Drift Oyster House is not a dedicated cocktail bar. It is first an upscale, casual seafood restaurant in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta.
And while it might not have the street cred of a Midtown speakeasy, the Drift bar program excels at doing what it does best: It gives a shit about its customers.
“Give a shit” is the krass, unofficial motto of the Drift team and the guiding philosophy behind their customer service, their kitchen, and their cocktails.
You can see the motto in action by looking at Drift’s winter cocktail menu, an extensive list of Nautical-themed drinks with something for everybody. Despite its length, the menu is easy-to-read and even educational, as if someone on the other side of the bar actually cared about the customers reading it.
That someone is bar manager Jose Pereiro, a 14-year industry veteran and competitive bartender. Before opening the bar at Drift in 2016, he ran the bar at Drift’s sister restaurant, Seed Kitchen and Bar. During that time his cocktails won several regional awards, including First Place finishes in the 2015 Kettle One Master of the Mule in Atlanta and 2014 Fernet Branca cocktail competition in Miami.
Sometimes award-winning bartenders are too talented for their own good. They create dense, complicated cocktail menus that scare away casual drinkers, or force them into a corner of familiarity. Not Pereiro.
He knows that people come to Drift for the food, first and foremost. So he’s created a cocktail menu with the quality of a craft cocktail bar and none of the pretentiousness.
The first thing you notice about Drift’s cocktail menu is that it is broken up by Spirit.
Compared to cocktail menus that divide their drinks into arbitrary categories like “Reserve” and “House”--or menus that don’t use headers at all-- the 18 drink list is still easy to navigate and find what you want.
This is an important feature for a restaurant like Drift because most of their customers are going to be casual cocktail drinkers. And regardless of what we’d like to believe in the cocktail industry, most cocktail consumers still define their drink preferences by liquor.
Some might argue that setting up your menu like this will discourage people from branching outside their comfort zone, but I think it has the opposite effect. Drift’s menu encourages customers to explore new flavors within their spirit of choice, which can be as dramatic as trying a new spirit.
For example, the winter menu has a large section for Rum-based cocktails (a play on the Nautical theme of the restaurant) and features several variations of the spirit. This is perfect for a rum-lover to expand their horizons while being confident they will receive a drink they enjoy.
Drift’s unofficial motto also applies to the cocktails themselves. Pereiro only sources fresh, local ingredients and stocks a wide variety of regional beers and spirits (Old 4th Distillery in Atlanta and St. Augustine Distillery in Florida are both back bar staples).
“There are no huge secrets behind our successes,” says Pereiro, “Every aspect of the program is geared towards ‘Giving a Shit’, from only using fresh ingredients to never being pompous or arrogant about what we do.”
Drift changes our their cocktail menu seasonally and will be launching their Spring cocktails in early April.