The Best of Savannah: Bars, Booze & Beer

Best Bartender winner: Sidney Lance. Photo by Colin Douglas Gray

From thousands of reader surveys comes our inimitable Best of Everything list. Categories run from appetizers to desserts, bike shops to barbershops. Here, the year’s best bars, booze and beer, including craft breweries, cocktails and so much more.  

Bar

The Grey 

109 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The Grey proffers European wines and vintage cocktails at a horseshoe-shaped bar beneath the main restaurant’s Art Deco dome, as well as in the Diner Bar, a sleek nod to the former Greyhound station’s 24-hour lunch counter. The Diner Bar features a menu full of retro small bites, though we say you can’t go wrong with a dozen oysters and a glass of bubbly.   
Runner-up: Jen’s and Friends

Craft Brewery

Southbound Brewing Company

107 E. Lathrop Ave.
Savannah’s first microbrewery, Southbound Brewing Company, offers tours and tastings of its signature and seasonal brews in an industrial space, along with lively events like Pints and Poses yoga. Try their Scattered Sun Belgian Wit and Hop’lin IPA year-round or order a specialty brew like Moonlight Drive Imperial Coffee Stout, made with locally roasted Perc beans.
Runner up: Service Brewing Co.

Liquor/Package Shop

Habersham Beverage

4618 Habersham St.
7927 Abercorn St.
Operating in two locations, locally owned Habersham Beverage stocks wine, liquor and craft beer favorites in wall-to-wall warehouse style, with friendly staff to lend a helping hand.
Runner up: Johnnie Ganem’s

Nightclub

Club 51 Degrees

121 W. Congress St.
There’s no better place in Savannah to let loose and bust a move than the expansive Club 51 Degrees, which spins a mash-up of music on multiple levels: Latin on the first floor, hip-hop on the second and house, electronica and dubstep on the third.
Runner up: Club One

Pub

O’Connell’s

42 Drayton St.
Pretend you’re Irish all year round at O’Connell’s, where the pints and picklebacks are served by bartenders who will soon have you singing the praises of Irish whiskey over bourbon.
Runner up: Moon River Brewing Company

Sports Bar

Coach’s Corner

3016 E. Victory Dr.
A neighborhood hangout for more than 25 years, Coach’s Corner features big-screen TVs, a patio and a packed game schedule. Come for the crowd, stay for the World Class Warm Up appetizers, Hitting the Greens salads, Major League sandwiches and Extra Innings desserts, along with reliable burgers and wings.
Runner up: Wild Wing Cafe

New Bar

Alley Cat Lounge

207 W. Broughton St. Unit B
In 2013, restaurant developer Pila Sunderland led Scott Marshall down a hatch to the basement that would become the Alley Cat Lounge. “It was like a scene out of a horror movie,” Marshall says. “There was hardly any light, three or four inches of silt, and bricks on the floor no one had stepped on in more than 100 years. I fell in love.” 

Sunderland is a restaurant developer and, after decades of bartending, Marshall’s drinks knowledge could fill a book. But when it came to designing a menu, instead of printing a stuffy leather-bound tome for their subterranean speakeasy, they opted for something a little more playful. The result is a 32-page newspaper entitled the Alley Cat Rag, which greets patrons as they descend the steps and sidle up to the bar.

Drawing from Marshall’s own bottomless expertise and the talent of local writers like Jackson DuMouchel, the paper unfolds in sections devoted to each spirit; excerpts on drinking culture from authors including Carrie Fisher, Thomas Pynchon and William Faulkner; black-and-white vintage photographs of imbibers like Ernest Hemingway and Ava Gardner; the history behind drinks from the martini to Madeira wine; dissertations on the nuances of tequila, sotol and mezcal; quotes from famous boozehounds; cartoons; word searches; and, of course, a full accounting of the extensive back bar, which features more than 500 products, including 107 cocktails and 29 tasting flights.

Judging by the Alley Cat’s double-down on doormen for crowd control, it seems Savannah patrons were on the prowl for just this blend of meticulous know-how and merrymaking—and if there’s anything that encapsulates the bar’s breadth, range, quirk and character, it’s not a particular beverage, but this broadsheet.

“We are making drinks as fast as we can,” Marshall says. “And we’re constantly evolving.”

Should you find yourself intimidated, take Marshall’s pick, the classic Manhattan, which dates back to 1806. It’s the only drink he mixes at his own home—a quintessential barman’s favorite.
Runner up: Artillery

Happy Hour

Six Pence Pub

245 Bull St.
Six Pence Pub’s British fare, extensive craft and seasonal ales and prime people-watching near Chippewa Square is boosted by a weekday happy hour that’s sure to leave you feeling jolly. Just look for the bright-red phone booth.
Runner up: Bar Food

Beer List

World of Beer

112 W. Broughton St.
Living up to its name, this craft beer tavern pours the world into a pint glass, with dozens of domestic and international beers by the bottle and an ever-rotating draft list. Knowledgeable World of Beer bartenders will help you navigate the perfect brew for your taste buds.
Runner up: Public

Wine List

Circa 1875

48 Whitaker St.
Circa 1875’s well-curated and continuously updated wine list features boutique domestic and international wines. Enjoying a glass in this Parisian bistro setting? À votre santé.
Runner up: Elizabeth on 37th

Cocktails

Rocks on the Roof

102 W. Bay St.
The mixologists at Rocks on the Roof serve up sophisticated hand-crafted cocktails with a side of sweeping city views. The drinks menu is a toast to regional distilleries—the Rye Tai features Virgil Kaine Lowcountry Whiskey’s Robber Baron Rye, and the Savannah Tea includes Fruitland Augusta’s Georgia Peach Tea Vodka.
Runner up: Jen’s and Friends

Margarita

Tequila’s Town

109 Whitaker St.
Silver, reposado, añejo, oh my! With more than 30 tequila labels behind the bar—including agave spirits mescal and sotol—margarita lovers will find plenty to choose from at Tequila’s Town, where offerings run from house-blend lime to prickly pear and jalapeño.
Runner up: Jalapeños Mexican Grill

Martini

Jen’s and Friends

34 Bull St.
For martini lovers, going to Jen’s and Friends is like being a kid in a (grown-up) candy store. This welcoming bar off Johnson Square serves up more than 100 varieties, with concoctions like Birthday Cake and Blackberry Cobbler ready to double as dessert.
Runner up: Circa 1875

Bartender

Sidney Lance, Pacci Italian Kitchen

601 E. Bay St.

Part of the Kimpton Brice Hotel’s opening team, Sidney Lance has been a nightly fixture at the Pacci bar since 2014, where you’ll find him talking shop and mixing up his own infusions and ingredients behind the bar.

We figure you’re the person to ask: What makes a great bartender?

It’s not just about making a drink—it’s making an experience that people come back for. We’re all entertainers. Nine times out of 10, people come to the bar for good conversation.

You like to make your own ingredients. What kind of concoctions do you work up?

I make my own syrups, infusions, shrubs and bitters. It helps save money on flavored spirits and it’s a conversation piece. Customers will ask, “What’s that bottle with the grapefruit behind the bar?” and then you educate them. When you get crafty, you expand your knowledge and your creativity.

What’s the best drink you’ve ever invented?

It started with a wildberry cognac syrup. I cooked down blueberries and raspberries with a little water, sugar and cognac. I shake tequila and Aperol over crushed ice and float it with the syrup. Because of its violet reddish color with orange on top, we call it the Bloody Sunrise. We also create cocktails for customers every day. We love to find out what they like so we can mix them up something special.

Ever tried a recipe that didn’t work out?

All the time. Once, for a cocktail competition, I decided to try a mezcal-infused pineapple. I used a turkey injector and let it sit for a couple of days. When I went to make the drink, and I don’t know if it was the pineapple or the mezcal, but it tasted horrible! I pulled myself out of the competition.

If you could only drink one beverage forever, what would it be?

I’m a big bourbon guy. I’d sip on Blanton’s whiskey over Pappy Van Winkle any day.

Has anyone ever tipped you with something other than cash?

I got more than double the tab in cash for my birthday one year, but that’s nothing compared to the relationships I’ve built. When I travel, I discover I’m so rich with friends and people I know, and that means more to me.

Runner up: Summer Ivanowski at Spanky’s (Southside)
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The Best of Savannah: Bars, Booze & Beer

From thousands of reader surveys comes our inimitable Best of Everything list....
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