Tuesday, March 29, 2011



Christa Sladky Creates Gourmet Cocktails

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-During the regal hotel’s first years in Buckhead, Atlanta’s shopping and fine dining district, I regularly walked here from my home after work to meet friends, enjoy cocktails and listen to the piano and vocal styling of the incomparable Freddy Cole, Nat King Cole’s brother. A recent visit, almost three decades later, confirmed that little has changed inside the palatial Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead. Freddy, still one of heaven’s gifts to Atlanta, spends his performance time touring Europe, but the gifted Theresa Hightower, a wonderful lady with a voice that combines Ella Fitzgerald with Sara Vaughn, sings here like a jazz angel beginning on Thursdays, and the intimate Wine Bar, features a rising star mixologist handcrafting cocktails.

Christa Sladky creates customized cocktails, making her own vermouth, ginger beer, fruit purees and much more using nothing from cans or jars. The effervescent Sladky took my order for an Old Fashioned (arguably is the oldest cocktail of them all) and confidently proceeded to modify it. Instead of Bourbon, she made it with Don Julio Anejo Tequila, a spoonful of raw honey, Fee Brothers Orange Bitters, a maraschino cherry, finished with some secret MoJo.

Stirred and served over rocks in the appropriate glass, Christa Sladky named it “Doc’s Remedy.” The ceremony recalled the story of the Mojito made in Havana’s La Bodeguita del Medio. It was fashioned for a local denizen, Ernest Hemingway. Christa’s cocktail was ambrosia: delicious, refreshing and became a near-perfect aperitif, readying my appetite for an evening dining in the Café, a reuniting with esteemed Chef Todd Richards and his distinctively Southern haute cuisine.

A devotee of the legendary Dale DeGroff, who pioneered the gourmet approach to recreating classic cocktails, Christa Sladky performs at the cozy Ritz-Carlton Buckhead Wine Bar Wednesday through Saturday evenings. The bar is her stage; the set is a collage of crystal bottles, soft lighting, elegant furnishings in elegant surroundings. Watching her work is great theater in a storybook bar, a virtuoso performance.

A one-of-a-kind cocktail, intelligent conversation, classic jazz, all a prelude to gourmet dining would be a memorable evening in New York City or San Francisco.  It’s here, now. An All-Atlanta experience, offered in de rigueur grand style at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead.

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