Cocktail snobs, insert foot in mouth… now. Debunked is the notion that an exceptional bartender must hone his or her skills at the swankiest mixology bars in the country or attend a fancy-schmancy cocktail-creation school.
Granted, while out of Vegas for the holidays and attempting to find the best bartender in Macon, Georgia, one try failed when the official titleholder didn’t know what was in a negroni — (a test Team Hangover uses as a standard judge of bartending proficiency). But then the Weekly found a fresh, young talent at one small restaurant in the southern city.
Beginning a career behind the bar at age 19 (yeah, that’s actually legal in Georgia), Andrea Miller grew tired of working in a corporate environment for a chain restaurant in Macon where drinks were made following the formulas for standard cocktails. “I just got so bored and I started looking outside the box,” says Miller. “That’s when I started doing online classes, chatting with people and reading other people’s blogs… I’d always like playing with cocktails at home or whatnot and constantly trying to do something different.”
Intense research followed, as did the opportunity to create an original cocktail menu for a new Thai restaurant. The now 22-year-old Miller spent three months concocting specialty cocktails after experimenting with natural ingredients for the homemade infused vodkas and simple syrups she crafted in her apartment.
At her current post at the Lemongrass Thai Bistro, the dominating feature is the bar with a vast selection of over 95 bottles of liquor in Miller’s arsenal. “It’s something that Macon’s not really expecting,” Miller says. “Even people you wouldn’t expect to go outside the lines too much just because Macon’s so conservative … they’re very accepting of my drinks.”
So what’s the star down south? “One of my biggest sellers is a coconut martini,” Miller says. Initially, she wanted to make the cocktail using coconut milk, but one of the owners—who is also the chef—tried to discourage her, saying she wouldn’t be able to find anything to go with it and that it wouldn’t be appetizing. The next day, she found success and the drink became a hit. “It’s basically a coconut rum-based drink, has coconut milk in it,” she says. “It’s very refreshing.”
However, her favorite concoction — and the beverage that won us over — is her Thailand in a Glass. “The food for Thai is spicy and sweet all in one, and they wanted me to create some kind of drink that goes with that.” Miller shared her recipe with the Weekly, but be warned — a batch of this delightful drink can’t be whipped up on a moment’s notice, as you’ll notice from the recipe below.
With a zest for experimenting and patience for creating the perfect ingredients, does Miller plan on staying in Macon? “I would definitely love to branch out,” she says. “This has been an absolutely amazing beginning, though. I get to start everything myself, start fresh and get to do what I wanted to do — which I’m very appreciative of. I would love to get out somewhere where there’s more people that are interested in doing the same thing as me and not just using premade crap,” she laughs.
For now, Miller is focused on infusing simple syrups with different teas and mixing things up every few weeks with new cocktails that delight patrons. Maybe we can convince her to take a field trip to Vegas…
Andrea Miller’s Thailand in a Glass
2 stalks of fresh lemongrass
2 fresh Thai chili peppers (Miller says you don’t need much because they’re very intense)
1 large bunch of ginger root, cut
20 fresh kaffir lime leaves
6 oz of Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka
1 bottle of Van Gogh Vodka
1 bottle of coconut rum
4 oz ginger juice
6 oz fresh lime juice
Combine all the ingredients and let the concoction marinate at room temperature for a week. To serve, pour 4 ounces of the mix in a highball glass over ice, add 1 ounce of homemade ginger simple syrup and top with a splash of soda water. Toggle once and serve. If desired, add a piece of lemongrass, Thai chili pepper, kaffir lime leaf or ginger for garnish.