Miles Macquarrie, co-owner and beverage director for Kimball House in Decatur and Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits at Krog Street Market, steps back behind the bar at the latter this week as the restaurant’s on-site bar manager. He takes over for Adrian Fessenden-Kroll, who left the position earlier this month.
While Macquarrie has always overseen the cocktail menu, bar staffing, and recipe development since Watchman’s opened in 2018, this is the first time he will be a regular presence behind the stick there. People can catch Macquarrie making cocktails on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at the bustling Inman Park food hall.
According to Macquarrie, his decision to be more hands-on behind the bar at Watchman’s is two-fold.
He feels there isn’t anyone on staff “quite ready” to take over Fessenden-Kroll’s role leading the bar at Watchman’s. However, getting back behind the bar affords Macquarrie the opportunity to provide more mentorship and training for his bar team in the restaurant’s sophomore year.
“When we opened Kimball House, I didn’t ask anyone to do anything I didn’t do myself, including working busy shifts,” he explains. “This way, I can lead by example, bring up new bartenders, and make it a better learning environment for everyone.”
Macquarrie says he’s conducting regular bar staff education sessions at the restaurant. It challenges bartenders to learn cocktail recipes outside of Watchman’s wheelhouse to build their “bartender rolodex” while honing their “technique and speed;” a necessity at Krog Street Market, where diners tend to hop from spot to spot and don’t tolerate waiting long for drinks.
He admits Watchman’s Caribbean-inspired and French-forward cocktails can be challenging for people at the market, even for seasoned drinkers. Macquarrie equates it to the early days of Kimball House, when he needed to explain many of the cocktails on the menu to guests at the bar — something he expects to do at Watchman’s.
“It can be surprising, because even those people who are really into craft cocktails still think the daiquiri is a sweet, frozen, slushy machine drink, not an elegant classic that was created in Cuba in 1898,” he notes. “But the cocktail landscape keeps evolving. Forever ago, people wouldn’t drink whiskey, and now we’re trying to get them to order things that aren’t whiskey.”
As more restaurants open along the Eastside Beltline trail and new food stalls stake claims at Krog Street, restaurants like Watchman’s try to remain competitive by continuing to evolve the food and drink menus. Since opening the restaurant, Macquarrie and his partners, Bryan Rackley, Jesse Smith, and Matt Christison, now recognize Krog Street attracts a younger clientele. They adjusted the food menu accordingly to focus on the restaurant’s raw bar offerings as well as shared appetizers and hors d’oeuvres rather than just large entrees.
Macquarrie recently revamped Watchman’s cocktail menu, which includes a whiskey highball on tap using Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend scotch whisky.
“It’s one of the few whiskey drinks on our menu and makes a great aperitif and works really well with oysters because it’s super refreshing,” explains Macquarrie.
A holiday-themed cocktail menu debuts this weekend and includes riffs on egg nog using Navy strength and pineapple rums and a satsuma Mai Tai made with aged rhum agricole and dark rum, roasted chestnut, satsuma, and lime.
Despite the need to keep up with increasing competition, Macquarrie still believes in the original premise behind Watchman’s; a restaurant serving sustainable seafood centered around Caribbean-style cocktails. Being back behind the bar means he doesn’t have to compromise that vision, even as the restaurant tries to keep pace with the fickle crowds at Krog Street Market.
“I think we are definitely in a restaurant bubble [in Atlanta],” he says. “But I think that’s okay, because it forces you to stay true to what you want to do, and for us, that’s bright, true Caribbean classic drinks and sustainable, regional seafood. The way we’re serving seafood now allows for it to be around for our kids to eat when we grow up.”
Take a look at the holiday cocktail menu:
gin, vermouth, verjus blanc, chartreuse $12
Spiced Maple Sour
bourbon, absinthe, pommeau $12
Satsuma Mai Tai
aged rhum agricole, dark rum, roasted chestnut, satsuma, lime $13
japanese gin, pear brandy, lemon, rosemary, suze $12
navy rum, pineapple rum, coconut, maple, nutmeg $12
jamaican rum, barbados rum, grapefruit, madeira, spices $12
calvados, chartreuse, passionfruit, cava $12
rye, banana, vermouth, cynar, acid phosphate $12
Monday – Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m . Happy hour daily from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to closing.