Thirsty Guide to Atlanta

Thirsty South aims to share the best sources in Atlanta for quenching your thirst for great coffee, beer, wine, liquor or cocktails. Our focus is on the local shops, bars and restaurants that share a commitment to providing that which is simply well crafted, from microbrews to freshly roasted beans to small batch bourbons to artisan wines. Enjoy!

Cocktails & Whisk(e)y Bars
Liquor Stores
Beer Bars
Beer Shops
Wine Selections, Restaurants & Bars
Wine Shops
Coffee Bars & Roasters


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Thirsty South Cocktails & Whisk(e)y Bars

    • Holeman & Finch Public House: the staff here has turned over quite a bit (not uncommon among cocktail bars), but H&F remains a cocktail force to be reckoned with
    • H. Harper Station: Jerry Slater and friends deliver a whiskey-crazy cocktail list and great spirits selection, not to mention giant, gorgeous bowls of punch, check here for a peek inside
    • Kimball House: Decatur’s cup runneth over. Miles Macquarrie moved down the street from Leon’s to the new, elegant digs in the old train station at Kimball House. Look for absinthe galore and classically-inspired cocktails.
    • Leon’s Full Service: an offshoot of the Brickstore Pub that makes it VERY hard to choose between cocktails and beer, be sure to get some frites to keep your drinks company
    • Mac McGee’s: Hit Mac McGee’s in Decatur for an encyclopedic selection of whisk(e)ys – over 70 bourbons, 32 Irish, 30 Speyside, 30 from the Islands (mostly Islay), and on and on – the back of the menu even aims to educate with detailed descriptions of the selections, the bourbons are broken out by what town in Kentucky they hail from.
    • Paper Plane: new Decatur bar run by Paul Calvert. Do. Not. Miss.
    • The Sound Table: The Sound Table sits somewhere between a bar, a restaurant and a club, but they have raised the ante on their cocktail game with one of Atlanta’s most interesting cocktail menus.
    • Other great cocktail bars:

Thirsty South Liquor Stores

  • Decatur Package Store: My new favorite. Superb selection of bourbon, including a number of personally selected single barrel offerings from various distilleries. Herb knows his stuff, whether wine, beer, or spirits.
  • H&F Bottle Shop: This is the place for cocktail knowledge and vinyl sounds.
  • Tower: a great all-around liquor store – they may not have everything you are seeking out, but chances are good they’ll at least offer a good alternative, at a reasonable price, and can order something special for you if you need it.
  • Mac’s Beer and Wine: surprisingly good selection from this Midtown mainstay

beer

Thirsty South Beer Bars

  • The Brick Store Pub: if you care about beer, you should care about The Brick Store, who clearly cares about beer. The Belgian selection is especially strong, and frequent special kegs and casks keep things ever interesting.
  • Ormsby’s: when you want fun and games underground alongside a stellar beer list, Ormsby’s is the place to go. In the burgeoning Westside Provisions District, the crowds continue to pour in for bocce, darts, great onion rings and beer.
  • The Porter Beer Bar: the beer list is as expansive as the space is narrow, with some ridiculously good food to boot – the best one two punch of food and beer in town
  • Other great beer bars: The Wrecking Bar, especially for the unique atmosphere, The Argosy for major ambiance in EAV, and I have to admit it – Taco Mac does a great job in their many locations with a massive and excellent beer  list.

Thirsty South Beer Shops

  • Hop City: beer shopping mecca, for homebrewers and drinkers alike. Now featuring a great rotating selection of freshly filled growlers to go.
  • Tower (Piedmont location): Tower has seriously picked up their beer selection, with a broad range of regional, national and Belgian brews
  • Green’s: probably the first really serious beer selection in town, and still very good
  • The Beer Growler: started in Athens, blossomed in Avondale Estates, expanding across Atlanta
  • Ale Yeah!: this Decatur area shop is the yin to Hop City’s yang across town, with a more focused selection of craft brew and a nice little selection of meats and cheeses

wine

Thirsty South Wine Selections, Restaurants & Bars

  • Bones: if you want a big steak and a big cab, this is the place to go, but the list is deep, broad and impressive especially for reds, including some interesting magnum and larger selections and older vintages at not-as-ridiculous-as-you-might-think prices
  • Cakes & Ale: small but well-chosen list that fits their food perfectly. Honorable Mention in the cocktail category
  • Empire State South: this modern take on the Southern meat and three offers a wine list that is bold, carefully chosen, well priced, and tilted to some of our favorite varietals/regions – Burgundy and Rieslings from Germany and Austria. The menu offers clever little descriptors for each wine, and some footnotes on their philosophy – such as this gem on the topic of Southern food and its harmonious connection with Burgundy: “we’re tasting locales and their culture, framing sensations in our cortex, feeling a touch in our soul. That’s right, I said the s-word.” Here’s a quick peek into Empire State South, including their stellar coffee program as well.
  • Miller Union: a mix of eclectic and familiar craft wine names in a mid-sized list at decent prices.
  • The Spence: menu by Richard Blais, great fun wine list by Justin  Amick.

Thirsty South Wine Shops

  • Cellar 13 Wine Merchant: John Passman offers a small but excellent array of wines, focused on France and Italy, in this cozy shop near Johnny’s Hideaway
  • H&F Bottle Shop: H&F has an impeccable selection of wines and vermouths, and some creative tasting events as well.
  • Le Caveau Fine Wines: a great little boutique in Chamblee, with a focus on European regions such as Burgundy, Tuscany, the Loire Valley, Austria and Germany and a nice selection of biodynamic and natural wines.
  • Perrine’s: Perrine Prieur, formerly of JOEL, has brought a sommelier’s touch to a fine selection of wines both familiar and unique, with some very nice boutique value selections from France especially. A cheese counter and grape-based skin care line?! add to the fun. Read more on Perrine’s.
  • pH Wine Merchant: this Peachtree Hills boutique rocks an impressive selection of Burgundy, Champagne, and plenty of esoteric finds from around the world as well
  • Sherlock’s: several locations across Atlanta, with varying selections, consistently solid and sometimes rare finds

coffee

Thirsty South Coffee Bars & Roasters

  • Octane (multiple locations): serious coffee by french press and perfect espresso, using Counter Culture and custom roasted beans, and a staff committed to the art of coffee –  great little selection of beers on tap as well
  • Dancing Goats Coffee Bar: Decatur shop from Batdorf & Bronson, a Washington-based roaster who also roasts locally here in Atlanta, now joined by a sibling at the new Ponce City Market (check out our opening day visit)
  • Condesa Coffee: a marvelous view of downtown from the Old 4th Ward and the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Homage to King” sculpture across the street
  • REV Coffee: slightly outside the perimeter in Smyrna, REV makes great use of their beans, and also has a nice lineup of art and music to keep things lively
  • Aurora: a long-lived Atlanta coffee institution in Little Five Points, the Virginia Highland outpost recently shuttered (rumored to be replaced by a Jittery Joe’s out of Athens)
  • Also – Empire State South, who can do no wrong!

Pray for ATL

Thirsty Guide to Atlanta, last updated December 6, 2013

If you have a favorite you’d like us to consider, please send along your suggestions to thirsty@thirstysouth.com. There are many worthy contenders, but we have chosen to keep our lists focused on the top picks for each category. This list is updated (rather in)frequently, so please check back on occasion.

34 Responses to Thirsty Guide to Atlanta

  1. Pingback: Howdy | Thirsty South

  2. Joe says:

    Although a chain, I think Taco Mac is worth noting as a good beer bar. Always have tons of selections, and lots to choose from on draft…

  3. thirstysouth says:

    Thanks Joe. Yes, Taco Mac does deserve kudos (as in recognition, not the chocolate candy granola bar) for their outstanding beer program, including their “Brewniversity,” and the fact that they have locations all over (including Tennessee!). The main reason they didn’t make the first cut is that their food can be flat out bad, plus that the ambience tends to be much better suited to chugging while watching sports. Not a bad thing, but not quite in the same league as the other bars listed that foster a greater sense of being “about the beer.”

  4. Jori says:

    What about Ormsby’s as a beer bar, they have a big selection too.

    • Thanks Jori, Ormsby’s has an excellent beer selection, and who can deny the allure of an underground bocce court?? Ormsby’s is on the short list for the next round of additions, alongside Young Augustine’s and Cypress Street. We’re also working on a roundup of local brewpubs such as 5 Seasons.

      • Jerry Thomas says:

        I agree. Ormsby’s is great, but have you been there on a weekend? If you don’t want to wait for a game on a weekend, crave a decent beer selection, and want to be outside instead of in a basement, head on over to Young Augustine’s.

  5. Jerry Thomas says:

    I just stumbled upon your website today and have to say that I am looking forward to becoming a regular follower. As someone who has studied wine, then beer, and now cocktails, I am excited to add it to my bookmarks. Perhaps it is because I am so passionate about the subject, I wanted to send you some tips for other cocktail bars that I feel should deserve a mention. While Drinkshop has some well trained bartenders, Eric and Mitchell are both leaving. Unless their amazing skills can be replaced, this one may be on a downhill spiral.

    While your list does include the “Isaac” of the cocktail revolution in Atlanta (Greg Best), I was shocked to find the Father bar missing. No bartender in Atlanta has the mastery of ingredients, techniques, and personality of Nick at Restaurant Eugene (Next to H&F). This is my secret hideaway during 10PM on a Friday night. While other bars are packed with a loud and obnoxious clientele, I can walk right in, take a seat, and be greeted with the same care and enthusiasm usually reserved for bar regulars on a Tuesday night. Maybe I shouldn’t be giving him props in such a public forum, but check it out soon (word is he may be leaving).

    Speaking of Tuesday nights, I am surprised Atlanta’s most popular speakeasy did not receive a nod. While they fight back Frat Boys in Shorts and the “Cranberry Vodka” crowd that follows on weekends, Prohibition is a top notch mid-week bar. Sure, every menu in town is putting Sazerac on the list. However, tell Darryl your preferences and you will be treated with a truly unique off-menu creation during less busy nights. Sure, the atmosphere is full blown cheese, but the list of classic drinks is like Cocktails 101 made with enough skill to pull them off. Plus, they also know how to master an ice pick.

    Speaking of ice picks, I’ll share another place who knows the importance of damn good ice. Iberian Pig in Decatur. Sure, bartenders here can be hit or miss (most places in Atlanta have at least one dud that should be avoided), but Thomas knows his stuff. Like the “Professor” Jerry Thomas, I think our man here knows the importance of mastering tradition before adding his own touches. Try his take on the Sazerac and you might be appalled at the new touches at first. By the time you finish, you’ll have to admit that they were a welcome change to a recipe older than the Civil War.

    I’ve become popular for creating several unique “Cocktail Crawls” here in Atlanta, and my absolute favorite is a tour of Decatur. Not only does it have a dense selection of bars (READ: Without the need to drive between stops you can truly appreciate your drink. Mix with Marta and a wide selection of good food and you have a wonderful concoction). To round out Leon’s & Iberian (I’m assuming we skip Mac McGee’s cocktails and return for non-mixed drinks) a dash over to Cakes and Ale is in order. Corina may have a slightly sweet tooth for drinks, but there have been some serious home runs at this cozy location (Can you say Habanero Gimlet?).

    Sure, there are many other places to imbibe, but these are my top picks. There are others like Miller Union and Sound Table that bring up a very solid B-side, however, I really hope you take a chance to check out the above mentioned locations if you haven’t already.

    • Thanks for the great comments, and for the tip on Drinkshop, we’ll keep an eye on them. Great point on the bar at Restaurant Eugene, it is indeed an oasis of serenity that seems to exist a world away from the often chaotic crowd next door at Holeman & Finch. Prohibition was left off for the very reasons you mentioned. And, YES, Decatur is the king of neighborhoods as far as a homebase for beer/cocktail/wine crawls. Love Cakes & Ale, we included them for their wine list, but the cocktails are absolutely on par. The Westside is catching up to Decatur, but doesn’t quite have the walkability factor yet except for the White Provisions District area.

  6. Pingback: A Peak Into Empire State South | Thirsty South

  7. Summary of changes since September 15:

    Added:
    The Sound Table and Prohibition for cocktails
    Cypress Street and Ormsby’s for beer
    Empire State South for their wine list
    Alon’s (Dunwoody) for their wine selection
    REV Coffee and Element Coffee Co. for coffee

    Deleted:
    TAP for beer (sorry guys, we call it like we see it… )

  8. Summary of changes in November:

    Added:
    H. Harper Station for cocktails and spirits
    Mac McGee’s for whisk(e)y

    Deleted:
    Drinkshop for cocktails

  9. Johnny Boots says:

    Great site! I’m gonna be here for a while.

    Although it’s a in the burbs off I20, Sigman Bottle shop has a great selection of scotches, whiskey’s, rye, bourbons and some of the best selections of these in or around Atlanta, including tequila (my juice of choice).

  10. Joe says:

    If you’re still maintaining this part of it, I’d add:

    Beer Bars: Muss & Turner’s
    Whiskey Bars: Local Three
    Wine Shops: The Wine Cellars (Smyrna), Le Caveau (Chamblee), Hinton’s Wine Store (Roswell/John’s Creek), Hinton’s Savvy Cellar (Sandy Springs), Ansley Kroger maybe?

    Cheers! Joe

    • Thanks Joe, I need to get over to Muss & Turner’s again, but isn’t their selection pretty limited (very good but limited)? Yes on Local Three, and yes on Le Caveau – need to revisit the others (and I can’t add Kroger’s no matter how good they are!)

  11. Pingback: Atlanta Beverage Guide [Beer, Cocktails, & Wine] | Atlanta Restaurant Reviews | Atlanta Food Blogs | Dining in Atlanta

  12. Summary of changes in July 2011:

    Added:
    Le Caveau Fine Wine in Chamblee
    Steady Hand Pour House, Emory Village

    Moved H&F Bottle Shop from “Liquor Stores” to “Wine Shops” while they await their license!!!

  13. Pingback: Defending the $13 Cocktail | Thirsty South

  14. Pingback: Near Wild Heaven | Thirsty South

  15. Summary of changes in November 2011:

    Added:
    Pura Vida for cocktails
    H&F Bottle Shop mention for liquor

    Deleted:
    Alon’s for wine

  16. Doug C says:

    Check out OTP’s Table & Main up in Roswell on Canton Street. Great Bourbon Bar (super Rye’s too).

  17. Kb says:

    Actually I was surprised to see how bigbthe beer list is at chops. Wasn’t expecting much but they had tons of brews listed. Also had a pour of George t stagg…

  18. Summary of changes in March 2012:

    Added:
    Condesa Coffee
    H&F Bottle Shop as Liquor Store (in addition to wine)
    pH Wine Merchant

    Deleted:
    Element Coffee in Milton, which closed (almost a year ago, egads! thanks Broderick for filling me in!)

  19. E says:

    This is great, very accurate from what I can tell. I would add maybe Total Wine for liquor store and wine store. I know people who drive twenty minutes to Alpharetta for their selection/prices, and their service is great. Also you can order online and pick up in store. The one in Dunwoody is just wine because of some old school law.

    • Thanks E. While Total does have a massive selection and good prices, I’m not a fan of the Walmart-ish atmosphere or the fact that they really push house brands (that aren’t clearly house brands, you wouldn’t know it looking at them). It’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from a place like Le Caveau that is small and driven by highly passionate and knowledgable owners/staff who provide a unique set of choices and a more personal experience. Yes, you can do very well at Total, but it’s not the kind of wine shopping experience I seek out.

  20. Tanstaafl2 says:

    Among liquor stores Toco Hills Giant did indeed have a good selection and Anthony was a great resource. Unfortunately he is long gone (almost a year now) and I can’t comment on the new management. It may still be fine but I have rarely been back, choosing to take my business elsewhere. As to Anthony, unfortunately I have not heard where he is now or if he is even in the business anymore.

  21. Summary of changes in August 2012:

    Added:
    Dancing Goats (Ponce City Market location) for coffee

    Deleted:
    Abattoir for restaurant wine lists
    Top Flr for restaurant wine lists
    Toco Giant for liquor stores

  22. Summary of changes in September 2012:

    Added:
    Cocktails – 4th & Swift, Eleanor’s, Empire State South, The Lawrence, Local Three, Miller Union, Octane Grant Park, Octopus Bar, Proof & Provisions
    Coffee – Empire State South
    Beer Bars – Wrecking Bar, Taco Mac
    Beer Shops – The Beer Growler
    Wine Lists – The Spence

    Deleted:
    Cocktails – Top Flr

  23. Spooner says:

    Stopped by Sigman Bottle Shop in Conyers this weekend. I’ll just say that it’s a good thing I don’t live a little closer, otherwise I’d be broke in less than a month. Great selection, very helpful staff, and it’s pretty clear the owner has a passion for fine liquors and wine, I live a stones throw from the Greens on Ponce, and absolutely appreciate the selection of bourbons and whiskeys they offer, but I will now be making a stop by Sigmans each and every time I travel east down I-20.

  24. Summary of changes in May 2013:

    Closed:
    Aurora Coffee, Virginia Highland location
    Steady Hand Pour House, Emory Village location
    Pura Vida

    Added:
    Paper Plane for cocktails
    Pinewood Tippling Room for cocktails

  25. Jon says:

    DRAFT Filling Station on Briarcliff Rd is great. The guys there have great recommendations and their rotating list of beers is awesome!

  26. Summary of changes in December 2013:

    Added:
    Bocado for cocktails
    Kimball House for cocktails
    The Argosy for beer
    Decatur Package Store for liquor

  27. Pingback: H. Harper Station: the Definition of Southern Hospitality and Good Drinks | Olives and Pints

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