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Mixing It Up with Clarke Anderson

Atlanta Cochon555 barkeep on cocktails and pork

When Clarke Anderson stumbled upon a copy of “The University Wine Course” at a yard sale, he had no idea he had made life-changing discovery. The textbook, a 12-week program on the science, production and study of grapes, shifted his interest and exposed him to the analytical side of what was going on inside the bottles he was serving as a bartender. He trained as a sommelier and now is one of the top barkeeps in Atlanta, serving as the manager of the beverage program at Ford Fry’s King + Duke and St. Cecilia in Buckhead and No. 246 in Decatur. He will be mixing up some of his concoctions at the Atlanta edition of Cochon555 which takes place on Sunday, June 25th at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. He shared some insights on mixology in an interview with DiningOut Atlanta.

DiningOut: Which cocktail experience sold you on the craft?

Clarke Anderson: Sitting in front of the service well in a high-volume craft bar watching badass bartenders cranking out cocktails faster than I ever believed possible.  That shifted my belief in what was possible behind a bar.  Those barkeeps are still close friends.

What flavors inspire you most?

Savory flavors inspire me. Umami notes from vegetables.  Oxidative things like we find in sherry and other oxidized styles of wine.  Funky flavors from Brettanomyces that are found in lots of natural wines.  I’m always trying to sneak salt and MSG into cocktails.

Any particular spirit you like to work with most—and why?

Agave spirits are my favorite source of liquid inspiration.  I also like to use them on the menu. The versatility from progression in varietal and terroir selections in the world of craft Mezcal, Tequila, and Sotol are staggering.  However, there are huge sustainability concerns so I am focused on finding producers that speak that language and are willing to be transparent about their production and sourcing.

Pork and cocktails. How do you go about matching?

In the South, we serve pork many ways.  Additionally, there are cultural influences here in Atlanta that include tons of pork in their cuisine.  My go-to is something to cut the fat and focus on matching the flavors with whatever is seasoning the dish.

What classic cocktail do you feel is most underrated – and describe it please?

Stirred whiskey classics that are not a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. Brooklyn and Rob Roy are two of my Favorites. Choose a complex base spirit, use the freshest nice vermouth, large ice and a cold glass when serving and you will be in for a treat.

DiningOut Atlanta is proud to be a media sponsor of Cochon555. Please join us for an epic culinary experience centered on 1500 pounds of heritage breed pork prepared by some Atlanta’s top chefs. The event also highlights mixology and winemaking with distillers, bartenders, and even artisan cheesemongers. Part of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit Piggy Bank charity to protect and promote heritage breed species. Visit cochon555.com for ticket information and a full lineup of experiences.

By Denise Romeo