Sometimes you just really need to get drunk on fancy cocktails in the middle of the day. (And by "you," I mean me, of course.)
Lots of places don't open until 5 or later, though, or they close during that late afternoon lull between lunch and dinner service; often, if they do stay open during that time, you're forced to endure annoyed staff polishing glassware and cursing your presence during their much relished break time.
Bolsa, on the other hand, was still relatively lively at 3:45 on Thursday afternoon. Late lunchers lingered over flatbreads and salads, while a handful of day drinkers occupied the bar (we spotted Chef DAT and his newsboy hat-sporting crew sipping cocktails across the way).
Eager to escape the artificial Arctic chill of air conditioning, we bellied up to the bar via the tall benches on the patio. he indoor-outdoor bar makes Bolsa's patio the perfect place to be outside without really being outside, if you know what I mean. It's not just covered but also screened in, meaning that you reap all the benefits of being outside (the breeze! The fresh air!) without all the annoying stuff (oppressively glaring mid-day sunshine, mosquitoes, that agonizing wait for a server to deliver your drink from the bar).
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A quick perusal through the cocktail menu and the Johnny Appletree caught my eye: Pisco Porton, muddled apple and cucumber, and green apple-ginger kombucha. Kombucha with booze? Yes, please. A fermented Chinese tea, kombucha's supposed health benefits attract many a health-conscious Whole Foods shopper, but I just drink it because it tastes good. Bolsa's got Holy Kombucha brand on tap; while the ginger element played nicely with the apple and cucumber, the funky fermented tang of the tea I love so dearly was lost in the flavor shuffle. The Pisco Porton, on the other hand, came through loud and clear.
Let's talk about Pisco for a moment. Lately it's earning its place as one of my favorite liquors. The clear grape brandy hailing from Peru has a distinctive flavor, more intriguing to the palate than vodka but less assertive than tequila. I'd place it somewhere in the realm of gin on the flavor intensity scale. It's fruity, but crisp and clean (remember, it's basically fortified wine) and plays well with a diverse range of ingredients, making it the perfect spirit to star in a variety of warm-weather libations. Those Peruvians know what's up. (Except for that whole guinea-pigs-as-food thing. That's just weird.)
The bartender intuitively sensed my love for gin and mixed me a Lady's Man next- New Amsterdam gin, St. Germain, muddled grapes, and orange bitters. Bolsa is another great example of a place that's using St. Germain properly--in this case, as a supporting actress to the gin's leading lady. The citrus notes of New Amsterdam combined with the slight elderflower sweetness made a light, sippable refreshment that didn't taste nearly as feminine as it looked. The pale pink elixir looked lonely in its tall martini glass, though; it was in dire need of some eye candy. A single plump grape skewered on a toothpick would make this drink look as good as it tastes.
Bolsa does a service to the premium spirits they use by not drowning out the flavors with too many strong ingredients, and allowing the true nature of the liquors to shine through. Their almost unbelievably good happy hour (11am to 6 p.m. weekdays) is not to be missed -- all cocktails $10 and under can be had for a mere five bucks. I'll be back to try the Luchador (honeydew and fennel-infused rum, tarragon and ginger beer), and to enjoy our lovely Texas summer while keeping the weather at arm's length.