Cocktails of Fort Worth
Just as some of us have backed away from plain ol' Miller Lite for the deeper complexities of a craft beer, those who indulge in cocktails are turning up their noses at wells for drinks with more thought and pizzazz.
Fort Worth's burgeoning craft cocktail scene mirrors what's happening in other cities, with new cocktail-themed bars opening and cocktail lists proliferating at bars and restaurants.
Think of these drinks as gourmet meals in a glass. They're made from premium liquors and fresh ingredients, often by a mixologist, a bartender whose specialty is concocting drinkable art. You'll need time and money to appreciate them, as they often take a while to make and are priced higher than terrestrial drinks.
Here are the five best places in Fort Worth to savor such a drink:
La Perla Negra
Three major players in Fort Worth's food scene — Ramiro Ramirez of Salsa Limon, Andrew De La Torre of recently departed Embargo, and Imrah Khan of Black Rooster Bakery — came together to open this Latin-inspired downtown restaurant and lounge.
In addition to margaritas made with small-batch tequilas, La Perla offers a small selection of craft cocktails. Most opt for the La Perla, a mix of grapefruit soda, the French elderflower-flavored St. Germain liqueur, El Jimador tequila, and freshly squeezed lime juice. It's a nice, refreshing drink, good for the tail end of summer.
This small, cozy neighborhood bar on the Near Southside, opened last year by Fort Worthian Lisa Little Adams, features an impressive list of craft cocktails, many of which are seasonal. Right now, the bar's in-drink is the Sweet Baby Hayes, crafted with Adams' own cherry-pecan infusion of Old Overholt, a renowned American straight rye whiskey.
Served over a single large ice cube, with an orange peel twist, it's slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and purely unique, just as a good craft cocktail should be.
Maybe the best kept bar secret in Fort Worth, the T&P Tavern is housed in a repurposed 1930s diner that was once a part of Texas & Pacific Railway Station. Many of the original fixtures remain, including art deco chandeliers and metal, red-cushioned bar stools.
In addition to the inside diner, there's a 5,000-square-foot patio populated by nearby residents of Texas & Pacific Lofts, passengers on the Trinity Railway Express (whose station is next door), and in-the-know bar-hoppers who've tried to keep this place to themselves.
Drinks lean heavily on the martini side, with more than a dozen available. There's a handful of craft cocktails, with more to come, says manager Brad Cinalli. For now, a good option is the Texan, a gin-based drink, served in a Mason jar, made with Dripping Spring gin, St. Germain, ginger ale, lime juice, and muddled cucumber. But hey, don't tell anybody about this place.
Newly opened downtown, in a historic two-story building once occupied by the much-missed bookstore of the same name, Thompson's is the city's newest craft cocktail lounge. It has a cool, speakeasy component: A secret entrance leads to a separate basement bar where you need a password to get in.
Outlined in warm woods and shelves full of books, and outfitted with antique-style furniture, Thompson's offers a quiet, sit-and-sip atmosphere. It's the ideal setting for nursing the bar's signature cocktail, the Grapes of Wrath. This is a unique drink that blends Chateau St. Michelle Syrah red wine, egg white, house-made simple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and TX Whiskey, distilled in Fort Worth at a pre-Prohibition warehouse.
Mixology pioneer The Usual opened in 2009 as Fort Worth's first craft cocktail bar. Against an attractively designed, rustic-mod backdrop, bartenders spend copious amounts of time developing new drinks and tweaking classics based on Prohibition-era recipes.
The house favorite is the old fashioned, an unmercifully strong ode to the classic drink, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, simple syrup, and both Angostura and orange bitters.