Distillery of Modern Art showcases local artists and creative spirits

DoMA is located in Chamblee and they're open Thursday through Sunday. (Photo credit: Caren West PR)

Fine art and cocktails make a great pairing, and a new Atlanta distillery takes the idea further by bringing them together at the Distillery of Modern Art (DoMA).

The part gallery, part distillery, and part cocktail lounge recently opened in Chamblee, and founder Seth Watson joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to discuss his new venture. 

Interview highlights:

A passion for chasing down unique spirits:

I was at the University of Florida, and just like every other college kid hanging out at the bars, drinking lots of beer,” recalled Watson. “What I realized is that I kept spending so much time having to go just to the bathroom because of the sheer volume of fluid that I was taking in. And I realized early; I said, ‘I need to get away from beer. It makes me feel heavy… I’m going to switch to spirits,’ just kind of on a whim… You start to be able to appreciate the small amount that you’re drinking, and I started looking for nuance.”

“There is a world of difference in alcohol that it would be foolish of me to just stop on one thing and say, ‘Okay, I love this. I’m sticking to this.’ So I went on a hunt for the next 10-plus years, 15 years, looking for unique spirits. I settled into whiskey pretty early on. I was very attracted to the idea of an aged product, having to physically make something and then wait years to see if it’s going to be any good. So I started to dive deeply into whiskey, which I would say is still my true passion, with gin coming in second place.”

DoMA offers several spirits they make in house. (Courtesy of: Caren West PR)

Expanding a tasting experience into an all-senses banquet of artistry:

“I saw an opportunity to do something on a more elevated basis that took what I was passionate about – being spirits, hospitality, and art – and trying to meld those pieces together,” Watson said. “Being so involved with artists in my entire career, I saw a hole of support for local art. A lot of these situations where local artists get involved or artists from all around the world, it’s always a financial transaction scenario. And what I desperately wanted to do is give back to an artist community that had supported me in my business for so long with ideas and collaboration.”

“I’d spent a little time recipe-developing, and I was able to take those samples, meet a plethora of artists, and said, ‘Okay, here’s this spirit. Try it, and then I want you to create a piece of abstract artwork that represents this spirit in the bottle,” said Watson. “Since it’s abstract, we’re able to cut it down and use it on the interior of our labels. So the backside of our label, which gives this awesome pop of color, is also a really cool juxtaposition. As a brown spirit bottle gets depleted, more and more of that artwork gets revealed. So not only are we going to expose local artists to the masses, but we’re also creating this very cool, unique look on the interior of our bottles.”

How the distillery offers artists and tasters a richer gallery experience:

“As we grow our product line, we’ll engage with more local artists to design new, cool, very interesting art to go along with that spirit. The gallery that we have, this is something that changes out every two months. We pair two local artists that are complementary of each other in the gallery space. We charge zero commission for them to be on site. They’re able to sell their art. It draws in a really awesome community of very different types of people, and why not be able to sell cocktails while that’s happening? ….A reason to come back to the distillery is to see something very different, and then also try something very different when you’re there.”

The new Distillery of Modern Art is now open for business in Chamblee at 2197 Irvindale Dr. and is currently exhibiting artwork by Dexter Vines and Georges Jeanty. More information is available at https://distilleryofmodernart.com/