If your idea of a good Texas cocktail starts and stops with a basic margarita, think again. Bartenders across the state are crafting specialty cocktails that taste almost magical, like a boozy potion. These drinks are shaken, stirred, muddled, and swirled to perfection, and absolutely worth the trips to taste for yourself.
If you cannot make it to these bars in person, have no fear. Many establishments were willing to share cocktail recipes to try out at home!
Lark on the Park | Dallas
Adjacent to Dallas’s centrally-located, urban, award-winning Klyde Warren Park, stands Lark on the Park. Like the park itself, the restaurant is familiar, creative, and contemporary, and the food and drinks reflect that atmosphere. Open views of downtown are abundant and rotating chalkboard renditions done by local artists add to the Arts District vibe.
“Our drinks are craft, without going too far,” said Bar Manager Jeff Trevino. “We understand our clientele and like to play off classic cocktails without being too intimidating.”
In addition to plenty of craft beers, the restaurant offers fifteen cocktails. Two-thirds of them are seasonal, while crowd favorites make the permanent list. Trevino says several things inspire cocktail creation, one of which is the barware. “I personally like to have both different spirits and different glassware represented,” he offered. “We are inspired by glassware and want people to make it their own.”Their goal is to help people feel familiar with the offerings but change them enough to add their own Lark on the Park twist. One way this is accomplished is by taking classic cocktails and flipping the liquor ratios. For example, a traditional Vesper Martini uses mostly gin with a bit of vodka; the Lark Vesper, however, flips the ratio, resulting in a vodka-based drink with a bit of gin. “It’s all trial and error,” Trevino explained. “You have to understand what flavors go together and if you work in
restaurants long enough, it becomes second nature.”
The most popular offering is the Napoleon Dynamite, which is a bourbon cocktail made with Mandarin Napoleon. “It’s a rich, boozy, amped-up cocktail and the drink would pair great with a burger or steak,” Trevino said.
Lark on the Park’s “Napolean Dynamite” Recipe
- 1 3/4 ounces Knob Creek bourbon
- 1/2 ounce Mandarin
- 1/4 ounce Cynar
- 1 dash Grapefruit bitters
Combine all ingredients and stir together. Drain into a medium rocks glass with a large ice cube to slow down the dilution process. Garnish by rubbing the rim with a grapefruit peel.
Small Victory | Austin
A block away from the loud, rowdy crowds that often occupy 6th Street in Austin sits Small Victory, with blink and- you-will-miss-it subtle signage. A glass door marked with their signature red “V” is your entrance to the dark and moody hidden bar, where you will find arguably some of the best cocktails in Austin. “I call it a time capsule because there are no windows and once you step inside the world outside kind of fades away,” said Assistant General Manager Laura Maddox.
Cocktails are certainly taken very seriously at Small Victory, thanks to a reading library created for the staff filled with cocktail guides, recipes, and bartender manuals spanning 150 years. “Before we opened, Josh Loving compiled over 600 of these recipes into a compendium for our staff,” Maddox explained. “We use the compendium and our old books and come up with a selection of drinks we think is balanced and complementary.”
Take some time to sift through reviews, and you will notice one element mentioned over and over again: the legendary clear ice. “A drink that is all liquor, such as a Manhattan or martini, if made with large-format ice, will be
next-level because the ice we use to mix it is the coldest and purest we can possibly make,” Maddox stated. In fact, the ice-cold martini may be their most popular drink, thanks to a flowchart that helps customers choose the perfect drink. “Austin is a big martini-drinking city,” Maddox said. “We consider every step in the process, the ice, the mixing glass, vodka and gin, and the highest quality water because it’s the secret ingredient in a martini that no one considers.”
Ida Claire | Dallas
Ida Claire has been a concept in the making for a long time while waiting for the perfect location, but it finally got its official start in July of 2015. “We chose the location on Belt Line [Road in Addison] as it is centrally located at a great hub between the urban areas of Dallas and the suburbs,” said Managing Partner Benjamin Woodring. “We like to think that Ida Claire is a place where anyone can come have a great dining experience regardless of age, status, or swagger.”
All food and drink at Ida Claire falls under the banner of “South of the Ordinary,” with traditional Southern bites and sips infused with a variety of ingredients and spices from all over the world. Cocktail creation falls under the direction of well-known Bar Manager Andrew Stofko. The process of adding or changing out a cocktail from the rotating menu is a lengthy one, cumulating in a blind taste test with the leadership team.
You can expect cocktails to change seasonally, with the exception of Ida Claire’s signature drink, and the only cocktail left from the original line-up, the Peachy Keane. The bourbon-based drink is inspired by Margaret D. H. Keane, the American artist who was the subject of the 2014 movie, Big Eyes.
Ida Claire’s “Peachy Keane” Recipe
- 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
- 1/2 ounce Giffard Peche de Vigne
- 1/2 ounce King’s Ginger Liqueur
- 1/2 ounce honey syrup
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- 1 egg white
- Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass and dry shake. Add ice and shake a second time.
Flora Street Cafe | Dallas
Flora Street Cafe is the newest restaurant created by legendary chef Stephan Pyles, who is known as “the founding father of Southwestern cuisine.” Chef Pyles is somewhat of a legend in the Dallas culinary scene, and with each new restaurant opening (22 over the course of his career) the bar seems to rise higher and higher. Flora Street Cafe does not disappoint.
Nestled in the vibrant Dallas Arts District, Flora Street Cafe is mere steps from the AT&T Performing Arts Center, where patrons can feast their eyes and ears on symphonies, operas, and musical theatre. Flora Street plays into their location with the theme of “food as theatre.”
“The concept of relating menu items to theatre definitely extends to our cocktail list,” said Peter Creedon, Wine Director and Sommelier. “The Capriccio evokes a sense of liveliness in both the ingredients used and the effect of imbibing the cocktails. The Encore leaves you wanting more after the first sip.”
The cocktails are on rotation and change in accordance with the weather, Creedon explained. When it is hot, Flora Street Cafe creates cocktails that are light and refreshing. In the cooler months, the cocktails are created to warm both taste buds and soul.
Hands-down, the most popular cocktail is The Flora, the namesake drink of the restaurant. It is created with a shaken mixture of Junipero Gin, lemon verbena, house-made elderflower liqueur, Crème de Violette, and lavender bitters. “The predominant juniper flavor is crisp and clean on the tongue, with a mysterious spiciness that you can’t quite grasp,” Creedon said. “Citrus elements, coriander, and licorice aromas complement the traditional gin flavors. It’s delightful.”
Swift’s Attic | Austin
Swift’s Attic is situated on Congress Avenue in Austin in the 110-year-old building that served as a muse for owner Stuart Thomajan. “I heard space was available . . . and fell in love with its great bones,” Thomajan described. “It seems like it’s hiding in plain sight. It feels like a secret, and it’s private, but it is right on Congress Avenue at the same time.”
While the great location may be what draws people to Swift’s Attic initially, it is the atmosphere that keeps people coming back for more. “The vibe at Swift’s is high energy,” said Beverage Director Jeff Hammett. “The music and staff intertwined with the guests create the controlled chaos that makes it so much fun.”
Swift’s Attic is known for a changing menu that makes for a fresh, new experience each and every time. “Our food is not beholden to any one style,” Thomajan said. “We draw influence from all types of food, from all over the world.” Hammett agreed, “It’s an eclectic mix that moves up and down the spectrum of one’s palate.”
While the menu may change, there is one drink that has stood the test of time, that Hammett considers their most popular: the Ice Ball Oldie. “It’s an Old Fashioned that has essentially been frozen,” he said. “The taste changes as it melts.”
Swift’s Attic’s “Ice Ball Oldie” Recipe
- 1 ounce Cherry Heering
- 1/2 ounce orange juice
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2 ounces water
- 1 orange peel
- 1 lemon peel
- 1 Luxardo cherry
- Woodford Reserve Rye to taste
Freeze ingredients in an ice mold along with an orange peel, a lemon peel, and a Luxardo cherry. Once frozen, place in a 12-ounce rocks glass with Woodford Reserve Rye.