The cocktail renaissance is officially no longer a fad in Dallas, and that means good things for those of us who prefer our spirits served with a little bit of fancy. You can find a cocktail that’s been labeled craft at chain restaurants and 5-star spots alike, but that also means having to wade through a sea of expensive, mediocre drinks that look really cool but don’t really taste like much of anything. Because we love you (and booze), we’ve traveled this city’s watering holes to find the best libations in town.
Most of the cocktails on this list are strictly limited-time-only, and you can expect a menu change once Dallas finally gets the memo that September means the arrival of fall. While you have the chance, sip these 10 late-summer cocktails while you pine for sweater weather and pumpkin spice lattes.
1. Midnight Rambler, Red Pegasus Reduxe (above)
If you’re like most people (us), you spend much more time chugging cheap tequila than sipping obscure aperitifs, and that’s OK. But should you find yourself in need of something a little more nuanced and elegant, the house aperitif at Midnight Rambler, called the Red Pegasus Reduxe, is an excellent choice. An educated palate will appreciate this herbal and woody combination of Suze, vermouth, Texas cedar essence and grapefruit zest, perhaps as much as they like that damn red Pegasus sign we’ve all been hearing so much about lately.
2. Proof + Pantry, Girl Crush
Now that summer is slipping away, you can finally stop drinking all those fruity, watered-down cocktails. The Girl Crush at Proof + Pantry is a smooth transition back into the warming world of spirit-forward drinks mixed with plenty of cocktail tradition. A modern riff on a pisco sour, the traditional lemon, pisco and authentic Chuncho bitters are elevated with smart modern touches — egg white, honey syrup and rouge vermouth. Sip this drink on its own, before dinner, to really appreciate this understated cocktail.
3. On Premise, Romeo Must Die
If prosecco and aperol were to get into a fight, you’d think that the aperol would win. In the Romeo Must Die at On Premise, though, the two disparately flavored ingredients sort of chill out together in a sort of Italian twist on a mimosa. Tangerine juice brightens this super sippable cocktail and ensures that you can drink enough of them to tolerate the throngs of people who have descended on Deep Ellum.
4. Henry’s Majestic, The Blessed Pearl
The odd blend of baking spice and fruity flavor is strangely addictive, and the combination of citrus, cinnamon, absinthe, cachaca and dark rum is somehow even more bizarre. The Blessed Pearl is a beautiful drink, and it manages to taste even better, the cinnamon and absinthe blending together in ways that really don’t make sense. Fortunately, this cocktail is so damn strong that you’ll feel plenty satisfied (read: tipsy) after only one or two.
Bourbon and branch water is as old school as old-school cocktails get, but creative barman Mate Hartai has put his own twist on this Southern drink. Here, house-made cream soda and freshly grated nutmeg mingle with a good pull of bourbon whiskey. This drink is certainly sweet, so it’s possible to just save it for dessert — like a legitimate grown-up would.
Aptly named, the Pink Lady is subtle sass served in an elegant glass. Apple brandy and gin are an excellent pairing, especially when mixed with lemon cordial and whipped into a froth with the help of egg whites. The tiny dried rose buds that adorn this drink add more subtlety in the form of rosy aromas and color without making this drink taste like a supermarket bouquet.
7. Armoury D.E., Mr. Pink
Recently opened in Deep Ellum, Armoury D.E. has a cocktail menu already proving to be a stand-out. The Mr. Pink is a summery cocktail mixed with absinthe, gin and fresh raspberries, but the sum of this cocktail is much more than its parts. Aside from the pretty pink color, the distinctive anise-scented finish of absinthe rounds out a drink that would otherwise be pretty damn boring.
8. Brick & Bones, Huckleberry Hound
If you’re still insisting on clinging to a summery cocktail aesthetic, you could certainly do worse than the Huckleberry Hound. The addition of Campari makes this otherwise unremarkable basil-infused strawberry-cucumber-vodka cocktail interesting and will help you digest all that fried chicken that you’re inevitably going to eat. More than that, you’ll actually want to knock back a few when it’s still 95 degrees outside at night.
9. Bowen House, Peachy Keen
When you’re sweating through your new fall wardrobe, a sophisticated cocktail will at least soften the cruel reality of late summer in Dallas, Texas. This cocktail, infused with plenty of fresh Texas summery peach, is your new happy hour mainstay, especially when you’re in need of some serious liquid refreshment.
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10, Lark On The Park, Lady Thyme
As pretty cocktails go, this is one of the prettiest. Generally, this much garnish would be fussy and annoying, but this combination of thyme and blueberries is as visually stunning as it is delicious. In this cocktail, breezy white rum is mixed with a blueberry-thyme reduction and fresh Meyer lemon in a sort of clash of the seasons, summery fruit meeting fall herbs and winter citrus. Even if you don't get that philosophical about your cocktails, this is a damn good drink.