Being at Trinity Groves in the middle of the afternoon is a bit surreal. This “restaurant amusement park” is desolate at 3 p.m., when most of the restaurants are closed between lunch and dinner. We’re a long way away from the vibrant neighborhood that the city and developers have promised, but you can, at least, still grab a cocktail at Chino Chinatown.
The cocktail menu here is maybe a little pedestrian, missing some of the flair and exuberance of its better counterparts across the city. But, because it is summer, and 3 in the afternoon, beggars cannot be choosers. All those bartenders at the fancy spots haven’t made it to work yet, still tired from whipping all those egg whites and making 16 different kinds of tincture. This menu may not have any chinachina or 13-element cocktails, but the odd names spawned by the craft cocktail trend have made their way to Chino Chinatown.
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After debating over the “Zen Phizz,” “Beg, Steal or Borrow,” or “The Good, The Bad, The Weird” for an unreasonable amount of time, I settle on the latter, largely because it involves tequila and pu-erh tea. For whatever reason, tea is not a particularly popular component on cocktail menus, at least in Dallas, and that is unfortunate. There are so many incredible flavors that different types of tea could lend to a cocktail, and anything with antioxidants is probably good for people who drink too much.
This cocktail is aptly named, at least in two respects. It is weird. In trying to describe its odd, earthy and sweet flavor, all I can come up with is “sort of like a margarita." The pu-erh adds an interesting if subtle flavor, but it could certainly use more of that syrup. Lime juice and soda water round out the already-smooth Milagro tequila. This is a weird cocktail, but it is also very, very good. If anything, a little less sweetness would allow the pu-erh and tequila to compete a little more.
The “weird” ultimately doesn’t come from the pu-erh, but from a teensy splash of aguardiente. This anise-flavored liqueur’s name roughly translates to “firewater,” a catchall used to describe all kinds of mid-proof hooch in Colombia. Aguardiente is generally served neat, never in cocktails, which seems like a huge misstep. After detecting a little hint of anise in the drink, I ask the bartender to pour a taste. Stupidly, I decide to shoot it all at once and it tastes as though I've taken an entire box of Good n’ Plentys straight to the dome. It is very, very bad.
But when it all comes together — the good, the bad, the weird — the result is better than the sum of its parts. Anise, pu-erh, tequila and lime are odd bedfellows, but they work together remarkably well. It's sort of a metaphor for Trinity Groves: The disparate elements don't seem like they will mix well, but the result is pretty darn smooth.