Cocktail Culture: Bourbon Basics to Mezcal Favorites in Dallas
For many people, the Dallas drinking scene involves two things: a beer and a shot. But the latest from Big D is a cocktail landscape that not only adds gusto to old favorites, it shakes and stirs in ways that are giving other spirit-loving cities something to talk about.
In Texas where the margarita reigns supreme, mixologist Leann Berry is royalty. Berry, a former stand-up comedian and local TV celebrity, is the renowned bar manager at Uptown's contemporary-Mexican restaurant Komali.
"I'm known for my margaritas," says Berry. "I've got some great spicy ones. But my big thing with margaritas and any drink I make is fresh ingredients."
So behind Komali's long, sleek white bar are flavors that read like a farmer's-market inventory: watermelon, mango, peppers, prickly pear, pineapple, basil, mint, and blood oranges -- and true to her name, many a colorful berry. With them she whips up drinks like the Caliente Clementine using tangerine puree and habaneros, and the Black Passion Margarita with blackberry puree and passion fruit.
Her concoctions also play well with vodka, gin, mezcal, and other spirits, each of them suited to Komali's playful-chic style. But it's tasty tequila drinks that have earned Berry the most awards, including D Magazine's "best margarita in Dallas" and "best bartender in Dallas." When she's not mixing up some of the city's best drinks, you may find Berry raising money for local charities like the local LGBT Resource Center. But most of the time you'll find her at Komali's, where you can pull up one of the comfy bar seats, have a laugh and enjoy a true master at work.
Rocking the upscale-pub vibe, Cook Hall is a cozy surprise inside the otherwise mod W Dallas - Victory. Along with impressive beer and wine lists, this atypical hotel bar stirs up specialty cocktails that suit its uncommon style. That includes the Hibiscus Flip with its namesake flower liqueur and egg white shaken with gin;
Sangria with Passion Fruit; and the Texas Hound that blends Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka with St. Germain and cranberry juice.
But this bar's real standout is the chance to play bartender with the Cook Hall Cocktail Kit. Five dollars sets you up with an old-fashioned toolkit stocked with barware and basic mixers like bitters, soda, herbs, and simple syrup. Pick your liquor for another $10 or so and get mixing. Cook Hall is proud of its house-made shrubs, so add even more zing with apricot, plum or other fruity and herbaceous liqueurs.
And thanks to the kit's notebook, you can jot down your recipe legacy, and check out what intoxicating combinations came before you. Consider it a way for you and a date to compare notes about something other than each other.
There's chic, and there's outright fancy. Towering 560 feet above downtown, the bar at Wolfgang Puck's Five Sixty is a posh place to sip away the evening like you're part of the Ewing family. The restaurant and its sexy bar are located inside the Reunion Tower, Dallas's own skyline landmark since 1978 (coincidentally, the very year "Dallas" debuted on TV).
From its revolving floor, patrons can face the panoramic view with fine cocktails in hand. Gin is big here, a good spirit to pair with Puck's zesty Asian dishes. (Don't miss the discounted happy-hour food menu.) It's also the go-to lounge for drinks made with Aperol, Campari, ginger liqueur, and other sophisticated flavors, as well as a solid selection of sake.
And in case motion may send you flying in the wrong direction, there's also a stationary, illuminated-glass bar from which to let the city's top cocktails shine.
In a thirsty city like Dallas, choosing a proper time of day to start drinking is not an issue. So head directly to Henry's Majestic in Highland Park to get your weekend mimosa fix in style. Along with hearty brunch dishes, you'll appreciate the "sparkling bar" where you can dress up your $10 choice of bubbles with a cornucopia of fresh juices, housemade cordials and seasonal fruit.
The restaurant made a splash when it opened in late 2014, with Hell's Kitchen veteran chef Roe DiLeo and barman Alex Fletcher building daring, internationally tinged food and cocktail menus that marry sharp, refreshing and sometimes sweet flavors. The smart-rustic décor makes a welcome place to imbibe indoors, on the enclosed patio, or under the bar's neon "Prescriptions" sign.
And about that brunch... if bubbles aren't your thing, maybe the Sunday Fix shot made with a freshly shucked oyster, mescal spritz, ponzu, basil and sriracha will tempt you. If not, there's always the rousing Garden Bloody Mary, made with cilantro and Fresno chili-infused vodka -- available over the counter, no prescription needed.
This story is part of our special report titled "Cocktail Culture." Want to read more? Here's the full list.