The Whisky Lovers Atlanta Travel Guide
May 10, 2023 –––––– Sally Kral
It’s been called the Chicago and the New York of the South, but Atlanta doesn’t need such comparisons—it’s a dynamic, bustling city in its own right. It’s home to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest in the world, which is fitting for a city that served as the Deep South’s major railway hub prior to and during the Civil War. Today, ridesharing or renting a car is your best bet for maximum freedom and flexibility in this sprawling city’s flourishing dining and drinks scene.
You’ll want to stay in or near the downtown or midtown areas. Hotel Clermont offers perhaps the most unique lodging experience in the city: This six-story building topped with a 65-foot radio tower was built in 1924 and was home to the rather disreputable Clermont Motor Lodge before being transformed in 2018 into the boutique hotel it is today. Enjoy dinner in its upscale French-American brasserie Tiny Lou’s, and specialty cocktails— plus more than 40 whiskies—in the Lobby Bar or at the Rooftop Bar. The hotel may be chic, but there’s still plenty that ties it to its eccentric roots. Upon check-in, you’ll be welcomed with a complimentary glass of champagne or a Miller High Life (“the champagne of beers”), a nod to the divey Clermont Lounge, Atlanta’s first and longest continually operating strip club, which has been located in the hotel’s basement since 1965.
Another appealing lodging option full of history is Georgian Terrace, a beaux-arts style hotel designed by architect William Lee Stoddart that opened in 1911. It offers standard and luxury rooms as well as penthouse suites, and houses Edgar’s Proof & Provision, offering small plates, plus wine, beer, craft cocktails, and plenty of whisky. Or opt for a high-end choice, The Ritz-Carlton, which houses AG, an upscale steakhouse with a top-notch beverage program, including its own exclusive barrel of WhistlePig bourbon.
Atlanta is encircled by I-285, known to locals as The Perimeter, and Hartsfield-Jackson is at the southern edge. After you land, it’s about a 10-mile drive north to your first stop: Lee + White, a 426,000 square-foot converted warehouse that has breweries, shops, restaurants, and a distillery. It’s located on the West End Trail of the city’s BeltLine, a 33-mile loop of multi-use trails along several historic rail lines.
Grab a coffee and pastry at Finca to Filter, a café located inside Wild Heaven Beer, which opens bright and early at 7 a.m. Enjoy the morning by taking in some nature and art: stroll the BeltLine through Rose Circle Park, which has a ginkgo leaf sculpture called “Cycles” by artist David Landis. At the western edge of the park is the Lawton Street underpass, where you can view “The West End Remembers,” a colorful mural by Malaika Favorite that depicts the history of the West End neighborhood. Back at Lee + White, there are several options for an afternoon beer: Wild Heaven has 27 offerings on tap, from pilsners and pale ales to whisky barrel-aged offerings. Then there’s Monday Night Brewing’s barrel-aging and souring brewery called The Garage, which has an on-site orchard and garden, and Best End Brewing Co., which offers tiki cocktails like The Limit Does Not Exist—Ghost Coast Peach whiskey, grapefruit, lemon, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters—in addition to plenty of brews. You can grab lunch and an Old Fashioned made with rock and rye at Boxcar, which serves sandwiches, burgers, and other classic pub fare. Then it’s time to stop into ASW Whiskey Exchange. You can tour the barrelhouse and sample from the range, including bourbon, rye, double malt, an Irish-style whiskey, and a series of single malts, plus vodka and gin. In addition to samples they offer straight pours, flights, and a rotating cocktail list—including boozy slushies—plus gourmet snacks.
Next, head to historic Old Fourth Ward (about four miles northeast), but on the way you’ll want to make a stop at My Friend’s Bottle Shop, which has a selection of 500-plus whiskies, including a large and regularly rotating selection of store picked barrels, like Smooth Ambler Old Scout 6 year old. Then it’s time for a tour and tasting—and maybe a cocktail—at Old Fourth Distillery, which offers a bottled in bond bourbon, plus vodka, gin, and a ginger-and-lemon liqueur called Lawn Dart. And then there’s the Select Barrel Series, which includes limited-edition experimental finished bourbons; the next release will be a 6 year old cask-strength bourbon finished in sherry and cognac casks. From the distillery, take a short walk to Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, including his birthplace, family church, and final resting place. It’s free to enter and is a world-famous landmark that is well worth your time.
Your next stop is about six miles east in Decatur, a city within the Atlanta metropolitan area that’s home to Independent Distilling Company, where its corn whiskey, bourbon, rye, and rums give you plenty of choices. After a tour of the distillery, plus a flight or cocktail, head to nearby Kimball House for dinner. There’s an excellent raw bar selection and if you opt for the steak dinner you’ll have your pick of cuts, plus an assortment of vegetables and bordelaise sauce. Kimball House is known for its craft cocktails—try a classic Sazerac or spice things up with a New Tokyo, featuring blended scotch, peated scotch, pine and pear brandy, ginger, yuzu, and lime.
End the night in downtown at Red Phone Booth—you’ll need to secure the entry code (a phone number) from a nearby hotel concierge and dial it into a restored antique red London phone booth to gain entry. This 1920s-style speakeasy offers over 180 whiskies, with an extensive selection of rare bourbon, scotch, and Japanese whisky, including Yamazaki, Hibiki, The Macallan 1824 series, the entire Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, and Pappy Van Winkle. There’s also a walk-in humidor with more than 100 cigars.
In preparation for another fun day ahead, you’ll want a nice, filling Southern breakfast: look no further than Folk Art in Inman Park. Try the Folk Southern Fried, which includes a fried chicken breast and house-made biscuit, with eggs your way and sausage gravy. Then take the five-minute stroll to Little Five Points, a hip neighborhood full of eclectic shopping, from vintage clothing to cool gift shops to record stores and more. After you feel you’ve comfortably walked off your breakfast, stop into Porter Beer Bar. Boasting 36 beers on tap and over 500 more in bottles, there’s something for every beer lover in this bar—plus an impressive list of around 80 different whiskies to choose from.
From Little Five Points it’s under a mile north to Elemental Spirits Co., a bottle shop that offers 150-plus whiskies, including more than 15 exclusive barrel picks, such as Compass Box Single Married Cask Blend, whose Glasgow Blend finishes for an additional year in a hogshead. For more unique shopping and a place to grab a bite, head around the corner and a mile west to Ponce City Market, a massive food hall and shopping destination in a former Sears, Roebuck and Co. store and warehouse facility along the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. There are a ton of shops and food stalls to explore, so take your time, but don’t miss Biltong Bar, offering creative craft cocktails and South African charcuterie, sandwiches, salads, and snacks. The house-made beef jerky, or biltong, is their specialty—you can order 4-ounce servings of different types, or enjoy it paired with cheese and sourdough crackers.
From Ponce City Market walk the BeltLine north about a mile to Piedmont Park. After strolling through the park, and perhaps a visit to the beautiful 30-acre Atlanta Botanical Garden, head about a half-mile west to Bar Margot, located in the Four Seasons Hotel, for a pre-dinner whisky cocktail or a neat pour—the menu offers around 40 drams, including Blanton’s, Johnnie Walker Blue, and Macallan 25 year old.
Next, head north about five miles to the Buckhead neighborhood for dinner at Local Three Kitchen & Bar. In addition to shareable items like Truffle Parmesan Popcorn and rotating charcuterie and cheese plates, the menu features fresh, locally sourced seafood and meat dishes that change with the seasons. The whisky list here is 18 pages long, with more than 600 labels, including rarities like Kentucky Owl Dry State bourbon.
After your meal, check out The Southern Gentleman, also in Buckhead. Bourbon is the focus, with 101 selections—including Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 25 year old—plus 26 scotches and 83 rye, Irish, and Japanese options. Grab a nightcap at nearby Whiskey Blue, the rooftop bar at Hotel Colee. With 100-plus whiskies to choose from, it’s time to sit back, sip, and enjoy outstanding views of the city while you look back on your visit and look forward to your next stay in The A.
ASW Whiskey Exchange 1000 White St. SW; aswdistillery.com
Best End Brewing Co. 1036 White St. SW; bestendbrewing.com
Independent Distilling Company 731 E College Ave., Decatur; independentdistilling.com
Monday Night Brewing Garage 933 Lee St. SW; mondaynightbrewing.com
Old Fourth Distillery 487 Edgewood Ave. SE; o4d.com
Wild Heaven Beer 1010 White St. SW; wildheavenbeer.com
AG 181 Peachtree St. NE; ritzcarlton.com
Biltong Bar 675 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE; biltong-bar.com
Boxcar 1000 White St. SW; boxcaratl.com
Bar Margot 75 14th St. NE; barmargotatl.com
Clermont Lounge 789 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE; clermontlounge.net
Edgar’s Proof & Provision 659 Peachtree St. NE; https://pandp.life/
Finca to Filter 1010 White St. SW; fincatofilter.coffee
Folk Art 465 North Highland Ave. NE; folkartrestaurant.com
Kimball House 303 E Howard Ave., Decatur; kimball-house.com
Local Three Kitchen & Bar 3290 Northside Pkwy. NW; localthree.com
The Porter Beer Bar 156 Euclid Ave. NE; theporterbeerbar.com
Red Phone Booth 17 Andrew Young International Blvd NE; redphonebooth.com
Rowdy Tiger 866 W Peachtree St. NW; rowdytigeratlanta.com
The Southern Gentleman 3035 Peachtree Rd.; thesoutherngentlemanatl.com
Tiny Lou’s 789 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE; tinylous.com
Whiskey Blue 3377 Peachtree Rd. NE; whiskeyblueatl.com
The Georgian Terrace 659 Peachtree St. NE; thegeorgianterrace.com
Hotel Clermont 789 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE; hotelclermont.com
Ritz-Carlton 181 Peachtree St. NE; ritzcarlton.com
Atlanta Botanical Garden 1345 Piedmont Ave. NE; atlantabg.org
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park 450 Auburn Ave. NE; nps.gov/malu
Piedmont Park 1320 Monroe Dr. NE; piedmontpark.org
Elemental Spirits Co. 602 North Highland Ave.; elementalspirits.co
Lee + White 1020 White St. SW; leeandwhiteatl.com
My Friend’s Bottle Shop 275 Memorial Dr. SE Suite A; myfriendsbottleshop.com
Ponce City Market 675 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE; poncecitymarket.com