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The Warhorse and all the coffee in Atlanta

The Warhorse and all the coffee in Atlanta

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee
Inside the Warhorse

The Atlanta coffee scene is in hyperdrive, especially on the west side. There, in the course of roughly half a mile, you can already hit five dedicated coffee shops (Chattahoochee Coffee Company, Star Provisions, Octane, Urban Grind, and the Warhorse Coffee Joint), plus Amelie’s and  West Egg, who both pay careful attention to their coffee programs. A new Revelator Coffee will be opening right across from Star Provisions later this year (next to Cooks & Soldiers), as will Brash Coffee just over the footbridge. Hot damn, that’s a lot of coffee – nine spots in a half mile stretch? But maybe that’s a good thing – the more good coffee, the more good coffee drinkers?

The west side is not unique in this regard. Nearby, Atlantic Station is set to get a branch of Land of a Thousand Hills coffee. Buckhead now has an Octane outpost in the Atlanta Tech Village, and the new Corso in Buckhead Atlanta (after being a good-coffee desert for years). Ponce City Market, already blessed with Dancing Goats, is also set for a coffee counter from Hugh Acheson, dubbed Spiller Park. Even downtown is making waves, with a new Condesa Coffee outpost, Jittery Joe’s inside the Ritz Carlton, and the recently announced Western & Atlantic (a “members only” coffee shop that will be part of the Switchyards development, in partnership with the folks from Octane) soon to join Ébrìk Coffee Room as good-coffee destinations.

Can Atlanta actually support all these new coffee shops? I certainly hope so, but surely there’s a point where the saturation becomes too much and supply exceeds demand. Then again, maybe not, since Starbucks pioneered the idea of putting in so many locations that they actually increased demand by their mere presence. We shall see.

Meanwhile… on a recent Saturday, I managed to gulp down two coffees, a cortado, and an ice coffee over the course of a few caffeinated hours spanning several shops on the west side. My favorite of the day was the cold-brewed ice coffee. I’m hesitant to tell you this for two reasons. First, I really don’t want to tip off this very special place to the masses (not really a problem – since masses are not heading to Thirsty South to find out where to get their coffee). Second, when I found out where the beans came from to make the ice coffee, my eyes grew wide with surprise. The beans were sourced from a little boutique coffee seller named… Kroger. It wasn’t the source of the beans, though, that made the coffee great – it was the setting. (And, yes, the cold brewed Kroger ice coffee was also delicious).

To find that extra special  ice coffee, my wife and I had to wind our way through the old buildings and walkways of the Goat Farm to locate the Warhorse Coffee Joint. There, David Stewart greeted us kindly, then kept us company before we headed off to snap a few iPhone photos of the ever-picturesque Goat Farm surroundings. While the beans for the ice coffee were a supermarket special, most of the Warhorse’s coffee comes in green, then gets roasted in small batches. But like I said, it’s less about the specifics of the coffee (no espresso served) than it is the feel of the place. This is not a coffee business. This is not really a coffee shop. This is a place, a space, where people happen to meet, and coffee happens to be served, and all sorts of strange and unusual things just might happen. The Warhorse is not in competition with nearby Chattahoochee Coffee Company or Star Provisions – it’s not in any competition at all.

And back to the Warhorse’s setting… to say the Goat Farm Arts Center is special is an understatement. It is one of the driving forces behind Atlanta’s independent arts scene. And it’s just plain cool and soaked in history. As is the Warhorse. The feel of the place is a bit like that of the wondrous library of a crazy uncle – piano at the ready, books a plenty, strange artifacts and contraptions all around, intriguingly mis-matched vintage furniture.  The coffee and tea are on the house. Really. But you’ll gladly tip generously, I’m sure of it. The Warhorse is the kind of place that makes you want to sit and think, to linger, and linger on. Then wander, and wander on. It’s the kind of place that makes you happy to be in Atlanta.

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee

The Goat Farm Warhorse Coffee

The coffee stand at Star Provisions

The coffee stand at Star Provisions

Star Provisions Coffee

A cold and cloudy Saturday morning, 9:47AM, and I was looking for duck fat. The main shop at Star Provisions hadn’t yet opened, so I was left out in the cold. Luckily, the little coffee stand tucked off in the corner opens at 8, so I ducked in to grab a cortado. The guy behind the counter, in the vest and the apron and the jaunty cap (is that twill?) said good morning with some sort of foreign accent. Maybe Italy. Maybe not.*

No matter, he made me a perfect cortado, beans roasted by Jittery Joe’s from Athens. I couldn’t help but snap some photos with my iPhone – those Star Provisions folks know how to dress up a place, something like Southern Martha Stewart if Martha Stewart were a whole lot nicer. Bless her heart.

Did I mention it was a damn good cortado?

* UPDATE: It is confirmed. The barista is Enrico. And he is Italian. Grazie Star Provisions.

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Star Provisions Coffee
1198 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA
Hours: 8am – 6pm Monday – Thursday, 8am – 8pm Friday & Saturday

Taproom Coffee, Atlanta

Taproom Coffee, Atlanta

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Here’s the short story – there are three things you need to know about Taproom Coffee in Kirkwood: Jonathan Pascual. Counter Culture Coffee. Craft Beer. That’s it. Go.

Jonathan Pascual Taproom CoffeeOf course, there’s a long version to that story as well. Starting with Jonathan Pascual. He’s the guy who probably most famously helped kick off the rockin’ coffee program at Empire State South a few years back. Earlier this year, he started up Taproom Coffee, and there’s a good chance his smiling face will be there to greet you when you walk in the door. To give you a feel for what Taproom is all about for Jonathan, here are his words from the Kickstarter campaign that helped fund the endeavour:

The Dream: I always wanted to own and run my own place. But I didn’t feel like it should be just another coffee shop. Connecting to people in relationships is very important to me. And no matter how friendly I think I am, sometimes I feel like I just need a little something to grease the wheels of connection. I’ve come to realize that two things frequently (and easily) bring people together: coffee and beer. My dream is that through the medium of these two beverages, Taproom Coffee could provide a comfortable, approachable environment where we facilitate connections. Great coffee, great beer, great memories.

Counter Culture CoffeeSounds good, right? And how ’bout the beans? Jonathan turns to Counter Culture Coffee for the wide range of coffees available as espresso, or pour over, or by the bag to go. They do good stuff. Their mission is to “source, roast, and deliver the most exquisite, freshest coffee in the world,” and even if they’re not quite the very most exquisite in the world, they’re close enough. And just look at all those single origin lots and exotic sources and fancy names and pretty packages – Banko Gotiti, Ollke Birre, Elias Benata, Haru, Idido, Finca Nueva Armenia, Ngunguru… it’s probably a bit overwhelming, and definitely a lot colorful, but Jonathan can help guide you through the flavors and merits of each and every one.

Counter Culture CoffeeI picked up a bag of Aleme Wako (the farmer), Biloya (the village), sundried single  lot, from Kochere (the district), Ethiopia (the country), Africa (the continent), Earth (enough said). I can’t personally fill you in on all the intricacies of how it was grown and harvested and roasted – it probably deserves its own Wikipedia page (OK, this is close enough) – but I can tell you it makes a mean cup of coffee in the morning.

And now the beer? Jonathan’s pride and joy is his “Beerspresso Machine” – an old 4-group La Marzocco Linea espresso machine that he gutted in his garage and had converted into a glimpse of beer nirvana. You’ll find a nice mix of local and not-so-local craft beers on tap: the current list includes Eventide Nitro Dry Irish Stout, Monday Night Nerd Alert, Creature Comforts Reclaimed Rye, Smuttynose Noonan Black IPA… on to La Trappe and St. Bernardus and Sierra Nevada. Now the question is just whether you want beer or coffee. Or maybe one of each. Or maybe two.

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IMG_9084Jonathan Pascual Taproom Coffee

Coffee, Fernet Branca, Rum: Whynatte?

Coffee, Fernet Branca, Rum: Whynatte?

Whynatte Cayrum Fernet Branca

Why the hell would anyone want to mix a latte energy drink, Fernet-Branca, and ginger-honey infused rum? The answer lies somewhere at the center of the Venn diagram where hipster bartenders, tweaked-out party twenty somethings, and laid-back Dominicanos converge. And if you read that and think there’s no way that Venn diagram actually exists in the real world, well… you might be right. But I’m hopeful that somewhere down a dark alley not far from the beach in Punta Cana, there’s a mustachioed mixologist with a PDT Cocktail Book on the shelf, a fridge full of Whynatte, an old uncle home-infusing ginger-honey rum, and a raging dance floor nearby. It could happen, right?

The truth is, this drink was inspired by a random confluence of events. I was talking with Jesse Altman, founder of Whynatte, for a profile in Creative Loafing (that came out this week – check it out). For those of you not familiar with Atlanta-based Whynatte, it’s basically a canned latte energy drink that was built for mixing – with things like Jägermeister,  Fireball whiskey, and, um, whipped cream vodka. As I said in Creative Loafing,  Whynatte is “decidedly not the stuff you find at reverent temples to cocktail classicism. In fact, it’s tremendously popular at places like Smith’s Olde Bar and the Vortex, and even the Cheetah. Why not?”

In any case, Jesse and I were talking about how Whynatte just doesn’t fit behind certain bars, and I asked if anyone had paired it with something super-bartender-nerdy like… Fernet-Branca. After all, Fernet fits somewhere on the same branch of the spirits tree as Jägermeister – embraced both for its purported medicinal qualities and definitive medicinal taste. The key difference for Fernet-Branca is that it dials way back on the sugary syrup of Jägermeister. Altman said they had once tried a push to get some serious bartenders to get creative with Whynatte, but it was the simple shooters that really seemed to click best.

After our chat, I just couldn’t let go of this seemingly incongruous pairing – between the whipped cream vodka loving party animal and the hipster bar geek. I did a bit of digging around for other similar drinks, which mainly reinforced that Fernet-Branca and (hot) coffee or espresso are frequent companions. So maybe this pairing wasn’t so crazy after all.

I tried simple first – just two ingredients – and landed on 2oz Whynatte and 1oz Fernet-Branca over ice. It makes for a bracingly refreshing cold coffee drink. Then I tried adding in rye, figuring bourbon might be too sweet, and found a nice balance at 2oz Whynatte, 2oz rye, 1oz Fernet-Branca. You still get the herbal punch of the Fernet, the creamy coffee flavors still coat the tongue, and the rye somehow manages to bridge the two with a potent whiskey presence. Not bad.

Doing some further digging, I came across a cocktail recipe that got me thinking that rum could be a good companion. I started rifling through my rum options for inspiration. An unaged rum proved too sharp. An older rum seemed a bit, well, wasted in such a concoction. A spiced rum proved too… much. And then I tried a bottle of Cayrum that I had been given not long ago.

Cayrum, from the Kane Family Rum Company, also happens to be based in Atlanta, though the rum is distilled, aged (three years in bourbon barrels) and infused with local honey and ginger in the Dominican Republic. The ginger really pops in this stuff – it could almost replace a ginger liqueur like Domaine de Canton or the King’s Ginger in cocktail recipes. But it’s the honey (at least, I think it is) that helps bring the Cayrum into harmony with the latte and the Fernet-Branca when you mix those ingredients together.

This is not a drink for everyone. Or maybe I should say, this is a drink for hardly anyone. There’s a 2 in 3 chance that you’ll find it disgusting. And a 0.9 in 3 chance that you’ll find it only mildly offensive. But I like this drink – it manages to be creamy, sweet, bitter, bracing, and spicy in some strange jumble of proportions. The ratio I settled on was 1 part Whynatte to 1 part Cayrum to 1/2 part Fernet-Branca. If you want something more coffee-like and less cocktail-ish, just amp up the Whynatte. If you find the medicinal slap of Fernet offensive, definitely dial back the Fernet-Branca. Me? I’m happy imagining my place at the bar by the beach, chatting with a mustachioed bartender while a nearby throng of partygoers dances the night away.

The Dominicano Hipster All Night Rave
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
2oz Cayrum honey and ginger infused rum
1oz Fernet-Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.

The Mustachioed Rye-natte
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
1oz rye whiskey
1oz Fernet Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.

The Why Not Fernet
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
1oz Fernet-Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.

Slingshot Coffee Co.

Slingshot Coffee Co.

IMG_4487 It may not seem like it yet, but warm weather is just around the corner. And that means iced coffee season. I happen to dig the cold brew approach, which keeps the flavors especially bright. But, you know what? It takes some time and effort to do it well. Which brings us to Slingshot Coffee Co., out of Raleigh, NC.

Slingshot CoffeeSlingshot cold brews locally roasted (in Raleigh) organic beans from Counter Culture Coffee, then they bottle it up so it’s ready to roll. Better still, they offer both a ready to drink version, and a concentrated version for those of you that dig on dropping dairy in your drink without diluting the delicate flavors. Dang.

IMG_4479Slingshot changes up the beans they use based on the seasons, and they’re kind enough to mark the coffee origin and the brewed-on date on the side of each bottle. (See, check that out over there on the left). It’s hand brewed, bottled in small batches, just coffee and filtered tap water, nothing else. They seem kinda proud of the fact that the water used is the local tap water from Raleigh, which they refer to as “our beloved City of Oaks,” so I assume it’s decent stuff. Here in Atlanta? The water stinks. Literally. Like chlorine. So I’m happy to consume water from elsewhere in the South.

I recently tried Slingshot’s current batch, brewed just a couple days before I tasted it. The beans were from Columbia (the country I presume, not South Carolina), and the bottles noted that I might find notes of “caramel, chocolate, cherry, and a bit of citrus.” I tried both the Ready-to-Drink and the Concentrate, in various combinations of coffee, ice, milk (fat free, yo!), and simple syrup.

Straight out of the bottle, the Ready-to-Drink is darn delicious stuff, both smooth and bright, with plenty of lemony citrus (more than “a bit” if you ask me), and, yes, some bright cherry and dark chocolate notes. I just had to try the Concentrate straight, and it is not unlike espresso in character – with a much more assertive acidity than the Ready-to-Drink. Milk mixed in with the Concentrate gives the coffee a fuller, softer profile, with that caramel coming out more. The flavors, though, remain bright. My favorite iteration was the Ready-to-Drink with a bit of sugar (syrup) added. Now, it does not NEED sugar, and there are those among you that may scoff at adding sweetness to the coffee, but I found that the added sweetness really made the flavors pop. The fruitiness in the coffee came much more into focus, and I had a “wow” moment even after having tried the coffee in several other variations.

These come in 16oz. bottles, which means several servings in the Ready-to-Drink version, and several more for the Concentrate. If you drank 16oz of the Concentrate at once, you would be bouncing happily off the walls all day and all night. Are they cheap? No. It’s $8 or so locally for a bottle of the Ready-to-Drink. If you’re comparing this to a bottled Frappucino or a Java Monster mega-can, though, you’re in the wrong frame of mind. The right frame of mind is truly excellent coffee, ready to drink out of the fridge. And Slingshot delivers a great coffee for that frame of mind.

So, the question is… where can I find this stuff??? Slingshot has good distribution in the Raleigh/Durham area, and has managed to make it to the cooler (as in cold, but maybe also as in cool) shelves in a handful of other Southern cities like Birmingham and Nashville and Charleston. In Atlanta, look for Slingshot at Star Provisions or Whole Foods Buckhead. You can also buy them online from Slingshot, though the shipping prices are a bit daunting ($11 shipping for two bottles).

Samples provided by Slingshot Coffee Co. for tasting.

Slingshot Coffee