A Peek at Midnight Rambler’s Woodsy Winter Cocktail Menu

Midnight Rambler is one of the best (if not the best) places to spend all your cash on excellent cocktails in Dallas. The bar program Chad Solomon and Christy Pope have cultivated is sophisticated, interesting and constantly changing. The drink you liked from Midnight Rambler six months ago probably isn’t on the menu anymore, thanks to frequent adjustments that occur throughout the year, not just according to seasons. 

Still, cooler weather stirs cravings for the comforts of fall flavors — baking spice and bourbons, winter citrus and higher-proof spirits to cut the chill — and Midnight Rambler is ready to bring some wintry elements to its cocktail menu. We got a peek at Midnight Rambler’s newest cocktails, which will debut at the restaurant Monday, and they’re going to be perfect for all your holiday drinking.

All of Midnight Rambler’s cocktails come with a story, one much deeper than the usual bartender lore. This focus on cocktails as part of the broader culture is evident in the Bobby Keys, a riff on the classic libation made with single-malt scotch. Instead of scotch, Solomon has chosen Balcones’ award-winning single malt, and what a brilliant substitution it is.

A saline tincture made with Crazy Water from Mineral Wells adds a dose of minerality — a terroir, honestly — and rounds out the blend of scotch, smoked Punt e Mes and herbaceous Varnelli Amaro Dell’Erborista. The resulting cocktail is like a comforting fireplace all up in your mouth. The smoke here is gentle without being overwhelmed by the botanicals in the amaro and vermouth, and will certainly warm your chilled bones when the real winter weather makes an appearance.

Equally delicate is the Pinetop Perker, a cheekily named cocktail also inspired by a legendary bluesman with a powerful dose of pine on the nose. The idea, Solomon says, is to create a sort of woodsy “aromatic garnish,” a feast for the nose instead of the eyes. The cocktail is actually a creative, intricately layered take on an egg sour, a cocktail that you’ll almost always find some iteration of at Midnight Rambler.

Bols genever is mixed with a touch of pine (yes, like the tree) liqueur, which isn’t quite as pine-y as you might think. The result isn't Pine-Sol or your grandmother’s Christmas candle, but an echo of the scent from the middle of an alpine forest. Solomon has engineered  a blend of cedar, vetiver, juniper and bergamot produced in the same method as natural perfumery. It's spritzed over the top as that “aromatic garnish.” On first sip, the woodsy aroma is evident, but the taste is much more subtle. What you taste isn’t going to be what you smell — and that’s a good thing.

For a truly sophisticated libation that still continues with that woodsy flavor profile, reach for the Velvet Goldmine. Solomon calls this cocktail a “diorama of birch and fir,” and its star is a pricey Icelandic liqueur called “Björk.” It is not, in fact, the distilled essence of the Icelandic pop star, but of birch wood, which is what “Björk” means in Icelandic. The liqueur has a “less jazz hands” (aka lighter) version of wintergreen flavor, with notes of wood and honey. Cremant de Bourgogne, a light and bubbly rosé, two different kinds of vermouth and a tiny amount of demerara sugar add balance and body, and a splash of Douglas fir eau de vie from Oregon rounds out the drink.

The Velvet Goldmine is a simple-looking cocktail with an incredible amount of nuance. Light flavors of pear, birch and fir are as complicated as they are subtle.  Solomon says he mixed the drink to look like an innocent, average glass of rosé, and it is anything but.

These cocktails, along with several other new additions to the Midnight Rambler menu, will debut after all that Thanksgiving hustle and bustle. Once you’ve had time to properly process (get blackout drunk and try to forget) all those awkward conversations with your relatives, head to Midnight Rambler for a few sophisticated drinks that might just change your mind on the drinkability of trees. 

Midnight Rambler is in the Joule hotel, 1530 Main St.

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