To build an enviable home bar, you need to invest in quite a few supplies. You’ll need to buy all the essential spirits and mixers, plus an interesting cart or cabinet to store them. You’ll need to find some cozy seating and install dim, flattering lighting. You’ll need to memorize all the obvious recipes and build a chill playlist. And you’ll need to practice making drinks over and over again so you look cool and relaxed when your friends show up.
You could spend most of your adult life trying to capture this vibe, or you could just visit Shoals Sound & Service in Deep Ellum. This new, retro spot has the intimacy of an at-home cocktail den yet the pedigree of some of the best bartenders in town.
Shoals makes only 20 drinks, all cocktails that a competent home bartender could mix up without having to Google the recipes or make a special trip to Goody Goody. There’s the Manhattan, French 75 and cosmopolitan, for example. All drinks are $10, the glassware is nondescript and the fanciest things in the place are its reusable metal straws, a choice that's just as much about aesthetics as sustainability.
These are comfort cocktails, drinks that are reliably great no matter what decade you’re in. We touched on this topic a few weeks ago with our review of Sassetta, but there is something refreshing about bars today that stick to classic cocktails. It feels timeless yet new. When’s the last time you had a cosmopolitan?
Shoals takes liberties with a few classics, but not much. The rum and Coke is served from a nitro tap. Its briny martini comes garnished with whatever pickled vegetable is on hand that day. One day you may get a pickled Brussels sprout, another you may get a pickled green bean, or if you’re not as lucky, you may just end up with a pickled pickle.
If you’re a Dallas cocktail bar regular, you’ll notice a slew of recognizable bartender faces, both working behind the bar and taking up seats as customers. It really feels like a house party, as if the bartenders are at home, reaching into a private, well-stocked bar cabinet to serve you and their friends drinks. Now if only you didn’t have to end the night with that pesky tab.
Shoals Sound & Service, 2614 Elm St., Suite 110. Open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.