After several visits to Local Three to enjoy their cocktail selection, Katruska and I decided it was time to explore their extensive selection of bourbons and ryes. Those of you that have been following our adventures in the various hand-crafted cocktail locations around Atlanta know that we have become obsessed with these liquors. They’ve worked incredibly well in everything from the multiple riffs on the julep to the Pemberton at Miller Union (still one of my favorites). So, it made sense for us to sit down for a tasting of bourbons and ryes at Local Three where they keep over 40 on hand.
While waiting on Katruska to arrive, I settled in at the bar to soak in the quirky atmosphere and enjoy a cocktail before starting in with our research. I seem to do this a lot…not that I’m complaining. Anyway, I had been intrigued by the Mexicali Mule ever since Katruska raved about it, so I ordered one and settled in. She was right. It is a great libation with an ever-changing palate of flavors. Once Katruska arrived she ordered an Old Fashioned, a bit of food from the awesome food menu (yes, they have food), and we prepared ourselves for a long evening of work. For you, our faithful readers, of course.
For our first round of the evening, we were lucky to have Matt Lathan, Local Three’s mixologist and bar manager, to make our selections for us. He chose a flight of of Sazerac Rye, New England Corn Whiskey, and Buffalo Trace bourbon to provide a spectrum of the flavors available in this area of liquors. We started with the Sazerac, which is of course the go to rye when making it’s namesake cocktail the Sazerac. It had a beautiful light caramel color with a faint scent of maple syrup and flavors of orange peel and brown sugar. Indeed, a great way to start. Next was the New England Corn Whiskey. This was an usual choice for a tasting, but it demonstrates what bourbon is like prior to aging in the cask. It was clear and had scents of corn silk and plum wine while its taste reminded me a bit of gin. As you can imagine, Katruska has found a new liquor for her cabinet. Who knows in what cocktail creation this new liquor will show up? The final liquor in the flight was the Buffalo Trace bourbon. It had the typical scents of vanilla and oak, but had a surprising taste of sweet tea and apricot.
While tasting and discussing the choices of the first flight, we had an opportunity to learn a bit more about Matt. He has been back in Atlanta in various restaurants and bars since 2002 and has explored cocktail creation techniques from infusions to the use of liquid nitrogen. Katruska inquired about his cocktail creation philosophy and he indicated that he enjoys taking classic cocktails and making them his own. This is clear in both the cocktails with which we started the evening. Matthew has had his version of the Old Fashioned for over 13 years and it wasn’t until Local Three that he has shared. We are certainly glad he did. The story of the Mexicali Mule, however, is one of my favorite cocktail stories to date. Before returning to Atlanta, Matthew was in California and needed to quickly get a photo for a passport. He tried a store in the “Little Russia” section of town, but was less than warmly received by the proprietors. He found another location to get the photo, but did not forget his experience when it came time to create his version of a Moscow Mule which is traditionally made with vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. So, in his version of non-violent protest he created the Mexicali Mule by substituting tequila for the vodka. Take that Russia!
Our next round consisted of a single liquor, but oh what a liquor it was…the Rittenhouse 100 rye. This is a high proof rye that is a favorite among mixologists since its high alcohol opens up the other flavors in the cocktail. When tasted neat it reminds me of many of the cask-strength scotches I’ve tried. Liquors in this proof range evaporate very quickly on the palate and you’re left with light scents and flavors. In the case of this Rittenhouse, both the scent and back-end of the taste were of green apple and whole wheat bread. I decided to add a bit of water, as with cask-strength scotches, to see how it would change. With just a few drops of water the flavors became bolder with just a hint of pipe smoke added to the mix. As soon as I can find a bottle of this, it will be added to my liquor cabinet.
During Round 2 we were fortunate enough to meet Carly Monroe, Local Three’s official Party Girl. No, I’m not kidding, that’s her title…there are business cards to prove it. She has the exciting job of planning special events for Local Three, so we talked a bit about past events and she mentioned a special event that you may want to check out. Their Get Your Heart On (get it?) Valentine’s Day special is running February 12th-14th and features a $45 per person three course meal with wine pairings for $20 more per person. Give them a call at (404) 968-2700 or online at Open Table to make your reservations. Now back to the drinking!
Our final round, well for Katruska, was the High West bourye (bourbon and rye blend) and Elmer T. Lee bourbon. I have to say that the High West was my favorite bourbon/rye of the evening. It’s scent is an incredible mix of Meyer lemon, oak, and roses with a flavor mix of vanilla and smoke throughout the palate. Quite delicious. The Elmer T. Lee was also very good if simpler in its combination. Its scent was primarily of fresh red apples with flavors of apple peal and sweet tea across the palate. I should have been satisfied with ending the evening with these selections, but when our bartender asked if I wanted another drink, I decided “need no, want yes”. So, I followed Katruska’s methodology and said surprise me. An excellent surprise it was with a Final Ward (a riff on the classic Final Word) arriving just as everything else was being cleared. Local Three’s Final Ward is typically composed of lemon juice, yellow Chartruese, bourbon, and Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, but this version had Dewer’s blended scotch in place of the bourbon since we had just enjoyed so many other varieties. It was amazing with a great lemon rind and cherry scent and a complex combination of citrus, grilled green peppers, smoked herbs, and cherry pits.
As if the evening couldn’t get any better, we had the opportunity to tour the restaurant with Carly to see their extraordinary kitchen (built originally for Joel Antunes) and private dining rooms. Whether you are looking for a night out with friends or a place to hold a special event, this is your place. Thanks to Carly, Matt, and the whole staff at Local Three for a great evening! Well, what are you waiting for? Shouldn’t you head over now?