Do Savannnah

The Proof: Reflections on Savannah’s watering holes old and new

  • El-Rocko Lounge
  • The Original

The Proof: Reflections on Savannah’s watering holes old and new

27 Dec 2016

On New Year’s Day, I’ll be packing up my car and moving out of Savannah after nearly 15 years. For the past three of those, I’ve been truly fortunate to get to share my experiences in Savannah’s bar scene. Here are a few final recollections and recommendations from my seat at the bar.

Writing this column allowed me to meet fantastic people such as Matt Garappolo and Scott Marshall, both of whom made the switch from bartender to bar owner in 2016.

Matt and company spruced up the old Pinkie Master’s location and opened The Original, re-establishing the space’s rightful place as Savannah’s premier neighborhood dive. There’s no place I’d rather sit with friends at the end of the day, and with Evan Williams as the well bourbon, I never have to think about what I’ll order.

After a series of delays, including Hurricane Matthew, Scott put the finishing touches on Alley Cat Lounge late this year, and it’s already the best cocktail bar in Savannah. Featuring a virtual encyclopedia of variations on classic cocktails, Alley Cat offers a relaxed atmosphere for those who want to linger over a well-mixed drink. My favorite cocktail there so far is Remember the Maine, a fresh take on the classic Manhattan.

For every new bar that’s opened, I’ve had to bid farewell to an old favorite. The original Pinkie’s went by the wayside. Hang Fire was forced to close after complaints from Savannah’s most-hated condo owners. On the corner of MLK and Congress alone, both Sparetime and Ampersand have come and gone.

Fortunately, Hang Fire’s owner Wes Daniel and friends picked up shop and moved a block to the south on Whitaker Street, opening the retro-chic El-Rocko Lounge. El-Rocko continues Hang Fire’s live music tradition and makes a great happy hour spot for downtown workers.

Sparetime’s Jane Fishel took over as food and beverage manager at 22 Square in the Andaz Hotel on Ellis Square, where she continues to make the bar Savannah’s preferred spot for high-end cocktails.

When I move, I’ll miss Abe’s on Lincoln and O’Connell’s Irish Pub, two of my favorite places to meet up with friends. I drank too many glasses to count of Famous Grouse Scotch at Circa 1875 and Cutty Sark at Churchill’s. I sampled dozens of single malt Scotches at Molly MacPherson’s, which stocks one of the region’s best selections. I spent too little time in new spots such as Cotton & Rye and The Vault.

Every night out downtown taught me something new about spirits. Every conversation brought me closer to the people who call Savannah home. As much as I enjoy a glass of whiskey, it’s the latter that proved most important.

Savannah is my hometown, so I’ll visit often enough. It’s comforting to know I’ll return to warm welcomes not just from family and old friends, but also to a good drink and friends I have yet to make.

Happy new year, and here’s to many good years yet to come!

Zach Powers is a writer and novelist. When he’s not busy imbibing, he helps run the literary arts nonprofit Seersucker Live. Get to know him at