Have you ever looked at a bar’s cocktail menu and thought, “Is that the entire list?” No. The secret to finding those off-menu drinks? Ask. Sometimes a bartender has a few tricks up his sleeve. Other times, it’s simply a tip from a friend about a drink she had the other night. You’ve heard about that off-menu burger, get in the know about off-menu cocktails. Here are four of our favorites from Atlanta bars.
Penicillin at Pinewood Tippling Room
In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, “I love scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch.” Cocktailians order this scotch-heavy drink for its smoky, peaty and soothing ginger qualities. The modern classic, created a decade ago by famed New York bartender Sam Ross contains blended scotch, equal parts honey and ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice and a floater of Islay scotch. Pinewood Tippling Room’s version happens to be one of our favorites using Arran’s 10-year single-malt scotch with its rich fruit notes and light peat, plus a floater of smoky sweet Compass Box Flaming Heart whisky. What you get is a beautiful balancing act of peat, subtle sweetness and the signature smoke that keeps lovers of this scotch cocktail sipping long into the night. Pinewood Tippling Room, 254 West Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-373-5507, pinewoodtr.com.
Americano at Osteria Mattone
This one’s for amaro lovers. Born in Milan in the 1860s, the Americano was once known as the “Milano-Torino”, named for the ingredients’ cities of origin. A low-proof classic containing Campari, sweet vermouth and soda, the drink became popular in Milan with American expats during Prohibition and lead to the cocktail being renamed for its adopted fan base. The digestif’s bittersweet flavors coupled with fizzy water may seem simple, but the combination of Campari and sweet vermouth rounds out any bitter edges the drink contains with a hint of citrus and spice. Add a twist of orange to enhance those citrus undertones, and you have a perfect cocktail for sipping on a patio. We trust this off-menu beauty in the hands of the bartenders at Roswell’s answer to Rome (and delicious pasta,) Osteria Mattone. Osteria Mattone, 1095 Canton St. Roswell. 678-878-3378, osteriamattone.com.
Last Word at Little Trouble
We’ve suggested the Last Word before, but if you’re looking for a joint to try it for yourself, follow the Blade Runner-inspired neon lights to Westside’s Little Trouble. The Last Word in its classic form is equal parts gin, green chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice and is refreshingly tangy and boozy to the core–something Little Trouble’s creative drinks are known for around Atlanta. If you’re feeling dangerous, switch out gin for aged rum – in particular, “Navy strength” Smith and Cross Jamaican rum. This one’s a game changer, folks. At 114 proof, the grog-style rum outmatches the 110-proof green chartreuse (something other spirits are hard-pressed to do.) What makes this variation on the Last Word so special is the funk of the traditional, colonial-style rum transforming this boozy beauty into a daiquiri on steroids likely to take down Hemingway himself after a couple. Little Trouble, 1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-500-4737, little-trouble.com.
Dealer’s Choice at One Eared Stag
Sometimes you just don’t know what you want, and that’s where One Eared Stag’s “Dealer Choice” cocktail comes into play. Simply tell the bartender your favorite base spirit and describe your flavor craving for the evening: sweet, savory, bitter, or a combination of the three. What you get is a mood-ring in the form of a cocktail. On the night we grabbed a seat at the bar, we chose rye and bittersweet. What we got was a spicy version of the evergreen Southern porch classic bourbon sweet tea. Our bartender hit it out of the park with Dickel rye, the herb and black tea forward Amaro Montenegro, bitters and a hint of citrusy sweetness from Pimm’s. While it’s technically on the menu as a choose-your-own-adventure drink, what could be better than heading to One Eared Stag on a Monday night for dollar oysters, its delicious fried chicken and your own signature cocktail? One Eared Stag, 1029 Edgewood Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-525-4479, oneearedstagatl.com.
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