Happy Hour with Ration & Dram’s Andy Minchow

Former H&F Bottle Shopper and bartender on cocktails for kids, his new bar, and more

Andy Minchow has a sphinx-like smile. He started his career in Vegas 20 years ago at Emeril’s. Minchow landed in Atlanta in 2003 at our own Emeril’s outpost, then started up the bar program at the sorely missed Repast. He made his mark, though, behind the bar at Holeman & Finch and as a partner in H&F Bottle Shop. Minchow is gearing up to open his own place this spring, Ration & Dram, and share his mighty cocktail wisdom with the city in a whole new way.

Tell me about Ration & Dram.

Ration & Dram should be opening early March. We’re envisioning a family-friendly neighborhood spot that people can walk or bike to, so it’s not just a cocktail bar. The location is across from the soccer fields on Arizona Avenue. I have a 5-year-old son, so we want to embrace families who want to have a healthy and fun place to take their kids to eat. At the same time, if someone doesn’t have kids, the way the restaurant is set up will keep guests without kids from feeling surrounded. The menu will be local, seasonal, with a Southern edge, and a high importance placed on healthier dishes. We’ll have some fried stuff, of course, and there will definitely be bacon, but we want to try to use less animal fats for cooking and focus more on healthy oils or none at all. I’m an owner and GM, but I’ll also be working behind the bar daily.

So, what drink would you make to impress a 10-year-old?

Pumpkin cream soda! We started making and tapping our own sodas for the Grant Park Farmers Market, and we’ll continue that at Ration & Dram. It’s got typical cream soda flavors with organic sugar and vanilla bean, but we add a touch of orange for acidity and fresh pumpkin when it’s in season. That or a Jack’s Main Squeeze, which was created by my 5-year-old, made with orange, apple, carrot, and pineapple juices. We’re going to do a weekend brunch juice bar where kids can create their own concoctions with a juicer.

Last great drink you had?

The first thing that comes to mind is Terrapin Mosaic, which is a single-hopped red rye ale. It’s really well-balanced between the hops and malt, with good citrus notes and hints of tropical fruit, plus nice spiciness from the rye.

Who — dead or alive — would you most like to meet and make a drink for?

Mark Twain. From his writings and quotes, he seems like a hilarious guy. And he had some great bar quotes — he clearly enjoyed a good drink.

What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to booze?

A pony of Miller High Life. It’s cheaper than bottled water.

You get one artist to listen to behind the bar this week. Who is it?

Billy Idol. I love rock ‘n’ roll.

What’s your favorite name you’ve given to a cocktail?

The Uninspired Drinker. It’s a vodka soda with lime, so basically a carefully executed plan to try to dissuade people from ordering uninspired drinks at the bar.

Favorite ingredients?

The basics — fresh citrus and vermouth. Vermouth has enough herbal flavors to add complexity to a cocktail and citrus (grapefruit in particular) is great for balancing out sugar. A good bar can’t operate without them.

Favorite place for a drink in Atlanta or beyond?

Since I hail from Las Vegas, I have to go with the Double Down Saloon. I was drinking Fernet Branca there before Fernet Branca tattoos were cool. Here in Atlanta, a Scotch at the Vortex, but please don’t tell anybody because I don’t want them raising their Scotch prices. And Octopus Bar, because there’s no better place for good food and a good cocktail after work at 1:30 a.m.

Thoughts on the Atlanta cocktail scene today and where it’s going?

I think it’s moving toward a more minimal place, actually. The craze for syrups and bitters in hundreds of flavors will die down, and drinks will go for a more simplistic but balanced style. While the Atlanta bar scene has really learned the value of a good craft cocktail, a lot of cocktail lists today are filled with overly contrived drinks that just take way too long to make. Bartenders aren’t getting time to settle in and interact with customers at the bar, and a more minimalist style will cut down on some of those crazy ticket times and let bartenders focus on timeless cocktails instead of the next mind-blowing drink. I think we’ll also see more consumers making classic drinks at home. When they see cocktails with less than five ingredients, things they can find at most liquor shops, it reduces the intimidation factor.