Settle Up is a column that critiques cocktail bars with the same gravitas that food critics apply to restaurants, exploring Dallas cocktail concepts, menus, execution and service and steering discerning imbibers toward all the booze that’s fit to drink.
There is a time and place for everything. If it’s 2 a.m. and you’re craving fries, you go to McDonald’s. And if it’s 4 p.m. on a Thursday and you would kill for a pitcher of mimosas, then your place is Stirr. Stirr is one of the newest bar-and-restaurant additions to Deep Ellum, an industrial Americana concept from the same minds that brought us the Japanese-Peruvian spot Nikkei. It is open from morning to morning and serves brunch drink staples like mimosas and attractive large-format cocktails like giant Moscow mules ($150) around the clock.
There are two stories: the downstairs dining room and the roof deck, which has big couches, a pretty black-and-white tiled bar and a serviceable view of the downtown skyline. The roof deck is the real draw of the place, so head directly there if you are visiting. You have to walk up three flights of stairs to get there, though. The servers do, too, while carrying plates of food. There isn’t an elevator. In addition to the tipsy people I worry will break their ankles trying to get back down to street level at the end of the night, there are also the many people with disabilities who cannot make that climb and will never get to experience the view.
Other than that sad oversight, the environment is nonthreatening. There are Pinterest quotes painted on the stairs (“Live Simply/Dream Big/Be Grateful/Give Love/Laugh Lots” and tuna poke tacos on the food menu. It’s the kind of trendy, safe space tucked into a gritty neighborhood that your parents and coworkers from Plano would love. You’re probably not going to be impressed, though.
The drinks are fruity, sweet and not challenging. If you’re in the mood for that, they’re fine. The best option is the Yes Way Frosé ($9, available only upstairs), a frozen blend of rosé wine with elderflower liqueur and strawberries. It has a tart, almost sour beer aftertaste to it. I was also a fan of the Rosé Rita ($38 as large format), which is exactly what it sounds like: a margarita mixed with rosé wine. What’s not to like? After a few sips, I giddily declared the Rosé Rita the Official Drink of Summer 2017™.
There’s nothing to get mad about here, primarily because the drinks are so inoffensive. Some incorporate exciting spirits like Yellow Chartreuse but then bury them under sweet syrups and an endless fountain of berry purée. They don’t want to scare anyone.
Take the pineapple mojito ($13), for example. You probably like drinking mojitos because they are so rugged: Mint is muddled in the bottom of the glass and then soaked in rum. As you drink, chunks of mint swirl around and enliven the whole experience. But at Stirr, rogue herbs are a terrifying proposition. Before serving, they’re all strained out. Stirr’s pineapple mojito is also made with coconut rum, which kills the pineapple flavor.
The same is true for The Stinger ($13), which is made with mezcal and serrano peppers. If serrano peppers are on the ingredient list, your drink better be spicy. Instead, the peppers are strained out before imparting any real heat into the drink. It’s more of a light poke than a sting. On an aside, a stinger is a classic cocktail made with cognac and crème de menthe. Neither of those ingredients is in the Stirr version, so it is perplexing why the bar couldn’t come up with a different name.
Another drink’s name is also confusing. Called A Girl From Dallas ($10), this cocktail is a blend of strawberry purée and Lillet Blanc, a really nice, subtle aperitif wine. Of course the drink is not subtle. It includes about a quart’s worth of strawberries and a shot of the wine in a tumbler. It may as well have been made with unflavored vodka instead of an interesting spirit like Lillet, which is so easily overpowered. I have no idea what this drink has to do with girls from Dallas.
The bartenders were also unable to make it for me on one visit because they said they were out of strawberry purée. But there were a ton of strawberries sitting on the counter, waiting to be used as garnishes. They should have been able to squish a couple of them together to make the drink.
When we covered the opening of Stirr in October, A Girl From Dallas was a much different drink: The strawberry purée was frozen into an ice cube and used to chill a wine glass filled with Lillet. It was garnished with some mint leaves and lemon peels. It looked pretty and probably tasted great, too. As a girl from Dallas, I would have liked to drink that. But the bar completely changed the cocktail since then. It now looks sloppy and is ridiculously thick, like a drink you could order at a chain restaurant. Maybe the original version was too experimental for Stirr’s customers. If that’s the case, it should rename the current version “A Girl From The Suburbs.”
Stirr, 2803 Main St., Suite 110. Open 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday.
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