Shave and a Haircut, and Some Jack Daniel’s Too

When you walk into American Haircuts in midtown Atlanta or their outpost in Roswell, Georgia, you immediately get a sense that this is a contemporary take on the traditional (nearly forgotten) barbershop, and all the Norman Rockwell imagery that comes with it. There’s the old red, white and blue barber pole, the bright Barbicide disinfectant glass jars, the “official hairstyles for men and boys” poster, the… oh, wait – is that Jack Daniels? Maker’s Mark? I don’t remember that in any Norman Rockwell painting. Indeed, if Thirsty South were to endorse a shave and a haircut, it would certainly be at American Haircuts. For the Jack, for the hot lather shaves, for the barbershop-era hospitality. They even have their own guide to food and drink in Atlanta! Just don’t confuse the hair tonic for tonic when you’re having that drink…

By the way, in working on this post, we discovered that Norman Rockwell did indeed produce a few whiskey advertisements in his day. Schenley’s Cream of Kentucky Bourbon was a frequent Norman Rockwell subject from 1937 into the 1940’s.

H. Harper Station: A Scenic Ride

We previously mentioned the opening of H. Harper Station in Atlanta, a “modern watering stop” with an impressive spirits selection and what looks to be an excellent cocktail program led by Jerry Slater. Barely a week old now, the bar and restaurant in a converted old train station is attracting a quick following, especially for their whiskey-based cocktails. One such cocktail is the “Daisy Buchanan” – inspired by the traditional “Great Gatsby.” Here, the cocktail’s name changes to that of the leading lady in the F. Scott Fitzgerald book that inspired the “Great Gatsby” cocktail (got that?), and the cocktail itself changes from vodka/gin/vermouth to bourbon/Chartreuse/grenadine, with the bright acidity of the lemon juice being the primary constant. (Literary side note: The Great Gatsby involves a train ride and is set during Prohibition, how apropos!). Slater chose to use Basil Hayden’s 8yo Bourbon in this drink for its “feminine” qualities, and the Basil Hayden does indeed work nicely with the Chartreuse and lemon juice, an egg white thrown in for a lush and frothy texture. See the cocktail recipe at the end of this post, and enjoy this little video to give you a better feel for H. Harper Station and their “Daisy Buchanan:”

H. Harper Station: A Scenic Ride from Thirsty South on Vimeo.

Of course, there’s much more to the bar menu at H. Harper Station. The cocktail list is grouped by primary ingredient, from Champagne, to beer and cider, to brandy to rye. There’s another section dedicated to punch bowls, including the “Buford Highway Artillery Punch” (with white whiskey, sochu, green tea, lychees, ginger syrup and mint), which are served in beautiful vintage crystal bowls and can keep a group of four happy for the evening. And, of course, the bar can serve up any classic cocktail as well. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Vieux Carre cocktail in New Orleans (or better yet, if you NEVER have), you should seek out Tiffany behind the bar. She hails from Lafayette, Louisiana, and is a master of this hallowed drink, made with Sazerac Rye, Benedictine, Cognac, vermouth and bitters.  The bar staff is already clicking one week in, and they are gearing up to do even more in-house, from their house-made pickled eggs and infused syrups, to ginger beer, cream soda, and tonic. Beer and wine selections are well chosen if not overly numerous (the wine list includes Brewer-Clifton pinot noir, La Spinetta barbaresco, and Domaine Weinbach riesling; and the sixteen beers on tap include Wild Heaven Invocation, Corsendonk Abbey Brown Ale and Hitachino White). Climb aboard for a scenic ride at H. Harper Station (and be sure to stay for the cocktail recipe at the end of this post…)

The “Daisy Buchanan” Cocktail Recipe

1.5 oz Basil Hayden’s 8yo Bourbon (or similar)
.5oz Chartreuse
.5oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
.25oz grenadine, preferably homemade
1 egg white

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glass.

Enjoy! And thanks to Jerry Slater and team at H. Harper Station.

There’s A New Bar In Town…

The latest arrival to Atlanta’s cocktail and spirits scene sits in an old train station in a rather derelict part of town, but the cocktails and whiskey selection will have people lining up to get on board (OK, no more bad train puns, I promise). H. Harper Station is the name, and they call themselves “a modern watering stop.” The conductors (really?? another one?) are chefs Duane Nutter, Reginald Washington and mixologist Jerry Slater, and if you’ve ever had an hour to spare in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson international terminal, you may recognize a few things from their well-regarded One Flew South bar and restaurant there. A first look at H. Harper Station will be forthcoming, but it’s worth pointing out now that the cocktail list instantly vaults them into consideration among Atlanta’s most ambitious cocktail bars. One particularly good and creative drink on the list is the “Bufala Negra,” with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, basil, brown sugar, a touch of balsamic vinegar, and some ginger beer – it all melds together wonderfully. The spirits selection is one of the best you will find in town, with over 40 whiskeys (including Pappy Van Winkle 20 year old and Caol Ila 18 year old). Beer and wine lists are fairly short, but interesting (Brewer-Clifton pinot noir, La Spinetta barbaresco, Domaine Weinbach riesling on the wine lists; Allagash Four and Hitachino White on the very nice draft beer list). Let us know what you think if you make it over to H. Harper Station, we’re looking forward to good things…

Wine Finds Among The Fishes

wine corks

Last night’s Aqua Vino fundraiser for the Georgia Aquarium’s Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health (got all that?) was a great excuse to sample a wide variety of wine from around the world, all for a good cause. While I didn’t come close to tasting even half of the wines available, there were a few things that stood out. First, kudos to the organizers for having a great selection of Georgia wines. Montaluce, Wolf Mountain, Three Sisters, BlackStock, Habersham, and Yonah Mountain were all there pouring.

Wolf Mountain

Was it a coincidence that they were next to the Georgia swamp area of the aquarium? Just like the Georgia swamp exhibit, the Georgia wines might not have been the biggest names (or whales) in the house, but they made a great showing. A new one to me was Yonah Mountain‘s Traminette. Traminette is a gewurtzraminer hybrid grape, and for this bottling, Yonah Mountain sourced the fruit from the Finger Lakes region of New York, where winemaker Joe Smith grew up. So now we have a Georgia winery, producing a seldom seen hybrid varietal wine, sourcing from the Finger Lakes, with a winemaker who hails from that region as well. They win bonus points just for the audacity of it. And you know what? It was excellent. Great acidity, lovely floral notes on the nose, good balance and depth, a pleasant amount of residual sugar.

The other two discoveries that stood out for me hailed from California and Spain.


From California, the Hess Family has a relatively new label called Sequana, which is dedicated to single vineyard, California pinot noir. Winemaker James MacPhail was brought on as a pinot noir specialist, and, based on the two wines being sampled, is turning out some really nice, nuanced wines. The wines on offer were a Santa Lucia Highlands Sarmento Vineyard (from outside Monterey) and one from the famed Dutton Ranch in the Russian River Green Valley area. These aren’t cheap wines, priced around $30 – $40, but for single vineyard pinots from these areas, they do represent a pretty good deal. The Sarmento Vineyard pinot was my personal favorite, with floral notes and dark spices topping off a bright cherry backbone.

Dinastia Vivanco
The view over the vines from Dinastia Vivanco in Rioja, Spain.

From Spain, Dinastia Vivanco is a winemaker whose magnificent wine museum is a must-stop for any visitor to Rioja. It is full of history, knowledge, and beauty. And now, for the first time, their wines are being imported to the US. Their current reserve release is the 2004 Reserva, which is 90% tempranillo. It has seen almost two and a half years in oak, followed by more than two years of bottle aging in the winery’s cellars. A quick check online shows it priced around $20, a great deal for a reserve Rioja with just enough age to be interesting, and this one can easily go another 10 to 20 years. Hopefully this will be showing up on local wine store shelves.

Finally, a taste of the 2006 Trimbach Gewurtztraminer reminded me how good and distinctive Alsatian Gewurtztraminer is. Thick, spicy, lightly honeyed tropical fruit. Gorgeous. Enough to send your mind off to a faraway place where graceful creatures drift through clear waters…

Georgia Aquarium

Full Disclosure: my attendance at this event was on a complimentary media pass

A Witch Hunt & More in Decatur, GA

Leon's Full Service

Decatur and the Westside seem to be battling it out for food and drink supremacy in Atlanta these days, and Decatur’s lineup is enough to make you rethink your decision to live anywhere other than within walking distance to the heart of Decatur. Visits to some stalwarts of the Decatur scene revealed all that is great about the onset of Autumn – seasonal ales, creative cocktails shifting to spices and fall fruits, and food to match.

Let’s start with Leon’s Full Service, where Miles and team man the bar and turn out some of Atlanta’s best cocktails. They’ve already made the turn out of the relatively light and refreshing summer drinks and are now in the land of apples and honey – richer, spicier, darker. With names like Death & Company, Witch Hunt, and the Whitehall Mystery, surely Halloween is right around the corner. The Witch Hunt is a perfect drink for easing into the cooler weather, a mix of house-made apple-cardamom syrup, Dry Fly gin, Liquore Strega (Italian for witch), a bit of lemon and an absinthe rinse (full recipe below, under Comments). It manages to be bright and balanced, warming and refreshing, and Miles’ tricks with the shaker make a perfect treat when you feel the fabulous texture, the “mouthfeel,” of this drink. Here’s a little video to whet your appetite for going on a Witch Hunt of your own:

Leon’s Full Service: Miles & the Witch Hunt from Thirsty South on Vimeo.

Down the street a few blocks, Cakes & Ale matches their stellar, seasonal food with some equally stellar, seasonal drinks. Corina behind the bar is now featuring a cocktail called East of Eden (recipe here). Apples and pomegranates mix together with Corsair Wry Moon unaged whiskey, a beautiful sight in a dark vintage martini glass. Corina has been seeking the right pairing for the Corsair unaged whiskey, and the freshly pressed apple juice and muddled pomegranate seem to be the perfect match. Look for some interesting Hot Toddy-inspired cocktails coming soon to counteract the cooler weather.

Cakes & Ale

Back on the square, the Iberian Pig has been turning out a signature drink for some time now, but it seems especially well suited to the weather these days – their Iberian Old Fashioned gets smokey and rich with house bacon-infused rye whiskey, brown sugar and molasses, and a mix of bitters and citrus oil to top it off. Other bars are playing with bacon, but Iberian Pig gets it right, not too heavy, not too salty, simply right.

Iberian Pig
Iberian Pig
Iberian Pig

Of course, The Brick Store Pub is constantly offering seasonal beer specials from keg or cask or bottle, and the current crop is keeping the crowds happy. A current rare treat is the Founder’s Black Biscuit, a barrel-aged black ale that brings serious complexity and depth.

Brick Store

As if the cocktails and beer weren’t enough to get you over to the Decatur side of town, there’s also a new wine shop down the street in quaint Avondale Estates. The Little Wine Shop just held their grand opening and is a great stop for good and interesting value wines. Their monthly six pack special is an especially good way to try some compelling wines at a very compelling price.
Little Wine Shop