What do you do after you’ve closed your beloved bar, worked with chef Charlie Trotter, helped conceive of and opened One Flew South in the world’s busiest airport, created a drink riffed around the world (Bufala Negra) and spent 20 years behind the bar? You turn your 15-year membership in the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA), an organization dedicated to the preservation of the South’s vast culinary heritage, into its first book on the cultural significance of Southern cocktails.
Jerry Slater, barman and owner of the now-defunct H. Harper Station, along with Sara Camp Arnold, managing editor of the SFA’s quarterly publication “Gravy,” have spent the last year researching, taste testing and vetting hundreds of cocktail recipes from bartenders around the South for the organization’s premier text on the region’s drink culture. The book, to be released next summer, will be comprised of 11 chapters on iconic Southern drink styles with essaylike introductions. It will also include more than 80 recipes ranging from juleps to spins on the Seelbach.
The SFA reached out to Slater, a longtime, dedicated member of the organization, to help write the book due to his expertise on Southern cocktails and their histories.
“When the SFA was considering authors for this book, we knew we wanted a bar professional who was well-established. Jerry’s vast experience behind the bar and with cocktails as well as his being a committed SFA member with so many industry connections made him a perfect fit,” Arnold said.
Sixteen bartenders from around the South contributed to the project, including six from Atlanta: Miles Macquarrie, Paul Calvert, Greg Best, Kellie Throne, Navarro Carr and Tiffanie Barriere. Photography for the book was provided by SFA member and Atlanta-based food photographer Andrew Thomas Lee, whose body of work has also been published in Garden and Gun, Bon Appetit and Food & Wine.
Atlanta’s considerable contribution to the yet-named book reflects the diversity within the city’s culinary and cocktail scene and provides a balanced, inclusive look into this modern Southern metropolis, in particular, its impact on the region’s past and present drinks culture.
“We wanted the book to reflect the diversity in the South, starting with the people we involved. That diversity also includes the spirits we used in recipes. Not every cocktail is whiskey-based. Essays will tie a lot of these drinks together and speak to Southern cocktails in an historic and cultural context,” Slater said.
Essays will cover such subjects as the introduction of ice to Southern cocktails, hotel bars like the Brown, the Peabody and the Monteleone and their significance on the South’s drinks as well as the cocktail connection between Louisville and New Orleans. Recipes and the stories behind such cocktails as the brandy-based Creole crusta, H. Harper Station favorite the Ruby Slipper and the fascinating history behind New Orleans’ obsession with the Grasshopper are just a few of the book’s highlights.
“Although this book will include tasting notes, the larger story behind these drinks is about race, class, gender and environment,” Arnold said. “We want to give historical context but also make you think. This isn’t the last word in Southern cocktails, it’s a jumping-off point for future untold stories.”