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Where the Bartenders Drink: Booze Recs From Brush Sushi Izakaya’s Jeff Banks

Ever wonder where your favorite local bartenders love to drink off the clock? Us, too. Thus Eater Atlanta gives you its Boozin’ Go-To Guide — your barkeep’s guide to Atlanta, the Southeast, and beyond.

Jeff Banks shakes up a cocktail at Brush Sushi Izakaya.
Jeff Banks shakes up a cocktail at Brush Sushi Izakaya.
Jonathan Phillips/Eater Atlanta

Decatur got more than exquisitely plated and delicious sushi from chef Jason Liang when he opened Brush Sushi Izakaya in April. The city also landed another spot to drink damn fine cocktails. Under the guidance of beverage director Jeff Banks, Brush has brought a bit of Japanese cocktail culture to its guests by way of the subtle nuances of Asian whiskies such as Nikka and Kavalan and distilled spirits like the rice-based shochu and soju.

Banks’s appreciation for the quiet precision of Japanese cocktail-making, with its focus on the build and use of ingredients rather than showmanship, is apparent in nearly every aspect of the program. From traditional drinks such as the force-carbonated Brush highball with Nikka Coffey Grain and sake, to the 1890s sherry and vermouth-based classic bamboo, to Banks’s mild-mannered yet highly focused disposition behind the bar.

Banks’s booze journey began in 2012 at farm-to-table restaurant Graft in Grayson. He developed a strong, whiskey-focused cocktail program before leaving in 2014 to take up residence as beverage director at The Luminary in Krog Street Market. The transition from the slower pace of suburban drinkers to the frenzy of ITP crowds in Inman Park was a bit overwhelming for the young bartender at first. But, Banks quickly found his rhythm, winning multiple barcraft competitions around town while gaining a faithful following for creating drinks, such as the wildly popular rosé slushy, and his love for riffing classic cocktails.

So, where does Banks drink when he’s not behind the stick at Brush?

Late night spot

When I have the chance, Kimball House is always great.

Dive bar

Righteous Room.

Happy hour bar/lounge

Ticonderoga Club for frozen drinks.

Brunch

One Eared Stag. It's around the corner from my house, so it's a nice walk and great atmosphere. Though, I wish they still had the chef's breakfast served with a beer.

Place for drinking and dining

My girlfriend and I only have one day off together, which is on a Monday, so we always find ourselves at Ticonderoga for happy hour, then wind up staying for bottles of sherry and food.

Bar where you're a regular

SOS Tiki Bar. It's across the parking lot from Brush and Bobby Dudley does a killer job.

Top three bars not mentioned above

I don't get to make it out that much, but AmerRed Phone Booth (new Downtown location), and Ration and Dram.

Out of town fave in the South

The Imperial Life in Asheville, N.C..

Out of town fave anywhere in the country

Williams & Graham in Denver, Colo.

Go-to cocktail order

Daiquiri. I think any bartender worth his salt should be able to make a great daiquiri. It's definitely my litmus test, if you will.

Under the radar bartender to watch

There are so many people I could put on this list, but Joseph Haywood at Bar Margot is really great. I've competed next to him at a few competitions, and his drinks are always very creative and well-balanced.

All Brush Sushi Izakaya Coverage [EATL]

All Boozin’ Go-To Guides [EATL]

Brush Sushi Izakaya

316 Church Street, , GA 30030 (678) 949-9412 Visit Website

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