Atlanta is a close-knit cultural center deeply rooted in the tradition of southern hospitality. Its diversity is exemplified not only in music and arts (Gladys Knight, John Mayer and Outkast are a few that call the city home), but also its culinary and cocktail scenes, where bartenders like Empire State South’s Beverage Director Kellie Thorn are crafting world-class drinks.
Thorn has been working in the restaurant industry for more than 16 years ago, 13 of which she has spent as a bartender. She’s known for her ability to craft balanced cocktails that are equally delicious sipped on their own or paired with food. Sourcing inspiration from Atlanta’s heritage, Thorn has created cocktails for almost every type of drinking establishment, and among her favorite spirits to mix with is Cognac (so much so that she became a BNIC Certified Cognac Educator in 2015). “Cognac is a spirit with a sense of place, and because of that it has a transportive quality,” she says. “It’s a very versatile cocktail ingredient. The fruit and floral components make for light and refreshing drinks, and the barrel and spice notes give weight to more rich styles of drinks.”
Like Thorn, there are many Cognac enthusiasts behind bars in Atlanta. Here are some places to either explore Cognac as a cocktail ingredient, or to get lost in its layers as a sipping spirit.