Read this book: “The Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails” by Sara Camp Milam and Jerry Slater (University of Georgia Press, $29.95)
By Wendell Brock
It starts with a breakfast drink and ends with a party punch.
With 88 recipes for cocktails both old-fashioned and new-fangled, it’s an “SFA-curated, bartender-developed, contemporary drink manifesto from the South,” writes co-author Sara Camp Milam of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA).
The boozy follow-up to 2010’s “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook” (UGA Press, $24.95), this volume purports to be a survey of adult beverages from across the region.
For the record, the guide devotes plenty of space to New Orleans, Louisville and other important cocktail meccas. It has chapters organized around the Mint Julep, Hurricane, Sazerac, Vieux Carre and Chatham Artillery Punch.
But to be straight, it’s dominated by recipes from present-day Georgia bartenders.
I count about 50, including originals and adaptations by co-author Jerry Slater, plus delicious libations by Ticonderoga Club’s Paul Calvert and Greg Best, Kimball House’s Miles Macquarrie, Empire State South’s Kellie Thorn, The Sound Table’s Navarro Carr, Seabear Oyster Bar’s Hunt Revell, The Old Pal’s Matt McFerron, and free agent Tiffanie Barriere.
Part of this is no doubt Slater’s doings. He has strong connections to the city. But part of it is an acknowledgement of Atlanta’s bona fides in the Southern (nay, national) cocktail community.
While you enjoy Slater’s Ruby Slipper (a vodka, grapefruit and rosemary concoction from the late H. Harper Station) or Barriere’s sherry-based Cab Calloway, you can mull over Kat Kinsman’s musings on the French 75, peruse Camp’s essays on everything from ice to rum to “Bourbon and Gender,” or grin your way through John T. Edge’s tribute to the great Mobile bon vivant Eugene Walter.
Following their own precaution, “Never Drink on an Empty Stomach,” the authors include a chapter on cocktail snacks from Snackbar chef Vishwesh Bhatt of Oxford, Ms. Think shrimp toast, deviled ham and couple of bites inspired by the India native’s homeland (Okra Chaat; Spicy, Crunchy Black-Eyes Peas).
As for Slater, he proves that he has a way with whiskey — and words. He’s a fine and natural writer, his odes to the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan a joy to read.
This is not to say the book is perfect. Some of the essays seem to have been inserted at random, and I’m not sure why anyone would suggest pairing a bourbon-and-mint-sorbet julep with banana pudding or lemon ice box pie. I know Southerners have a sweet tooth and all, but that’s a lot of sugar.
That’s OK though. These are minor quibbles.
I’ll just have a Virginia Creeper (muscadines, honeysuckle vodka, simple syrup, lemon, cardamom bitters) and sit back and savor this guide to Southern sippers.
Wendell Brock is an Atlanta food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).