By Amanda Wells
In our region, where indulgence and entertaining reign supreme, cocktails have long been a staple. Southerners are more often than not, natural storytellers. As a result, we tend to like our libations with a side of a story. Enjoyed among a setting of the South’s laidback and slower pace, an inspired cocktail is the perfect complement to any occasion. From sazeracs to mint juleps to potions with a dash of moonshine, Southern cocktails have a long, storied history. In the modern South, a bevy of talented bartenders, mixologists and creative are trying their hand at adding a twist to the classics. We’re sure some of these mixtures are the classics of the next generation. Pull up a barstool and take a sip of some of our favorites.
Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina Orange Beach, Alabama Named after the Seaspray charter fishing boat that’s docked in the Orange Beach Marina, one of Fisher’s favorite cocktails is the Seaspray. This concoction has been on their menu since day one, both in their formal upstairs venue and their more laid-back dockside establishment. It’s a perfect blend of Bombay Sapphire Gin, rosemary simple syrup, a dash of grapefruit bitters, house-made lemon-lime soda, all topped off with an orange twist and a sprig of rosemary. “The combination of the rosemary with the house-made soda just screams refreshing on a warm afternoon,” says manager Lee Jones. “It’s a total porch pounder!”
The Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs Jackson, Mississippi For Joe McCullough, head bartender at The Apothecary, he likes to dive into the search for delicious cocktail, developed by consultant Kirk Estopinal. It consists of Cynar, Punt e Mes, orange bitters, lemon and salt. “It’s based off of a cocktail by Stephen Cole from Chicago,” explains Joe. “I really like it because it’s super extreme. The base is an Italian herbal liquor that is bitter and herbaceous. The five dashes of bitters is insane and the garnish is five lemon peels expressed and released, save for one. It looks like it would be really intense in theory, but the salt counterbalances the bitterness and brings out a sweetness. If you do a salt on a quarter of the rim, which I like to do, you really get to experience how it changes when you drink it through the salt. All and all, it was and is way ahead of its time and it shows thought process that would have to be borderline obsessive to put together and know the balance of the flavors.”
Loa New Orleans, Louisiana Loa, the breathtakingly beautiful lounge in the bottom of New Orleans’ International House Hotel, is home to a lot of creatively delicious things to sip. Creative Director Alan Walter’s favored cocktail is the Lazy Sazerac, made of Brenne Whiskey, Guillamette Genepi and Peychaud’s Bitters. “It’s an accurate glimpse of the kind of creativity we have at Loa,” says Alan. “Not improvisation for its own sake, but always having an eye out for how tradition can be re-inspired. In this case we use a whisky, Brenne, that was a wild card, a rule breaker, but intriguing and delicious on its own terms—soft, tropical, laced with cognac notes from its aging. So how did a ‘feminine’ spirit find her way into a Sazerac? Well, somewhere in the course of experimenting, a character emerged. This version became the female counterpart, the other side of the story. After all, behind every great man there hovers a great woman. So no surprise, the godfather of New Orleans cocktails has a Creole mistress. In turn, the absinthe rinse in the original recipe is softened with the lovely and herbal Guillaumette Genepi. The Peychaud’s bitters and lemon oil are retained. The recipe allowed an equal but separate magic, and the Lady Sazerac made a bid in her own right to co-chair with the classic.”
Blood & Sand St. Louis, Missouri Head bartender Sean Coltrain is the creative genius behind Blood and Sand’s shiitake mushroom-infused Bourbon cocktail as well as the bar’s Chioggia beet powder and egg white cocktail. Blood and Sand is the place to go for glamorous drinks in an equally glamorous location.
Matilda Midnight Chattanooga, Tennessee At Matilda Midnight, the cocktail bar located inside Chattanooga’s beautiful and lively Dwell Hotel, bar manager Nicole Jatho often recommends The Hanged Man. This drink is made with Chattanooga Whiskey, lemon juice, orange/thyme shrub, egg white, cardamom, black walnut and chocolate bitters. “It’s a pretty drink,” she says. “Smooth, frothy, and everyone loves it. It’s a take on the New York Sour.” The Hanged Man is garnished with a dehydrated orange slice and a lovely sprinkle of thyme.
The Gulf Okaloosa Island, Florida and Orange Beach, Alabama Victor Bobu of the waterfront favorite, The Gulf, knows there’s more to a drink than simply the taste. “I enjoy the color, aroma and the flavor that comes from combining fresh, local blackberries, lime and mint to craft a cocktail that really wows my guests,” he says of the establishment’s Blackberry Mojito.