Smoke Guns and Cap'n Crunch at Four Lounge, the Cocktail Lounge for the Wizard in You
The barman procures a large glass jar from underneath the bar and pours in a few ounces of Sobieski vodka, followed by fresh-squeezed lime juice. Hickory chips are scooped from a glass jar and loaded into a hand-held smoking gun, then ignited with a small torch. Smoke fills the jar and infuses the liquor for a few moments, which is then shaken with ice, poured into a tall glass and topped off with a ginger syrup and club soda.
The Hickory-Smoked Moscow Mule: slightly spicy with a hint of campfire, it's a fun, worthwhile riff on a classic cocktail, and an excellent introduction to the dynamically original cocktail den that is Four Lounge.
If Marcel from Top Chef season 2 -- you know, the pompadoured and pompous molecular gastronomist who everyone loved to hate -- hung out in Dallas, Four Lounge would undoubtedly be his favorite haunt. The décor is vaguely Moroccan, with high-backed banquettes, beaded chandeliers, and rich tapestries. Tucked into a corner of the cozy State-Thomas neighborhood, it's roughly half the size of one of the Real Housewives' (New Jersey, not Beverly Hills) closets, but what it lacks in square footage it more than makes up for in sheer creativity. Proprietor and mixologist Keith Labonte is a cocktail wizard.
You'll want to spend some time paging through the menu, a veritable tome with some pretty off-the-wall selections. Flip past the wine and beer selections to the cocktails, where you'll find everything from martinis flavored with cupcakes and Cap'n Crunch to an applewood-smoked bacon Old Fashioned -- all made from the real thing, not the whipped cream or cotton candy-flavored vodka BS that seems to be popping up at my favorite watering holes lately. There's an entire section devoted to my favorite category, champagne drinks, including tomato-basil, mango-habanero, red bell pepper and lavender variations. The lavender here comes in the form of a housemade syrup, and lacks the cloying, Grandma-wears-too-much-damn-perfume taste I've experienced with other lavender libations.
The selection can be overwhelming, so ask the barman for a suggestion. Upon hearing of my background as a pastry chef and general love of sweets, barman-on-duty Ben snaps his fingers: "I have just the thing for you."
The Red Velvet Whoopie Pie Martini. Seriously.
It might sound like a saccharine nightmare to those of you who scoff at such banal concoctions as appletinis, but as a red velvet enthusiast, I couldn't pass it up. Ben takes a chunk of whoopie pie from local favorite Society Bakery and shakes it up with a housemade caramel cream and vodka, topping it off with a hedonistically generous portion of alcoholic whipped cream from an ISI foamer. The drink is definitely sweet but it's not a sugarbomb, and concoctions like this one make Four Lounge a perfect destination for an after-dinner drink or nightcap. But don't tell too many of your friends, otherwise there won't be anywhere for me to sit and imbibe my Cotton Candy Mojito.
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