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The Proof: Alley Cat Lounge serves up classic cocktails and history lessons

 

The Proof: Alley Cat Lounge serves up classic cocktails and history lessons

22 Sep 2016

As a writer, part of what I do is tell stories. Maybe that’s the reason liquor appeals to me.
 
Every drink has a piece of history behind it — the people and times and places that were significant to its creation.
 
That’s why I’m so excited for Savannah’s newest bar, the Alley Cat Lounge, which will open early next month on Broughton Street just off Barnard.
 
The menu features more than 450 liquors and more than 100 standard cocktails. The key word here is “standard.” Proprietor Scott Marshall isn’t interested in inventing new drinks. Instead, he wants to have a complete library of the standards, both classic and contemporary.
 
He explains, “Just the Old Fashioned section alone has an Old Fashioned, a New Fashioned with muddled fruit, a Sazerac and a Toronto. Those are all classic cocktails. The Manhattan section is two very classic drinks and then two modern classics that are all Manhattans.”
 
These iterations of classic drinks are likely new to most Savannahians, but they’re part of America’s long cocktail history.
 
“If you go to any bar in Boston, New York, San Francisco, you can just order any of these drinks by name. But down here, people don’t actually know them yet. So we want to introduce the people down here to the wide world of cocktails.”
 
Part of that introduction will be the story behind each cocktail, and even the stories of individual ingredients.
 
“Every product that we carry, we’ve got a three-ring binder with where it’s from, who makes it, what the proof is, what makes that company special, what’s special about the production. I did the same thing with my cocktail book. I researched cocktails and found out this drink was made at this place by this person at this time.”
 
Marshall doesn’t need the book himself. He’s able to rattle off story after story with nary a note. Though this Bostonian’s memory is selective.
 
“I don’t know who played third base for the Red Sox when they won the World Series in 2004. But I know Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert is the guy who created Angostura bitters.”
 
Marshall understands that people remember things differently today, with a whole world of information at our fingertips, and he wants to provide a similar educational experience.
 
“I feel like that’s where we are as a society. We don’t necessarily want to know everything, but we want to have easy access to whatever we want to know. I’m not selling booze. I’m not selling beer and wine. I’m selling memories. You’re going to remember this moment with this person here.”
 
That’s the power of storytelling. If you tell a good tale, a customer is going to like their cocktail even if the taste isn’t their favorite. They’re going to have something to take home with them when they leave the bar.
 
“When you’re making a drink and serving it, if you have that information and can share it, people love that. People want that story, that little bit of history.”
 
 
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 www.zachpowers.com.
 
 
ALLEY CAT LOUNGE
 
Address: 207 W. Broughton St.
 
Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday (set to open early October)
 
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