Food & Drink

The Best Whiskey Bars in Atlanta

Published On 08/25/2016 Published On 08/25/2016

Mac McGee

Roswell

With a name that sounds more like a whiskey brand than a bar, and a “Book of Whiskey” detailing its treasury of more than 150 bottles of Irish, American, Canadian, and Japanese whisk(e)y, and premium Scotch, Mac is a heavy hitter. Some, like Stranahan's Colorado, Powers Irish, High West Campfire Rye, and Virgil Kaine ginger-infused bourbon, are used in cocktails; others you can taste in flights. It also holds tasting events like single malt Scotch-paired dinners every fourth Wednesday.

Heidi Geldhauser

Miller Union

Westside

It’s less about the neat pour and more about the finished cocktail when it comes to MU’s muddy-water abilities. The three house concoctions proving this are the Smoking Jacket (rye, chicory, sweet vermouth, smoked tea), the bourbon/peach/lemon Raphael Moses Sour, and the Southern Sun, with 12-year bourbon, house vanilla bitters, and a maple shrub.

Red Phone Booth

Downtown

It’s rare that a brand-new place makes a “best of” anything list in Atlanta, but we trust RPB since it’s basically Buckhead’s old Prohibition secret-entry cigar lounge with the London phone booth front door. Those whiskey-colored backlit ceilings are back, and the decor is similarly speakeasy: brick floors, fireplace, a honey onyx bar, custom Italian leather couches, a guy in suspenders, probably. It's even added a private “mob-style” kitchen with pool and poker tables.

Bourbon Bar

Buckhead

Art Smith, of Southern Art, knows that most artists drink A LOT of whiskey… or knows you do, because he put a bourbon bar across from his restaurant and proceeded to call it Bourbon Bar, as Art Smith gives zero fucks. And we’re glad he did it. You’ll find more than 70 bourbons at the bar, and there are six featured pours on the menu that they recommend you sip while nibbling fruit, nuts, or chocolate, ranging from $10 Rebel Yell Reserve to $21 Blanton’s single-barrel.

Edgar's Proof & Provision

Proof & Provision

Midtown

The feeling of drinking in a brick-columned basement underneath one of ATL’s fancier historic hotels will be nice enough to pull you in. The strength of the whiskey cocktails will be enough to keep you there. Whether you go barrel-aged or opt for hand-crafted drinks like the Firm Handshake with Redemption Rye and fernet; The Truth, which uses its private label Edgar’s Truth bourbon and pineapple-citrus sour; or the Southern 75, which substitutes Four Roses bourbon and SweetWater IPA for the French 75’s gin and Champagne, it’s impossible to choose wrong.

Little Alley Steak

Little Alley Steak

Roswell

Little Alley is unbeatable in terms of sheer quantity. When you walk in and see chalkboards scribbled with more than 200 whiskeys, Scotches, and bourbons, you’ll remember why you’re drinking in the North Fulton County area. The top-shelf stuff includes Johnny Walker Blue, 21-year Macallan, 23-year Pappy Van Winkle (side note: not cheap), and cask-strength 138-proof George T. Stagg bourbon. All delicious options, but in more ways than one, you might need another drink after you’ve paid for your first.

White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

Downtown

The walls, chandeliers, and 360-degree bar are all crafted of white-oak wood, which has the effect of making you feel like you’re drinking whiskey inside a giant whiskey barrel. Plus you have almost 80 choices in the brown spirits department. There are lots of big-time bourbons including Old Blowhard Orphan Barrel 26-year, 14 whiskeys, 24 ryes, and lots of Scotch, including -- but not limited to -- a fine 25-year Glenlivet.

Erika Botfeld

Local Three

Vinings

You’ll find an impossibly long and respectably unique list of highly rated browns here, categorized from ultra-premium Japanese whisky (like Yamazaki 18-year, which is noted for spiced flavors of toffee, walnut, chocolate, and dried apricot), to “Wheat, Corn & Clear” (Woodford Reserve Straight Malt). You’ll also notice straight ryes like Jefferson’s 21-year, an amazing load of Kentucky-made bourbons, and even a few from GA, including Savannah 88, made with grains supplied by local farmers.

Kimball House

Decatur

Though it's more traditionally known for absinthe service (great) and a recent tilt towards rum drinks (also great), the former train depot known as KH can use those tinctures and droplets of strangely wonderful bitters and tonics to make a super-mean Sazerac, whiskey smash with lemon vinegar, and the Room Key, which is a mixture of rye, strawberry quina (it’s an aperitif), vermouth, semillon verjus, and bitter orange liqueur.

Justen Clay

The Pinewood

Decatur

Obviously a place with a $90 rye on the menu takes its whiskey seriously. That specific brand is the 100-proof Rittenhouse 25-year Single Barrel, and has long, smooth notes of coffee, cherries, and chocolate -- $90-long. Too rich for your blood/budget? Try the $16 Japanese Nikka Coffey Grain, any of the Canadian, Irish, or American whiskeys, or one of four-dozen bourbons including Russell’s Reserve 1998, of which only 2,000 bottles were made. Look, good whiskey costs money, but don’t worry. Whiskey Wednesdays are there for you, when half-priced whiskey cocktails at the bar are around $5 apiece.

The Bookhouse Pub

Poncey-Highland

This no-frills, literary-ish lounge is down-to-earth and plenty affordable. Regulars remark about it being one of those “dark, woody spaces with character,” and although we’ve seen plenty of this with movies like Natural Born Killers, in real life, TBP is much more approachable. Not only is there a wide selection, but all pretense is dropped along with prices. Here, $25 will get you Johnny Walker Blue, Macallan 18-year, and Yamazaki 18-year.

Courtesy of Seed Kitchen & Bar

Seed Kitchen & Bar

Marietta

The food here is delicious, and if you’re drinking glasses of whiskey, you should eat. But first, enjoy the natural lighting let in by the floor-to-ceiling windows and check out the spirits menu, which has 22 bourbons (Basil Hayden, Woodford Reserve, Jefferson’s Ocean, etc.), 11 ryes including Whistle Pig 15-year, eight blends like Parker’s Heritage Wheat, and a great group of single malts including France’s banana/crème brûlée/burnt caramel-tinged Brenne.

Tori Allen

Steinbeck's

Decatur

If you’re into drinking alone, but feeling somehow not alone, you should probably find a friend to make sure you’re not going off the deep end. Then take them to Steinbeck’s. The smaller setting is ideal for the strong stuff, and its two-page menu of brown spirits goes from everyman tastes (“Poor Man’s Pappy” house blend), to Willett XCF (Exploratory Cask Finish) rye, which was aged in curacao casks (kind of like Grand Marnier, apparently) and has notes of sugar molasses, much like you used to pass to your middle-school crush before the world crushed you and you started drinking expensive whiskey in bars, alone.

The Lawrence

Midtown

Bar manager Taylor Blackgrave put together a stellar program of earth-hued spirits, separating Japanese, Irish, Scotch, and other malts into “Blended” (Compass Box Hedonism from Scotland), “Soft & Elegant” (Highland Park 15), and “Rich & Robust” (you, until you spent all your money on whiskey). The American selection starts at George Dickel and goes (thankfully) up into Hillrock's Solera blend bourbon from New York, and High West's A Midwinter’s Night Dram, which boasts an aroma reminiscent of red wine.

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1. Mac McGee 936 Canton St, Roswell, GA 30075 (Roswell)

It's hard to miss Mac McGee as you stroll through Roswell: it's housed inside a bright-red, bi-level building, where its team is crafting from-scratch classics like bangers & mash and pouring out a treasury of more than 150 premium bottles of whiskey from Ireland, Scotland, America, Canada, and Japan. Inside the jovial, wood-laden space, you'll want to keep with the Irish pub feel and order some fish & chips or shepherd's pie alongside a brew, an old fashioned, or a whiskey flight.

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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 (availability depends 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. Red Phone Booth 17 Andrew Young International Blvd. N.E., Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30303 (Downtown)

Shhhh: Red Phone Booth is a bit of a secret. You'll enter by securing a secret phone number and dialing it into an antique London-style red phone booth. Once inside, the clandestine feel continues: the decor resembles a speakeasy with brick floors, a fireplace, a honey onyx bar, and custom Italian leather couches. There's also a private event space with pool and poker tables. Be sure to order a whiskey-based cocktail to match the classy, mysterious feel, and nosh on small plates, including fresh seafood, carpaccio, and Neapolitan pizza.

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4. Southern Art & Bourbon Bar 3315 Peachtree Rd, Atlanta, GA 30305 (Buckhead)

Southern Art & Bourbon Bar is a down-South dinner destination helmed by Art Smith, who use to be Oprah's personal chef, which, really, is all you need to know. But I'll continue: it's situated inside the InterContinental with an artistic interior highlighted by vibrant ceiling-hung paintings, plus a spacious, Peachtree-facing patio and three bourbon-focused bars. When it comes to the food, be sure to try the Addie Mae's chicken-and-dumplings soup (named after Smith’s mother) or the braised pork belly with yams and sorghum syrup.

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5. Proof and Provision 659 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 (Midtown)

Tucked underneath the historic Georgian Terrace Hotel, Proof and Provision is a hip brick-columned basement where barrel-aged cocktails and scrumptious small plates take center stage. Whiskey is the name of the game here, and you really can't go wrong no matter what drink you choose -- we'd suggest The Truth, which uses their private label “Edgar’s Truth” bourbon and pineapple-citrus sour. Pair it with bites like black eyed pea hummus, mac & cheese, or the southern chicken biscuit.

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6. Little Alley Steak 955 Canton St, Roswell, GA 30075 (Roswell)

The team behind Roswell's heralded Salt Factory now brings you Little Alley Steak, an Industrial Revolution-inspired steakhouse that sports a metallic bull's head near the door, Edison bulbs strung from meat hooks, and original 1880s brick walls upon which they've placed menu boards. You'll find 100+ offerings of Scotch, bourbon, and whiskey, which all pair wonderfully with this chophouse's top-notch cuts of steak and charcuterie. Most of LAS’ cuts are provided by famed Chicago butcher Meats by Linz, plus an American Kobe beef program with wagyu steaks.

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7. White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails 270 Peachtree St NW, Atlanta, GA 30303 (Downtown)

White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails lives at the intersection of contemporary style and Southern tradition. The menu changes seasonally, but no matter when you stop in, you can expect a Southern tinge in each of the simple, yet elegant dishes, like a charcuterie plate with pimento cheese or deviled eggs with... pimento cheese. The bar is firmly rooted in the South as well, with a focus on wine, whiskey, and bourbon. With refined decor featuring (you guessed it) white oak wood and opulent chandeliers, the 300-seat restaurant is an airy, upscale space for date night, group dining, and private events alike.

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8. Local Three Kitchen & Bar 3290 Northside Pkwy NW, Atlanta, GA 30327

Local Three Kitchen is deeply dedicated to the holy trinity of restaurants: food, drink, and hospitality. With a huge, fresh, and seasonally variable menu, diners always leave happy and satisfied, drawing out consistent rave reviews. ATLiens love its atypical all-you-can-brunch (served inside the actual kitchen) and the most popular side dish on the menu: duck fat fried Brussels sprouts.

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9. 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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10. The Pinewood Tippling Room 254 W Ponce De Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030 (Decatur)

At the sophisticated Pinewood Tippling Room, you'll find traditional Southern classics kicked up a notch, like chicken & waffles with a savory cheddar & herb waffle and crystal chicken gravy, and salmon with grilled corn & lady pea succotash, goat cheese mousse, and crispy prosciutto. You'll want to imbibe some whiskey cocktails inside this industrial-chic space, which are Pinewood's specialty, such as the Goonies Never Say Die! with Old Forester Bourbon, ginger, lime, Velvet Falernum, and grains of paradise.

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11. The Bookhouse Pub 736 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (Poncey Highland)

This Poncey-Highland haunt looks as if it were carved right out of the earth, boasting plenty of customized wood and stone features, plus a long list of affordable beers and whiskey cocktails. Go ahead and enjoy them at a table in the dimly lit interior or on the outdoor patio with a tiki overhang. While you're at it, be sure to nosh on starters like pot stickers, braised beef poutine, and mains such as the Bookhouse burger and shrimp & grits.

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12. Seed Kitchen & Bar 1311 Johnson Ferry Rd, Marietta, GA 30068 (Marietta)

Inside this sleek, light-filled Marietta spot, you can dig into creative takes on American cuisine, such as lemon & herb ricotta ravioli, chicken schnitzel, and hickory-smoked pork chop. The team here is offering up a solid cocktail menu, too, split into vintage and modern drinks -- from a classic Ward 8 (Rittenhouse Rye, fresh OJ, lemon, and homemade grenadine) to the inventive Delight Savings Time (Boosma, Parfait Amour, Salers, lemon, strawberry-rhubarb soda). You'll want to top it all off with the tres leches cake.

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13. Steinbeck's 659 E Lake Dr, Decatur, GA 30030 (Decatur)

Steinbeck's is the type of homey haunt you'll want to hole up inside for several rounds. The friendly space has exposed brick and an old-school wooden bar, where you can order from its extensive list of whiskey -- from a simple house blend to aged Willet XCF rye. You'll want to get your hands on the fan-favorite Tower of Power, too: a double bacon cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and smothered with "million island dressing."

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14. 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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