There are a lot of things that irritate me about clubs (long lines in the girls' bathroom, aggressively flirty dudes in Tapout tees), but the thing I hate the most is shitty, expensive drinks. Fourteen dollars for a poorly mixed gin and tonic made with well liquor that's guaranteed to produce a hangover in the morning? Gee, thanks.
Enter The Dram, where brothers Chris and DJ Donohoe, who worked with the dudes behind Candleroom (Dallas' longest-running nightclub located just a stone's throw away), have married a craft cocktail bar with a see-and-be-seen late night hotspot.
The interior is dark and plush, with lots of hardwood, heavy velvet drapes, tufted sofas and nailhead-trimmed chairs in shades of maroon and navy blue -- a far cry from the typical Dallas "ultra-lounge" with its painfully modern sharp edges and slick white surfaces.
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There are no poles to dance on and no Top 40 on the sound system; the night I was there, at least, the DJ dropped a relatively sophisticated selection of sexy old soul and R&B peppered with some newer deep house tracks. A majority of the ladies were actually wearing pants -- a rarity given the typical Dallas uniform of a tight minidress and stilettos. The men sported coiffed hair and least two-thirds of them were wearing vests, including the bartenders, who've traded in the fedoras for the slightly less ostentatious cabbie hats.
There's an impressive cocktail menu of 20 or so drinks divided by spirit, a smart choice to help patrons navigate the selections and find something to their liking. The L'Orange Fragola, made with strawberry-infused 42 Below vodka, Cocchi Americano, Grand Marnier, and rhubarb bitters was interesting and refreshing poured over a mountain of finely crushed ice. The bitter notes gave it a complexity not typically found in your usual run-of-the-mill fruity vodka drink.
The Rhum & Rhubbarb is a nouveau twist on the classic Hemingway Daiquiri featuring Saint James Imperial Blanc rum and those rhubarb bitters again, along with the traditional maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice. Fruity, yes, but by no means wussy -- this is a seriously strong drink that had me feeling the buzz halfway through.
As I sipped my drink I spotted a couple engaged in a full-on makeout session, serving as a reminder that I was in a nightclub and not just a fancy cocktail bar. No matter, that thin line between the two that The Dram is straddling seems to be working just fine, and lame pick-up lines are significantly less annoying when I have a delicious beverage in my hand.