Bone & Mast, a member of the shaken group, which is made with bourbon, rum, banana, a stout reduction, allspice, and lime.

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5. Little Trouble 1170 Howell Mill Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

Asian street food (think steamed buns, fried crab dumplings, and ramen) and inventive cocktails such as the T.R.L (vodka, raspberry, cucumber soda, and mint), and King Werewolf (white brandy, plum, lemon, and soda) come together at this retro joint.

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6. HIMITSU One Buckhead Plaza, 3050 Peachtree Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30305 (Buckhead)

Reservations are the only way you’ll get any refreshment at this super-exclusive cocktail parlor (the name literally means "secret") connected to sushi restaurant Umi. Once inside, you can enjoy fare that includes sashimi, edamame hummus, and various seafood, along with a solid list of cocktails to accompany it. The bar is run by T. Fable Jeon (The Lawrence, etc.) and Shingo Gokan, who’s famous in NYC for a similarly hard-to-access Japanese speakeasy called Angel’s Share.

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7. Kimball House 303 E Howard Ave, Decatur, GA 30030 (Decatur)

Located on the former site of an old train depot on the south side of Decatur, Kimball House is a nationally lauded French restaurant and cocktail bar. Libations at this decidedly plush spot include modern, made to order reinventions of the classics, and a full service absinthe bar. High end fare like caviar, filet mignon and a raw bar are menu standouts -- but if you want the luxe experience without getting too spendy, stop in Monday through Friday from 5-7pm for $1 to $1.50 oysters.

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8. Ticonderoga Club 99 Krog St NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Though its name suggests otherwise, Ticonderoga Club is a full-service restaurant with a menu full of well-crafted fish, steak, and poultry dishes. The Krog Street Market spot has a colonial-meets-Southern charm, and standouts like the massive steak -- dubbed The Chuck Wagon -- fit right in with the traditional club vibe. You should definitely take advantage of the inventive cocktail menu and try the signature Ticonderoga Cup, a strong blend of rum, cognac, sherry, pineapple, lemon, and mint.

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9. Biltong Bar Ponce City Market, 675 Ponce De Leon Ave NE ne152, Atlanta, GA 30308

Who knew a place that sells South African beef jerky could become a prime cocktail spot? Beverage director Sean Gleason, that's who. Try the Biltong Sour, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon, biltong fat, Fable Night Sky wine, and egg white. Or, ask him to make his favorite drink for you -- you’ll never look at Mai Tais with side-eye again.

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10. The Mercury 675 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

Julian Goglia and Chef Mike Blydenstein, co-owners of Decatur’s Pinewood Tippling Room, have gifted Atlanta with this mid-century modern in the form of an upper-level PCM perch with old-school flavor and a penchant for cocktails. Blydenstein’s menu highlights classic American cuisine with options from the raw bar, to house specialties like burrata ravioli and trout almondine, and steaks, chops, and three signature prime rib cuts. The Mercury’s approachable, glamorous beverages include classics (Scofflaw, Aviation, French 75), and tableside-service drinks for four like Rob Roys with Glenlivet 12 Year.

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11. The Lawrence 905 Juniper St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 (Midtown)

The gang behind Sound Table and Top Flr has taken over the old Lupe space to open a minimalist, subway-tiled, primer-painted supper-house-meets-train-station. At The Lawrence, you'll find several creations made with house infusions (lavender mint tea vodka, cinnamon-chipotle-infused añejo tequila, lemongrass-infused rye) and other ass-kicking drinks like the Armagnac-mixed Brooklyn Social Scene.

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12. Joystick Gamebar 427 Edgewood Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312 (Old 4th Ward)

This “barcade” is wild with its tonics. Joystick co-owner Brandon Ley has meticulously put together a top-notch program that takes fortified wines as seriously as it takes random cosplay parties and the hosting of weird local podcasts, plus sexy liquid inventions like the Donkey Punch.

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13. The S.O.S. Tiki Bar 340 Church St, Decatur, GA 30030

Located in the old Paper Plane property, this intimate, kitschy spot has fantastic, boat-sized drinks alongside random carved Tiki heads and hula girls throughout. The menu is small but packs a big punch (both in terms of portions and flavors). Don’t miss the tender but crispy coconut shrimp, which come with a bitingly fresh jalapeño sauce, or the Polynesian spare ribs. Lined with cushy booths and intimately lit throughout, you'll actually be inclined to visit this tiki bar on nights that aren't even your birthday.

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