"Mustache Refined," Leon's

One afternoon back in the summer of 2010, we sat pondering the reoccurring question, “Where can we go for a well-crafted cocktail?” We knew the places had to be out there, but we were continually searching for bars or restaurants that might live up to our libatious needs and exceedingly high expectations with mixed results. During our search we frequently thought how wonderful it would be if someone were to pull that kind of information together and present it in one place.  Perhaps they could include some old and some original cocktail recipes. Maybe some history on vintage cocktails. Wait! We could do that!

We continued brainstorming for a bit, cocktails in hand, and Our Libatious Nature was born. It was one year ago that we launched our blog site with the following statement:

Our Libatious Nature is here to provide others who love classic cocktails with information on local hot spots for mixology around Atlanta, interviews with local mixologists, recipes on classics, our takes on classics, the history behind popular cocktails, some new creations of our own, cocktail resources, and some rambling thoughts on cocktails in general.

And so, one year and 104 blogs later, we present our first annual OLN State of the Cocktail address. Lest you expect this to be a world perspective on the state of cocktails, keep in mind that we are being highly self-indulgent here. Think of this more as an annual report on what we have done or, truthfully, what we can remember doing this past year.

While most of our friends believe that the OLN blog is merely an excuse to imbibe with a purpose, we truly did spend much of the past year trying to fulfill our statement of intent. So come along with us as we revisit and highlight this year’s journey!

Mayday Club (Florence, Italy)

How we measured up to our intent statement

1. Where to go

We promised first and foremost to let our readers know where to go in Atlanta to enjoy a balanced, creative, and fresh hand-crafted cocktail. Being the servants we are, we took it upon ourselves to selflessly sit at many a bar sampling and critiquing cocktails. Throughout this process, we tried to only report the places you should go and not discuss some of the horrid experiences we had. You know, “if you can’t say something nice …”

Along the way we found some true gems that have become Atlanta favorites: Wrecking Bar, Bocado, Miller Union, Leon’s Full Service, Iberian Pig, Sauced, Top Flr, Local Three, Empire State South, and Prohibition. Just over in Athens, we made a terrific find in a spot called Highwire that has become a go to whenever we are in that fine city.

Negronis at 30,000 Feet

We even went international this year and stumbled upon a fabulous bar in Florence, Italy, called Mayday. In Montreal, we discovered an inspirational bar, Le Lab, where flair meets perfectly crafted cocktails. Not only did we find great cocktails on the ground during our travels, we were fortunate enough to have a flight attendant that made a stellar Negroni to go along with our snacks. Now that was truly first class!

As part of tracking our finds, we launched a Google map of Atlanta Cocktail Hot Spots.  This is a great resource to view cocktail spots by neighborhood and even check out related reviews.  We continue to add to and modify this map, so take a look and let us know your thoughts on where we’ve been or even your discoveries that we should explore over the next year.

Cara Laudino of Miller Union

2. Local mixologists

It was evident early in our investigations around the city that Atlanta has some amazing people working behind the bars who are constantly raising the bar with their creative genius. One of our first encounters was with an Atlanta favorite, Cara Laudino. We were very lucky to be able to spend an evening picking her brain on her process, inspirations, and life in general. A year later and she is still holding court at Miller Union presenting some beautifully crafted libations.

Yes, we only got one interview in this year, but there were just so many cocktails calling our name! With so much talent in this city, we promise to do better in the next 365 days. Happy now?

"Harry's Dilemma" one of our Manhattans

3. Classic recipes and our take on classics

While new cocktail experiences are exciting and sometimes rewarding, nothing beats a good classic recipe.  Both the classic version and variants on the Manhattan, Negroni, Old Fashioned, and Julep figured prominently in our lab time this year. We love‘em and we love to tweek’em. So, last summer we shared a couple of our Manhattan variations that highlighted how wonderful the original is with our tweeked versions showing its flexibility.  After enjoying quite a few Juleps, not all in one night granted, we also created the cocktail Mandy at the Races for the lovely Mandy Betts (aka @ladyduplex).  This was a delicious variant on a Julep that featured bourbon, pears, and sage.  What’s next?  Who knows?  We’ll just have to wait and see!

The classic "Brandy Crusta"

4. The history behind cocktails

Early in our cocktail adventures, we decided to take on a project. So in January of this year, we decided to mix and drink our way through Ted Haigh’s “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails,” a collection of one hundred pre-prohibition cocktail recipes. What an education this turned out to be! The research needed for some of the ingredients alone was a bit overwhelming.

To date, we are about halfway through the book and there have been some favorites, some new loves, and some that are forgotten for good reason.  Just a few of our favorite discoveries include The Corpse Reviver #2, East India Cocktail, The Bebbo, and The Boulvardier.  Not only have we explored recipes, this project has introduced us to all the founding fathers of cocktails:  Jerry Thomas, Harry MacElhone, Harry Craddock, Patrick Gavin Duffy, and more.  Working through the book has truly inspired and educated us, but we’ve picked up some entertaining stories as well.  We highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to experience the history of cocktails.

"Spice Alchemy," an OLN original

5. Original creations

This year we really able to spread our wings with new creations. It began with some fabulous holiday drinks to make all the seasons bright!  These ranged from the Thanksgiving inspired Baby’s at the Punchbowl, to the decadent fireside treat Cole’s Chocolate Chestnut, to the childhood inspired Snow Cream Delight, and many more. With a new holiday season approaching, take an opportunity to visit the Drink Recipe section of our site and check them out for the first time or revisit an old friend. We hope you’ll enjoy drinking them as much as we do!

Spices of India

From the holidays, we were inspired to create one of kind cocktails for special events throughout the year.  One project even allowed us to explore the world of Indian spices and incorporate those into cocktails for our friends over at the Spice Route Supper Club. We have truly been blessed this year to create signature drinks  for a wide variety of organizations, individuals, and parties.

6. Cocktail resources

Replicating, creating, and imbibing in the OLN Lab means we have needed to establish some top rate resources for ingredients.  Yes, we operate out of our lab with over 140 bottles of liquors, bitters, infusions, and spices, but there are times we need additional ingredients. While there have been several online shops that have been helpful, there are two places we could not have made it without.

Japanese juice project for Marx Foods

First, there are the great folks at Tower Atlanta. They not only came through for us on several occasions with hard to find products, but even helped us with a four-part series on Unusual Spirits and Intriguing Ingredients which included Root, Saffron Gin, Bison Grass Vodka, and Compass Box Orangerie. Tower helped us track down the ingredients and we then we sought out places in town where the ingredients were being used to create exceptional cocktails.  Tower Atlanta remains one of our go to places for a wide variety of quality alcohol and is not your average package store.  Tell Greg we sent you!

Second, there is the cocktail mecca Holeman & Finch.  They made us feel like we had died and gone to heaven when they announced the opening of the H&F Bottle Shop.  This unbelievable shop carries everything for the cocktail enthusiast from a portable bar tools bag to hard-to-find small batch liquors and liqueurs. Not only that, they have an extremely knowledgeable staff that delight in discussing cocktails in their beautiful, relaxing space. Can you tell we have a bit of a crush?

Nine cocktails served before 11:30 a.m.

In addition to the product resources, we experienced a great educational resource this year when we attended the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. The day started at 9:00 AM with the phenomenal team from Cure in New Orleans.  Their topic was building a cocktail menu, so we expected to hear about the ins and outs of creating a successful cocktail program. What we didn’t expect was three cocktails from the Cure menu.  And the day was only beginning.  Since we were on the cocktail track, we next visited with the famous Dale DeGroff and he shared many stories about his years in the mixology ranks during which we enjoyed another three cocktails. By the time we attended all of our scheduled classes, we had tried twelve cocktails in five hours.  Even for those of us with a libatious nature this tried our constitution.  We are considering at least one food class next year…well, just one.

New friends along the way

It never really occurred to us when starting this new venture, that so many doors would be opened to new friendships through the social media community. We are so grateful to our friends and fellow bloggers who have encouraged us, guided us, invited us to events, promoted us, and re-tweeted us.

Here are few people that really helped us this year: 365 Atlanta, Tower Atlanta, Eat Drink Repeat, Savory Exposure, Anatomy of a Dinner Party, Souper Jenny, Asha Gomez, Caren West, Melissa Libby, Sauced, and Bocado.  If you don’t follow these folks on twitter, their blog sites, and any other medium in which they play, do it now!

So what’s next?

We’re looking forward to more lab time in which we are currently commissioned for over 10 signature cocktails.  That’s a lot of tasting, but we think we are up the challenge!  One of the events we’re most excited about is the Party Boot Camp coming up in December of this year.  This is an exciting event hosted by Dazzling Manners (created by the delightful Patti Davis of Anatomy of a Dinner Party) and will feature experts from around the Atlanta area talking about party planning, clothes, and make up with us featured talking about, what else, cocktails for a party!  This will be a “do not miss” event, so check it out and get your tickets today!

Also on the agenda for this year is more time on the Vintage Cocktail project.  We are looking forward to finishing our explorations of the current tome and maybe even moving on to another classic.

Finally, we intend on exploring even more spots for a well-crafted cocktail and discussing them with the masters that create them.  We know, we know, it’s a difficult job, but we’ve had an entire year to get ready for it.  So until the next “state of the cocktail”, slainte our friends!