April 2013
is your approach to The Family Dog’s
cocktail program?
The Family Dog is first
and foremost a bar. It’s a boisterous,
friendly gathering spot for regulars from
the neighborhood, Emory students and
young urban professionals. While we could
simply schlep boring Jack and Cokes—
and perhaps get away with it—we strive
to provide our guests with simple but well-
thought-out cocktails that maintain a level of
sophistication and quality. And, I think that
they value our efforts. I see the same faces
come through the doors of The Family Dog
day after day, week after week, and that’s
what this business is all about.
The Family Dog is a casual
destination, so how do you balance
bringing your guests interesting, well-
made drinks when they might not be
so patient to wait for them?
With preparation, it’s relatively
simple to provide a perfect cocktail—
any cocktail—in under five minutes.
Sure, on a Friday night, when we’ve
got guests three deep at the bar, tak-
ing the time to craft a perfect Old Fash-
ioned (and we make a damn good one,
I might add) is a little tough, but that’s
why it’s important to practice the craft
and do what you can ahead of time.
At The Family Dog we juice all of our
own fruit, we just make sure to prepare
enough that afternoon to meet the de-
mand of the evening. I think the whole
idea of waiting 15 minutes for a drink is
a little contrived.
What are your most popular drinks?
Our White Whiskey Mule is a playful
blend of High West Silver whiskey, fresh-
pressed lime juice and ginger beer. The
Angry Elk—32 ounces of adult fruit
punch—might just be the cocktail that
put us on the map, and I’m ashamed to
say that it was inspired by my first expe-
riences with that drink, surely containing
gobs of canned Hawaiian Punch. I defi-
nitely raised the bar a little with my own
recipe, elevating it with fresh pomegran-
ate and orange juices and pineapple, as
well as Peychaud’s bitters.
Beer is also a cornerstone of
The Family Dog, and there are several
beer cocktails, like the Catcher in
the Rye (rye whiskey, orange liqueur,
Angostura bitters, Hefeweissbier) on
the menu. How do those sell?
Our clientele is generally eager to try
new drinks. The Spiked Shandy, our best
seller, is an extremely palatable combi-
nation of rye whiskey, India pale ale and
ginger beer. Ladies seem to really enjoy
this cocktail. And yes, our beer list is quite
diverse; that’s something I’m proud of.
Beyond bartending, you’re an artist.
Do the two realms connect for you?
Yes, I hold a BFA in Ceramics, and
find some parallels in terms of the pro-
cess and production of my art and the
practice of crafting cocktails. There defi-
nitely is a correlation with how I approach
projects and deal with daily criticism.
Why is this a great time for
Atlanta’s mixology scene? What trends
are you noticing?
The post-Prohibition cocktail craze in
Atlanta has spawned a generation of ex-
cellent barkeeps creating their own unique
takes on old-fashioned cocktails—Man-
hattans, Sidecars, Sazeracs. Bartenders
have experimented with barrel-aged cock-
tails, bottled cocktails, bitters, syrups and
infused spirits for quite a while now, but
alongside this innovative do-it-yourself
mindset, there is also an explosion of craft-
distilled spirits entering the market like no
other time in recent history. I can see that
simple, well-crafted drinks are here to stay,
and I definitely believe that the people of
Atlanta have more choices than ever when
it comes to finding a place that can make
a decent cocktail.
n the Morningside neighborhood of
Atlanta, low-key eatery The Family
Dog attracts locals with vibrant pub
food and drinks to match. Here, bar
manager Jason Kemp talks five-minute
cocktails, the importance of advance
prep and classy fruit punch.
Quick Quality
Jason Kemp, The Family Dog, Atlanta
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