Texas Treasure Hunt

Finding a drink on the road is like a treasure hunt. Start with at least one solid clue, and tracking cocktails becomes a happy game.

It certainly was for us last weekend down in Fort Worth, where we went to cheer on K-State in the Cotton Bowl. One message on Facebook yielded several clues from Ceci Norman (a cocktail muse and communications manager for the Tequila Interchange Project). She put us onto the Windmill Lounge, Marquee Grill and Veritas Wine Room in Dallas and Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar in Plano. Leigh Elmore, one of KC’s best writers and editors, suggested the Rattlesnake Bar in Fearings Restaurant, also in the Big D.

But here’s the thing. We were staying in Fort Worth, and it’s a long way from there to Dallas when you’re on a tight schedule. So, we picked the place with the shortest drive time from our hotel—The Cedars Social, a self-described cocktail den. Freelance media producer Brandon Cummins recommended the place; that boy knows a good drink, so I figured it was worth the gas. It was.

Since I didn't take many decent photos of my own, I snagged this one of The Cedars Social's Mike Martensen off The Dallas Morning News site.

The unprepossessing low, brick building opens into what’s been described as a groovy, swanky, 1960s bachelor hangout, maybe because of the indoor and outdoor fire pits, library cave, funky pendant lights and laminate chairs. We didn’t spend much time on the decor, though—we just headed for the bar.

Where we quickly grew sad. The four-page cocktail menu started off with a long list of punches, all of which looked amazing, and all of which are big bowls meant to serve 5 or 6 people. Another time, we promised ourselves. From there, where, though? We still had three pages to sift through.

I finally went with what barman/proprietor Mike Martensen recommended: the Wicked Garden, a sweetly tart, perfectly balanced drink made with Drambuie 15, honey-sage syrup, Rio Star grapefruit juice and Angostura bitters. The husband ordered Smoke Forbids—Siembre Azul reposado, Dolin sweet vermouth, celery bitters and agave stirred with applewood smoked ice.

But Martensen’s best advice? Where to go once back in Fort Worth. There may be a cocktail renaissance in Dallas, but it’s been slow to migrate across 35W, so we were happy for this next clue.

After dinner with friends at Grace (which Martenson says turns out top-notch drinks, although circumstances led us to drink beer and wine there), we headed to The Usual.

The neighborhood was quiet when we arrived shortly after 10p, and the plain red brick entry impassive. Then we opened the door to a full-fledged cocktail frenzy with four bartenders shaking and double-straining like crazy. Twenty-somethings crowded the bar, ordering Old Fashioneds, “whiskey drinks that taste good” (an actual overheard order) and Imperial, my favorite Costa Rican beer.

Still, we quickly found seats and ordered a Last Word (even sharing a taste with the guy next to us) and a Martinez, made with Ransom Old Tom gin. That seemed to please my bartender, given that a stylish young Texan had just returned one, apologizing repeatedly because it just wasn’t her thang.

No worries, the bartender said, and then he made her something light and citrusy. Folks in D/FW are clearly jazzed about good cocktails, and The Usual is happy to educate them with its menu full of classics, co-owner Juan Solis told me. I was just happy to find another good drink and can’t wait for our next trip down so we can continue hunting for treasure.

Recipe Note: I didn’t ask Mike Martensen for any of his cocktail recipes, but spirits writer Kara Newman did when writing about the Dallas drinks scene for Reuters. Here’s one from her article for a tequila sour called Tequila Por Mi Amante: combine 2 ounces Don Julio silver tequila infused with fresh strawberries, ½ ounce lemon juice and ½ ounce simple syrup or cane syrup in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with club soda.

~ by fooddrinklife on January 9, 2012.

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