Fruity drinks don’t exactly have the best reputation with bartenders. For years, the inclusion of “fruit” in a cocktail meant pouring a pre-mixed, bottled syrup into a shaker for a mai tai or boozy lemonade or whiskey smash.The craft cocktail renaissance has meant that fresh juices are practically a requirement for a respectable cocktail, and for that we’re pretty grateful. Especially when it’s this damn hot outside.
So far, summer has been pretty mild by Texas standards. But August is looming, so you can count on wanting an alcoholic way of cooling off in the days ahead. Sidle up to the bar for one of these six sips, each as refreshing-yet-complex as the next, and maybe you won’t die of heat stroke or (worse) resort to lesser cocktails.
Hidden in the Grain, Rapscallion (above)
The newly opened Rapscallion is already generating plenty of buzz for its hot chicken and other Southern-inspired food offerings, but the cocktail menu is equally solid. Plenty of refreshing drinks are on this menu, but the Hidden in the Grain is easily the most complex and sophisticated. Alberta rye whiskey is infused with blueberries in a Cryovac, then mixed with whipped egg white, lemon and the softening influence of gomme syrup. Beautifully garnished with a skewer of plump fresh blueberries, it’s easily the most drinkable spirit-forward sip we’ve tried in ages.
Peachy Clean, Proof + Pantry
At Proof + Pantry, the fruity elements take unexpected shape. Barman Michael Martensen says the bar chooses to use fruit liqueurs instead of fresh fruit to achieve consistent flavor. The Peachy Clean may not contain any fruit, but it's just peachy enough. Mixed with sparkling water, Mathilde peach liqueur, gin, and a house-infused ginger syrup, this highball is one that you’ll make a beeline for the instant things start to get a little sweaty. Should you consume too many, those candied ginger garnishes are a great way to soothe your stomach.
The Melon Ball, Remedy
Bar manager Mate Hartai is constantly figuring out innovative ways to bring fresh seasonal fruit into his cocktails, but the assortment of seasonally specific sodas used to mix the bar’s drinks (and served virgin) is a particular standout. The Melon Ball is a much more sophisticated take on the syrupy, Midori-drenched version that's common. It's made with uber-trendy rhum agricole and Dew! soda, Remedy’s house-made honeydew soda. The end result is boozy and tart with a subtle sweetness, perfect for sipping on the patio.
Singed Passion, Yucatan Taco Stand
The combination of cinnamon and passion fruit is utterly weird, but in this take on a margarita at Yucatan Taco Stand, it works. Fresh passion fruit puree is blended with ice and Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila, which has a much less saccharine flavor than Fireball, its whiskey counterpart. Ordinarily, flavored spirits wouldn’t make it onto a list of fancy, sophisticated cocktails, but this exception is delicious.
Wildfire, The Blind Butcher
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For whatever reason, the heat makes us crave spicy. At Blind Butcher, you can balance your craving for the capsaicin that will help cool you off in the heat with the fresh sweetness of watermelon juice. The spice in the Wildfire comes from a house-made habanero oleo saccharum, and is balanced with the watermelon juice and a healthy pour of Blue Nectar tequila. The burn here is lingering — you’ll feel it long after you’ve drained your glass — but you’ll find it surprisingly satisfying.
Beet The Heat, Gemma
Beet juice is, in a word, gross. Even though thousands of beet enthusiasts would disagree, that is fundamentally true. Fortunately, you can avoid that dirt-sweet juice altogether and stick with the much more mellow flavor of beet-infused No. 209 Gin. To balance the earthiness of the beet, ginger makes an appearance in multiple places, from Domaine de Canton liqueur to the splash of fizzy ginger beer that finishes this drink off and rounds out its diverse bunch of competing flavors.