Chef Robert St. John’s latest outpost, Branch, is worth the drive to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for its killer cocktails and laid-back rocker vibe. Here is what you can expect when you go.
This pre-Prohibition cocktail den was refurbished in the fifties—think dark wood and dim lighting mixed with mid-century modern furniture. The crowd ranges from spiffy professionals drinking clever cocktails to grad students drinking Mississippi beers like Lucky Town and Lazy Magnolia. But bourbon is the star, with a 100-plus hooch portfolio that includes a 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve rye and Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection varieties.
Shaking Things Up
After developing the 1,000-bottle wine portfolio for chef Robert St. John’s food empire (including Purple Parrot Cafe and Crescent City Grill), bar manager Dusty Frierson moved on to conquer the craft cocktail scene at Robert’s newest outpost.
Get a taste for Branch’s experimental edge with the Left Banke ($9), a riff on French cocktails with elderflower, sparkling wine, and lemon syrup added for brightness.
Go pro with the Nine Pound Hammer ($9)—bourbon with coffee-infused Cynar, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon, and sugar. “I lean toward the bitter, boozy, and stirred,” Dusty says.
Best Bar Snack
Get the pork cheeks ($9) served with black truffle, potato, and watercress, or try the lamb-shoulder carnitas ($9)—a fan favorite.
For the best deal in the house, ask your bartender for a dram of a single barrel—think a 12-year-old Elijah Craig for about $8 (normally $16). A flight tasting of all four whiskeys cashes out under $14.
Make It At Home
Combine 1½ Tbsp. elderflower liqueur (such as St-Germain), 1 Tbsp. simple syrup, and 1½ tsp. fresh lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds). Strain into a 10-oz. stemmed cocktail glass, and top with 6 Tbsp. sparkling white wine (such as Cava). Garnish with a lemon peel strip.
Makes 1 serving. Hands-on 5 min., Total 5 min.