How do you get your name on The Atomic Lounge’s cocktail list? It’s all about the unexpected.

The atomic loungr
The funky decor is only half of The Atomic Lounge’s charm. Photo courtesy of Magic City Dentistry

Everything about The Atomic Lounge is a little different, and extra special—especially its cocktails. Have you ever wanted to know who gets their name on the leaderboard of cocktail lists? Once I saw my name on the menu, I had to find out how it got there.

It’s about more than a name.

Rachael Roberts at The Atomic Lounge
Learn a little more about co-owner Rachael Roberts and The Atomic in our piece on 7 amazing female bartenders in Birmingham. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now.

Chase Lewis, Ben Foster, maybe you know these names because you work with them or maybe it’s because they’re your favorite drink at The Atomic Lounge. But, for Feizal Valli and Rachael Roberts, owners of The Atomic Lounge, it’s because these people are a piece of their bar.

Aside from taking the pressure off of having to come up with a unique name for a cocktail, naming drinks after Birmingham residents create an entire story that extends past a few hours in the bar.

“The names are a a lot like the Sex Panther tattoo. You get the tattoo here,but it stays around until later that night or that day or the next morning. So, people ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ and the story continues.”

Feizal Valli
Birmingham, Alabama, The Atomic Lounge, James Beard Semifinalist
Before making it on the list, The Chase Lewis was my go-to cocktail. Photo via The Atomic Lounge’s Instagram

Having descriptions attached to the names, such as “colorful, vibrant, approachable,” only emphasizes this factor because once someone’s had your drink, it’s like they already know you. Or, it provides a jumping-off point for getting to know the other person.

The drink really does follow you home from the bar. Take Elliot Potter, for example, he’s had people say to him in a completely different setting, “Oh, Ben Foster, you’re summery and fun!” Not a bad first impression to have with a stranger.

“The best part about it too, is the bar is about meeting people so you get to meet the drink and they get to meet each other.”

Feizal Valli

It begins and ends with community

Birmingham, Alabama, Bestselling Cocktails
Can confirm once you step outside The Atomic with the Sex Panther tattoo that accompanies the drink, it becomes a conversation starter. Photo courtesy of Atomic Lounge.

Having a person’s name on the list, along with a description of their personality, starts conversations that aren’t easily forgotten. When you ask, “Who is Chase Lewis?” the conversation isn’t going to stop with a one or two-sentence answer.

“In a way, you’re also telling a story in two words. Let’s say you were to ask where the name of a cocktail comes from, you tell that story, but in the same way and even in a better way we get to tell the story of the person it’s named after.”

Feizal Valli

Long after that conversation about the drink ends they’re still hanging out, and in addition to the unique decor, the ability to build little communities within the bar is another aspect of The Atomic Lounge that sets it apart from others.

A panda, a giraffe, and a hammerhead shark walk into a bar…and instantly become friends! Photo via The Atomic Lounge’s Instagram.

The same principle stands with the faces on its walls or costumes you’re able to wear. You might not have anything in common with another person wearing one, but you’re both wearing costumes and that allows you to share the same thread. Who knew a Cookie Monster costume could be the symbol of such a beautiful message?

So, how do you make the list?

The Atomic Lounge
The Atomic Lounge was actually the first bar I ever went to in Birmingham, and after living here over two months it’s become about a once-a-week checkpoint. Photo via The Atomic Lounge’s Facebook.

“We often get people ask ‘How do I get a drink named after me?’ Which is the 100% way to not get a drink named after you.”

Feizal Valli

It’s kind of like with everything in life you can’t control— the more you want it, the less likely you are to get it, but that’s what makes it so special.

“The person themselves aren’t the type of people to ask ‘Where’s my drink?’. People who get drinks named after them are humble and endearing people and it would never occur to them to think like that.”

Feizal Valli

At one point, Feizal and Rachael did allow people to submit cards with their names, three words describing themselves and what they drink. Every so often when the owners need a new cocktail they’ll pull one of those cards out.

Sometimes you make the list just because everything aligns in the cocktail universe. For example, one time The Atomic Lounge had a customer named Templeton Stump (an incredibly awesome name). There also happens to be a Templeton Rye and he also happened to be extremely nice—voilà, a cocktail is born.

Atomic Lounge cocktail list
I discovered I made the list through a Snapchat from one of my friends and I was in such disbelief. I Googled “Irene Richardson + Birmingham” in Google for an hour, because I figured it had to be a different Irene. Photo via The Atomic Lounge.

For the most part, the process is completely organic. You come into The Atomic’s world first, more than once, and without any expectations of getting your name on the list. If you do find yourself with a cocktail named after you, it’ll always be a complete surprise.

“By naming a drink after a person, it gives them ownership in this bar. If a drink is named after you, you feel connected.”

Feizal Valli

Don’t miss Rachel’s album release next Sunday, February 2 at 7PM at The Atomic Lounge!

What’s your go-to cocktail at The Atomic? Let us know on social @bhamnow!

Irene Richardson
Irene Richardson
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