The renaissance of craft cocktails has meant some really wonderful things for those of us who enjoy fancy dranks. Infusions, foams and modern mixology techniques are all over bar menus across Dallas, bringing to an end an era of sickeningly-sweet "martinis" and boring "trendy" cocktails that never seemed to be as good as they looked.
Dallas drinkers have (finally) raised their standards, which indicates that this trend is here to stay. The proliferation of excellent cocktail bars across Dallas is one of the most encouraging things to happen in the drinking scene in a long time, but not nearly as exciting as the delicious combinations that are coming from a newly-invigorated crop of expert mixologists. If you needed a New Year's resolution, let it be to drink all 10 of this year's most impressive cocktails.
I'm Rich, Proof & Pantry I have annoyed more people with gushy descriptions of this cocktail than I can count. Michael Martensen's take on a fancy-pants daiquiri is easily one of the best cocktails of the year, due largely to the housemade ingredients that compose it. Aged white rum mixed with housemade grenadine and lime curd is snappy sweet without being saccharine, and best of all, it's strong. At $11, it's also a bargain in this new world of craft cocktails.
Seasonal Smash, The Blind Butcher (above) Everything at The Blind Butcher is constantly changing, and the cocktails are no exception. This summer's version of the seasonal smash has been updated, but is equally delicious. Grey Goose Cherry Noir has replaced the Grey Goose Le Melon the cocktail was made with previously, but the ginger beer, fresh lemon juice, and Luxardo cherry are all still the same. We'll bet if you're sweet to the bartender, he'll swap out the Cherry Noir for the melon vodka and you can pretend that it's summer all over again.
Ramos Gin Fizz, Parliament
With Parliament, Eddie "Lucky" Campbell has created a white-hot cocktail bar that is as creative as it is classy. The Ramos Gin Fizz is a traditional New Orleans cocktail, made with egg whites and meticulously shaken by a barman until it has been whipped into a a slightly phallic adult milkshake. The resulting product is a creamy, dreamy orange blossom-spiked cocktail that is entirely irresistable. Be sure to swing by soon -- Parliament has added a #PSL (pumpkin spice latte, for all you non-basic bitches) that is equally as good as its namesake.
Mossie Sanchez, Barter Draft cocktails were a hot trend in 2014, and Rocco Milano at Barter makes the city's best. The Mossie Sanchez is served on draught, and is a quirky fusion of Irish and Latin American flavors. It's made with Tellamore D.E.W. and Irish breakfast tea, and Ancho Reyes chili liqueur adds a delicious bite of spice, resulting in a sip that even avowed whiskey haters (like myself) can appreciate.
The Banksy, Parliament If it seems redundant to have two gin cocktails from Parliament on a Best Of list, it's only because you haven't been to this damn bar. The Banksy is the epitome of a fancy cocktail, with its sturdy egg-white foam topping a nuanced mixture of house-infused citrus gin, allspice, and blackberries. In homage to its namesake, a wee Parliament logo is spray painted into the top, making the cocktail into a very impermanent piece of art that you won't feel bad about consuming.
Pho-King Champ, Midnight Rambler I know. I KNOW. Soup and cocktails are a weird combination, but I'll be damned if the geniuses at Midnight Rambler didn't make it happen in a delicious way. Rich and meaty beef stock aromatized with traditional pho spices is delicious on its own, and a shot of vodka certainly doesn't make it any worse. This is one of those drinks that you have to order if only to demonstrate that you're the kind of badass that isn't afraid to drink weird shit sometimes.
The Final Say, FT33 As one of the city's most forward-thinking restaurants, FT33 jumped onto the barrel-aged cocktail trend earlier this year. Barrel-aged drinks have since been cropping up across Dallas, but the best is FT33's The Final Say. A cheeky play on the Prohibition-era cocktail The Last Word, this drink is mixed with a barrel-aged Ford's gin, velvet falernum, and barrel-aged green Chartreuse. Beware, though -- one or two will do you. These cocktails are all booze, and will have you drunk in short order.
Art of War, Victor Tangos
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Maybe 2014 is the year of the weird cocktail ingredient. Former Victor Tangos bartender Alex Fletcher crafted the gin-and-cucumber based Art of War with a touch of savory miso. This pairing is easily one of the most interesting of the year but is still entirely drinkable. Even though Fletcher has now moved on to Henry's Majestic, the cocktail has endured on the Victor Tangos menu, and for good reason.
The Jack Rose, AF+B
Necessity (read: terrible tasting booze) made Prohibition-era cocktails delicious. The applejack-based Jack Rose first became popular with drinkers in 1920s speakeasies, but it feels equally relevant on a hip cocktail menu in Fort Worth in 2014. Pomegranate grenadine and a squeeze of lime juice are simple accoutrements that allow the classic apple brandy flavor to shine.
Summer In London, The Cedars Social I'll admit, I'm a sucker for gin and cucumbers, no matter how played out this combination may be on bar menus. In the heat of the Dallas summer, there is no combination more refreshing, which makes the Summer In London one of those drinks that you can have all afternoon long until you realize that you're probably going to need to get a cab home. It may be chilly now, but you won't be wanting those heavy and complicated whiskey drinks when summer rolls back around.