One More Drink

...with Atomic Lounge Co-Owner Feizal Valli

Article by Denise K. James

Photography by Nicole Du Bois & Provided

Originally published in Birmingham Lifestyle

By the time you read this, The Atomic Lounge has already shuttered its doors. A beloved institution in the ‘Ham for its whimsical decor, creative cosplay and affordable yet unique cocktail menu, The Atomic easily made a name for itself on the local bar scene, as did the co-owners and former couple Feizal Valli and Rachael Roberts. Yes, we’re all going to miss it, but as Valli said, sometimes great things come to an end — and it’s up to all of us to look for the next opportunity. 

Why did y’all decide to close The Atomic Lounge? 
A number of factors — difficulty finding staff, the supply chain, city council attempting to scale back the patio space. The decision to close was not financial; it was about other things. 

Are you sad to see The Atomic go?
No, I’m not sad it closed. Instead, I’m amazed that this bar in Birmingham, Alabama where you can dress up as Cookie Monster was a James Beard Award finalist!

What are your plans now?
I’m probably opening something else —  the fixtures from The Atomic came with me, and that’s the plan. But I have to wait and figure out what’s happening out there. The reason I moved here [to Birmingham] is because I was bartending in New Orleans, and one day I went to work, and they said the bar was closing for the storm. That next day, Hurricane Katrina hit, and I never moved back. You could say my trajectory was broken, but it was simply changed. I think the trajectory has been changed for a lot of people right now, but it can be a good thing. 

What do you want people to remember about The Atomic Lounge?
“Friends” ended. “Cheers” ended. “Seinfeld” ended. So sometimes, great things end. People offered to buy the bar from me  — but I feel like if you offered to buy the bar, you never understood The Atomic Lounge. If the point was to make money, I would have charged you to wear that unicorn costume, Denise. It was about creating one-of-a-kind experiences — which we did.

Two Iconic Cocktails to Create at Home
Courtesy of The Atomic Lounge

Chase Lewis
1 1/4 oz dry gin
1/2 oz Pama pomegranate liqueur 
3/4 oz ginger syrup
3/4 oz lime
1/4 oz wildflower honey (diluted 1:1)
Shake with ice, pour over fresh ice. 
Garnish with thyme. 

Randall Porter: A Tequila Cocktail

1 1/4 oz Reposado Tequila

1/2 oz Banana Liqueur

1/2 oz Fernet Branca 

1/4 oz Demerara syrup (1:1) 

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Garnish: orange peel, rosemary sprig

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a double rocks glass over a large ice cube, then garnish.

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