Fact: The only ice and salt Texas is familiar with comes in a margarita. Last week’s winter blast — with its sub-zero temperatures, days-long power outages, boil water notices, and treacherous roads (all on top of an ongoing pandemic) — has put stress levels in surge mode. We all deserve a stiff drink.
Perfect timing, then, that bars in Tarrant County have been officially cleared to reopen, as COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped. Here are the five best bars to belly up to for a strong cocktail to take the edge off. (Don't forget: Wear your mask, avoid groups, keep on social distancing, sit outside whenever you can, and get vaccinated when it's your turn.)
Touted first as the first mid-sized music venue the city has seen since the Caravan of Dreams, Tulips is also becoming one of Fort Worth’s favorite neighborhood bars. Opened in November and located in the space formerly occupied by Collective Brewing Project at 112 St. Louis Ave., the spacious addition to the Near Southside — which can accommodate up to 600 — has hosted more intimate acoustic shows thus far thanks to the pandemic. But patrons don’t need a ticket most days to partake in cocktails like the Black Manhattan, the mezcal-based Ocaso, or the caffeinated and bourbon-infused Panther Trap. There’s also a “Texas Kosher” deli menu and lengthy coffee menu. Note that Tulips opens earlier than most bars — at 11 am Monday through Friday and at 8 am Saturday and Sunday. Also, good on them for opening as a warming station and distribution point for free firewood during the frigid temps last week.
Known for concocting some of the craftiest libations for the most discriminating customers in town, Proper on Magnolia Avenue calls itself the “contemporary cocktail habitat.” Shake off the chill from the recent winter storm with Hot Buttered Guns (a blend of Barbados and Jamaican rums, Scotch whiskey liqueur, cinnamon and butter); Irish coffee with pear-spiced cream; or classic whiskey-spiked hot toddy. Or try something adventurous from Proper’s brand new cocktail menu, like the New York Sour made with Old Forester 100 and pinot noir; or Smoke in the Air with rye whiskey and fruit wood smoke. There’s also a quaint patio ideal for those 60-degree days ahead.
Nickel City Fort Worth
On the first day temperatures scooted above freezing after Texas’ days-long winter blast, this South Main Street bar toasted patrons with highballs all around, with the first on the house. With its beloved original location based in Austin, Nickel City has drawn crowds since opening in Fort Worth in October. Vintage alcohol signs, pinball machines, mustard-yellow booth seating, and a century-old, triple archway bar adorned with carved lions’ heads are among the visually captivating highlights here. While frozen drinks like the Frozen Irish Coffee and Frozen Strawberry Negroni are most popular, go for one of the old-school whiskey-and-beer combo boilermakers, sure to heat things up.
Still somewhat under the radar, this TCU-area bar and patio opened quietly in December at 2836 Stanley Ave. It’s named for a factory smokestack that burned down in 1948, and the cocktail lounge was built with its bricks. Patrons will find multiple areas to navigate and settle in: the outdoor patio with picnic tables and open turf space, and two spacious cocktail bars. A permanent food trailer called 817 Pizza serves rectangular thick-crusted pies. As for the stiff drinks, try the Penicillin, made with scotch, honey, ginger and lemon; or the piquant Poblano Verde Margarita. Note that this bar closes up shop early at 10 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 8 pm on Sunday.
Fort Worth’s best skyline views come from…a Springhill Suites by Marriot? Yes. Tim Love’s rooftop tapas bar, Atico, sits atop this location of the chain hotel in the Fort Worth Stockyards, which provides an expansive panorama of the city’s center and is a go-to for pre- or post-dinner drinks. Grab a cushioned high-back barstool and settle in; it’s easy to sit and stay awhile. Try the signature Aigua de Valencia made with vodka, orange juice, and Cointreau and topped with bubbly cava. The bright and cheery concoction reminds us that there’s always reason to celebrate, including that winter is almost over.