Avondale Bar & Tap Room Is a Game Day Refuge on Toomer's Corner
Bars in college towns are usually known for their unruly reputations, not their selection of obscure spirits. But at Auburn’s Avondale Bar & Tap Room, you’re more likely to see an orange-and-blue clad fan take a shot of Fernet Branca than Fireball.
Avondale owner Hardy Gilbert began working on the idea for his sophisticated cocktail and craft beer bar back in 2011, when there was nothing like it in Auburn. Having lived in and visited cities such as Birmingham, Pittsburgh and New York, he longed for a local bar where he could sit down and sip a cocktail with his wife and friends. So he built his own.
"The cocktail scene in the U.S. is vibrant and exciting,” Gilbert says. “Kids turn 21 now and they want a good drink, not to pound cheap beer.”
Drawing on his family’s ties to Birmingham’s now-revitalized Avondale neighborhood, Gilbert named the bar after where he went to elementary school. In fact, the door to the bar is emblazoned with “A, est. 1977,” the year he started first grade.
Inside, the bar is decked out with plush booths, mod leather chairs and walls with mirrored panels. The award-winning Wood Studio in Ft. Payne crafted all of the woodwork in the bar, and the result is a rich, comfortable place to kick back with a cocktail or beer and sit a spell.
Though Gilbert was aiming for an older crowd, college students have embraced the environment as well. “They want to shoot Fernet or maybe get really wild and do some Chartreuse instead of Jäger or Fireball,” he says.
The cocktail menus change seasonally and each iteration is shaped around a different theme. The current menu, which debuted in late August, is inspired by speakeasies. Cocktail manager Casper Obrzut says they get ideas by taking deep dives into old cocktail books and exploring flavor-pairing thesauruses such as The Flavor Bible.
Each cocktail features a unique, house-made component. The Silver Dollar Suzy—a reimagined Southside cocktail—includes limoncello made from scratch. The lemon liqueur is combined with gin, lime juice, fresh mint and peppermint bitters for a refreshing and tart burst of flavor.
Some drinks, like the Speakeasy Sour, feature eggs from general manager Andy Lowrey’s backyard chickens and herbs from his garden.
As out-there as some of their craft cocktails may be, their classic offerings are still going strong—in more ways than one. If you’re in the mood for an old standby, plan to sip slowly. The Manhattans and martinis here clock in with more than four ounces of alcohol apiece. Avondale Bar & Tap Room also doesn’t serve food, so you’ll want to pre-game your meals accordingly.
As their name suggests, they have a heavy focus on beer as well, with 10 rotating taps and a healthy selection of bottles and cans. On some nights, the bar hosts brewery tap takeovers to showcase a variety of local beers.
But most importantly, at Avondale, "all who come thirsty are welcome," Gilbert says. At this “responsible bar for responsible people,” as he calls it, it’s more than an invitation for a laid back good time, it’s a promise.
Avondale Bar & Tap Room, 106A N College St., Auburn.