Thursday, July 23, 2009
Fruitiest of the fruity cocktails in Dallas-Fort Worth
Not the kind with little umbrellas on their rim.
Editor's note: This continues our series of stories on summertime sips and specials. Up next: Sangria.
To qualify: The best fruity cocktails in Dallas-Fort Worth do not have little umbrellas on their rim.
We're talking seriously fruity, as in made with real fruit: cherries, for example, and not cherry-flavored bourbon.
They're created by "mixologists," that new category of Food&Bev professional that replaces the old-school bartender, says Charlie Papaceno, the bartend-- er, mixologist at Windmill Lounge.
"Most of the places doing these drinks have a kitchen behind them, so they can do the fresh juices," he says. "You're using that stuff in the kitchen anyway so you have it on hand. If you don't have a kitchen, then you're one of the places that has the rare commitment to make all that stuff fresh."
You don't drink these drinks to get hammered. You savor them like food. That's reflected in the price: usually somewhere between $8 and $10.
Aside from their amazing flavor, the best thing about this wave of fruity cocktails is that you can feel virtuous. Proud of yourself, because you are, after all, consuming fresh fruit and vegetables. It's like health food, see? It just happens to have alcohol, too.
In no particular order:
1. Easy Grand at The Porch. The Porch was first, hiring a consulting mixologist to create its menu of fruit-intensive drinks. They've galvanized the local drinking scene, with their impact seen most directly at sibling Victor Tango's and at second cousin Neighborhood Services. The Easy Grand is typical Porch with its combination of brand name spirits -- Grand Marnier, Ten Cane rum -- and fruit, including mashed blackberry, strawberry, and lemon.
2. Pepper Smash Victor Tango's: Red pepper and mint are muddled together, then splashed with Aviation New Western dry gin -- whose "botanicals mix well with the vegetables," says manager Greg Katz -- lemon juice, and clover honey syrup. Oooh, clover honey. Garnished with red pepper and mint. Of all the fruity drinks, this has the best guy appeal.
3. Southern Heat at Central 214: They muddle fresh cucumber, jalapeno, and lime. The booze is Milagro tequila and cointreau. Love the contrast of the cool cuke offset by the sneaky heat of fresh chiles.
4. Pop's Martini "Salad" at Neighborhood Services: That "salad" in quotes is no joke. Ketel One vodka comes with pickled asparagus & green beans, green tomato, and an olive stuffed with blue cheese. With all those veggies, you can skip right over the real salad and head straight for the entree.
5. Fresh Frozen Mojito at Lazare. Bar manager Jason Quiroga first created this stellar drink while working at the original Republic on Hall and McKinney. He purees mint, lime, organic sugar cane, and Bacardi rum then puts it through a margarita machine so it comes out icy cold. Looks like your typical frozen drink but its puckery-fresh flavor is anything but.
6. Basil Grapefruit Smash at Windmill Lounge: Terms like "smash" and "muddle" were coined in the 1890s, says Windmill mixologist Charlie Papaceno. His drink has lemon and orange slices, bitters and basil, grapefruit vodka, and club soda. For the finish, he takes a basil leaf and slaps it in his palm "really hard so it breaks up the aromatic oils," he says. Poor little basil leaf.
7. Boss Hog at Bolsa: Wins prize for drink that's "most like an actual smoothie." Mount Gay Special Reserve rum is combined with a puree of fresh banana and blackberries. The texture is thicker than the typical bar drink and the blackberries give it a distinctive purple color. Almost too much of a good thing? Nah.
8. Prickly pear margarita at Glass Cactus. A few local bars and restaurants do prickly-pear drinks, but the quality and provenance at Glass Cactus is special. Its thick, creamy texture starts out smoothie-like, but melts quickly to become a luscious cold sip. History: This is the same prickly pear margarita once served at Star Canyon, then at Taqueria Canonita (taken over by Mi Cocina, though you can find the last remaining Taqueria Canonita at the Venetian in Las Vegas) -- and now at the Gaylord. The common theme being Stephan Pyles, who consulted on F&B for the Gaylord.