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Where the Bartenders Drink: Old 4th Distillery’s Jessica Luna

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.

Vodka bottles being filled at Old 4th Distillery. Jonathan Phillips/Eater Atlanta
Beth McKibben is the editor and staff reporter for Eater Atlanta and has been covering food and cocktails locally and regionally for 12 years.

Remember this date, Georgians: September 1, 2017. It’s the date you’ll finally be allowed to walk into a brewery or distillery and purchase a bottle of their finest spirit without first touring the facility. For small operations like Atlanta’s Old 4th Distillery, the state’s updated booze laws could not have come at a better time. As the distillery ramps up its vodka production and expands to an 11,000-square-foot facility on Decatur Street, the new law will allow O4D to sell an individual consumer up to three 750ml bottles from its storefront on Edgewood. The law will also give them the ability to hold events at their swanky new space and sell cocktails and food from the tasting room and bar. The latter two are currently banned by law without special permits and outside vendors — an extra cost spirits-makers like Old 4th simply eat. The passage of SB85 opens up an entirely new (and much-needed) revenue stream.

Since opening their doors in 2014, the brothers Moore (Craig and Jeff) and longtime pal Gabe Pilato have brought Atlanta vodka, gin, absinthe, and Lawn Dart lemon liqueur. In 2019, the distillery will release its long-awaited bourbon, which has been resting in barrels for more than two years now. While O4D still relies on volunteers to help on bottling days, the day-to-day duties became more than the three-man operation could handle last year. Enter sales director Jessica Luna. Those who are regulars on the Atlanta festival circuit or have visited O4D in recent months have probably met and been handed a drink by Luna. She says her job is a motley mix of cruise director, relationship manager, and brand ambassador. It has her traveling Georgia’s lonely highways preaching the Old 4th gospel and making sure its bottles land on liquor store and bar shelves.

Here, the self-described “homebody” details what bars and restaurants she frequents when not on the road or relaxing at home with her pups.

Late-night spot
I’m not much of a night owl, so “late night” is relative for me. My favorite place for a nightcap (or two) is Ticonderoga Club. It’s like going over to a friend’s house, which is the ultimate for me. Favorite “last stop of the night” is Mary’s. And, if I’m feeling particularly lively, you’ll have to drag me out of Elevator Factory after 2 a.m. on karaoke night.

Dive bar
Dive bars! Another comfortable place to sidle up and stay awhile. Elliott Street in Castleberry Hill. Where else can you get molten metal, live music, the best potato salad ever made? Nowhere. Plus, Mike and Pete are awesome. Runner up is Ideal in Lakewood. Cheap beer and a good jukebox equal heaven.

Happy hour bar or lounge
The best happy hour is at a girlfriend’s house with a refillable glass of wine, but I do love a good “Whiskey Wednesday” at The Pinewood.

Sunday brunch happens at my house with a pile of bacon, a dutch baby, endless coffee, and a mimosa or four. Are we sensing a trend here? I’m a homebody, I guess. I’d rather take myself out for a “working breakfast” during the week at Home Grown for a comfy biscuit or Proof for their amazing egg sandwich. Both are on the way to the distillery and a nice place to start my day.

Place for drinking and dining
The place I go when nothing sounds good and I can’t figure out what I want is No. 246 in Decatur. The wine list is fabulous, the service is always great, and the spaghetti and meatballs is just what the doctor ordered. I’m always glad I chose it.

Bar where you’re a regular
The bar at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is my home away from home. It’s almost watermelon marg season!

Top three bars not mentioned above
Krog Bar — my first love when I moved here 12 years ago, and still one my favorites.

Kimball House goes without saying. I love seeing those familiar faces!

Victory (both). I probably eat more tiny sandwiches than any person should during the week, and the cocktails are always fun and well-crafted.

Out-of-town fave (regional)
Atlantic in Savannah. Absolutely incredible top-to-bottom. Great staff, amazing food, delicious cocktails, and a really badass wine program that gives you by-the-glass access to wines that usually only see the bottle list. Needless to say, I look forward to my work trips to Savannah a lot.

Out-of-town fave (national)
Deetjens. My boyfriend Joe and I took shelter at the bar here during a particularly freezing cold and windy night in Big Sur. It’s an old house-turned-inn: super romantic, candlelight, a dusty old piano, red wine. Pretty much ideal.

Out-of-the-whole-country fave
Le Baron Rouge in Paris. It will be hard to ever top this one. I don’t remember what neighborhood it was in, but it was a little off-the-beaten-path. Tiny place, mostly standing room with oysters for sale outside and wine by the liter inside along with some of the best pate and duck rillette I’ve ever tasted. A plus, plus, plus. I’ll remember it forever.

Under-the-radar bartender to watch
I’ve recently gotten to know Bobby Gover, who helms the bar program for Cheeky Taqueria. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with and his enthusiasm and passion for his craft are contagious! No doubt as to his current and future successes. They will be many.

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Old 4th Distillery

487 Edgewood Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312 (844) 653-3687