Attaboy is a swanky speakeasy bar in East Nashville, and it’s the second Attaboy location; the original is located in New York, but both locations share a name, lack of cocktail menu and overall aesthetic, and both offer a unique experience for a night of cocktails.
After finding the door in the alley behind Main Street and Woodland Street, gently knock and wait to be let in. Once inside, take a seat at the bar, on the patio or in one of the cozy booths, and a bartender will ask you a series of questions to determine what to serve you. “We ask open questions, because everyone has something they are looking for, whether that be a flavor or a twist on an Old Fashioned,” explains Brandon Bramhall, Attaboy Nashville’s managing partner. “People typically pick their base alcohol first, then we ask questions to determine if they want something stirred or clean, spirit-forward, spicy, bitter or effervescent.”
Attaboy’s cocktails are classically oriented, which Brandon admits is vague. “For us, that means we are looking at cocktails that were being made between 1890 and 1930 because that is when modern and classic cocktails were established — Manhattans, martinis, daiquiris. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, just to turn the wheel more efficiently,” Brandon says. Typically, the cocktails have no more than five ingredients. “The cocktails are simple enough that you aren’t losing anything in the mix. We want you to taste each ingredient in a drink,” he tells us.
While both Attaboy locations follow the philosophy of a no-menu approach, they both work off a master list. “It is much like French mother sauces,” Brandon explains. “Once you have down the basics, you can branch off from there.”
Along with partners Sam Ross and Michael McIlory, Brandon brought the concept to Nashville. Brandon was a bartender at Attaboy in New York, which Sam and Michael opened after the closing of Sasha Petraske’s legendary Milk & Honey, where the pair tended bar. Sam and Michael learned from the best about crafting cocktails and elevating the trend of modern speakeasies.
“It was like diving into a pool blindfolded,” Brandon says of opening the Nashville outpost, “but so far, I am really happy with the response and the turnout.”
Pay Attaboy a visit on a weekend night just to see how large the turn out is — the wait can be as long as an hour and a half to two hours. Give your gentle knock, leave your name and number, and they will let you know when a spot is open. Thanks to the bar’s close proximity to Butcher & Bee, The Crying Wolf, Smith & Lentz Brewing, Edley’s Bar-B-Que and Edgefield Sports Bar & Grill, it is easy to find a place to kill time while you wait. And the wait is most definitely worth it. If you want to avoid the lines, though, your best bet is to visit Sunday through Thursday, before their peak hour of 11 p.m. And keep in mind that they don’t accept parties larger than six.
In New York, there are only eight bar seats and three tables, in comparison to Nashville’s 12 bar stools, four booths, private room and patio. “The general layout is less claustrophobic, but to its credit, that is part of the charm of the New York bar,” says Brandon. There are parallels between the two locations in terms of design. One notable likeness is the size of the bar. A narrower bar top makes for casual conversation between the patrons and bartender. While sitting at the bar, take a minute to ask about the story of the building and its previous owner — they can tell it better than we can.
“We had a pretty strong aesthetic in mind,” Brandon says of the design, “but we sat with Jamie Pfeffer of Pfeffer Torode Architecture to flesh it out. We had three or four long sessions with him to determine look and design.” At night, the lights are dim, and the details are hard to distinguish, but be sure to take a close look at the arched ceiling above the bar, the unique paint job, the green leather and wood tones of the c-shaped banquettes by Kings Commercial Interiors, the light fixtures and the “A” sign.
In addition to cocktails, there is a small selection of eats that range from smoked almonds to toast boards — and all are ideal for soaking up the booze.
Attaboy is located at 8 Mcferrin Ave., Nashville, TN 37206 and is open daily from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
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