Three years ago, my good friend Jason Kosmas, co-owner of New York’s acclaimed Employees Only and Macao Trading Co., moved to Dallas to help build up its cocktail culture. Now the city boasts a thriving bar scene and just hosted its inaugural cocktail week. Here are a few spots that I visited on my recent trip there. Cheers!
Bolsa, 614 West Davis Street, 214 367 9367:
Located in a historic building in the Bishops Arts District, Bolsa (pictured above) is a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement. The rustic venue with an open kitchen is filled with boxes of locally sourced vegetables and fruits that are used in both the dishes and drinks. Merely walking in, you feel like you are being healthy.
What to Drink: Luchador (honeydew- and fennel-infused Cruzan Rum, tarragon, ginger beer)
The Dram, 2918 North Henderson Avenue, 214 826 3726:
If you’re looking for the city’s modern speakeasy, head to The Dram. The well-designed, stylish and dimly lit cocktail boudoir is full of art, fireplaces, vintage lamps and furniture. That’s not to mention the illustrated menu with an eclectic range of concoctions, an extensive tequila selection and more than 30 Scotches.
What to Drink: Seasonal Sour (Wild Turkey Straight Rye Whiskey, orange- and vanilla-infused maple syrup, lemon juice, egg white)
The Idle Rich Pub, 2614 McKinney Avenue, 214 965 9926:
Every town needs a place for a pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson, and this Irish pub is just that. It offers more than 100 bottled beers, 32 taps and an exhaustive list of whiskies including 17 from the Emerald Isle.
What to Drink: Purple Jesus (Tito’s Handmade Vodka infused with blackberry, grapefruit, cherry)
Marquee Grill, 32 Highland Park Village, 214 522 6035:
What happens when you combine cuisine by Top Chef All-Stars competitor Tre Wilcox and a beverage program designed by Jason Kosmas? You get one of the coolest establishments in Dallas. Order an aperitif before dinner or enjoy a nice long drink with some appetizers. There’re also fortified wines, the perfect postprandial tipple.
What to Drink: Oaxaca Sour (Ilegal Mezcal, lime juice, egg white, Angostura Bitters, cinnamon, nutmeg)
Private|Social, 3232 McKinney Avenue, 214 754 4744:
You can try Top Chef contestant Tiffany Derry’s dishes at the slick and modern restaurant Private|Social, which also has drinks from popular mixologist Rocco Milano. His culinary creations feature house-made bitters, infused spirits, hand-carved ice spheres and even dehydrated spirits, such as B & B and Campari.
What to Drink: Blame it on Rio (Leblon Cachaça, lime juice, cucumber, jalapeño, agave syrup, salt)
Smoke, 901 Fort Worth Avenue, 214 393 4141:
The hip Belmont Hotel has excellent views and this great restaurant and bar, which delivers solid libations made with fresh fruits, herbs, jams and natural syrups. Wood smoke-infused spirits, including a cedar tequila and a maple Bulleit Bourbon, add an interesting twist to the elixirs and pair perfectly with the barbecue-based cuisine of award-winning chef Tim Byres.
What to Drink: Leaf & Pepper Martini (pepper-infused vodka, pink peppercorns, pickled sweet peppers, celery bitters)
The Standard Pour, 2900 McKinney Avenue, 214 935 1370:
House-made bitters, barrel-aged drinks, giant silver punch bowls and an herb garden behind the bar let you know that this joint is serious about the craft of mixology. Bartender Brian McCullough is behind the excellent The Standard Pour, and the menu is appropriately beautiful and comprehensive, with pages of punches, fizzes, mules, swizzles and so on.
What to Drink: Ruby’s Kiss (rosemary-infused gin, Pimm’s No. 1, strawberries, lemon juice, rhubarb bitters, egg white, sugar cube, rosé sparkling wine)
Tate’s, 2723 McKinney Avenue, 214 954 4141:
The North Carolina transplant opened about six months ago, and lead bartender J.W. Tate, Jr., has put together a friendly list of familiar classics like the Aviation and Papa Doble. Check out the cocktail recipes from luminaries including master mixologist and Liquor.com advisory board member Dale DeGroff and the taxidermied zebra head hanging on the wall.
What to Drink: Fig Manhattan (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, house-made fig syrup, house-made sweet vermouth, Boker’s Bitters)
Vickery Park, 2810 North Henderson Avenue, 214 827 1432:
This is the bartenders’ bar, where drink-slingers go to hang out after a shift or on their day off and have a beer. There are brews from around the world as well as Jameson on tap and a tasty burger. Even if you’re not a local, after a pint or two you’ll be a regular.
What to Drink: Beer and a Jameson Irish Whiskey
Victor Tango’s, 3001 North Henderson Avenue, 214 252 8595:
Victor Tango’s is considered Dallas’ first serious cocktail bar. Industry superstars Ryan Magarian, Chad Solomon and Christy Pope trained the staff, which now includes the talented Rich Allison. There are 10 well-chosen, fresh-fruit-driven options, along with a blackboard of tempting specials. It serves food late and plays loud music, and like everything in Texas, it’s large.
What to Drink: La Vida (mezcal, tequila, apricot liqueur, agave nectar, lime juice)
Looking for more great watering holes? Check out our bar guide for the best bars in the world.
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and director of trade outreach and brand education for Pernod Ricard USA. He is also a Liquor.com advisory board member.