Being from Austin, I was over the moon to have the chance to check out one of their newer bars, Whisler’s. Located in ever-growing East Austin, Whisler’s feels like it’s been there forever. The small indoor bar is perfect for small talk with your more than qualified bartender and the outdoor patio would be ideal for you and your group to sip all night. Whisler’s specializes in cocktails that are creations of their very own staff and I was lucky enough to have GM, Cesar Aguilar, concoct some of their latest drinks for me.
Aguilar truly believes that he and his staff are never done learning and innovating when it comes to their cocktails. They create the menu by having the bartenders create their own cocktails and submit them to be on the seasonal menu. I had the pleasure of trying the fall menu of winners.
The first drink I tried was the simple and light Eastside Queen (vodka, lemon, and cranberry-rosemary syrup). If you like vodka (and I do!) then this is the perfect cocktail. Needless to say, this was something I would order a couple of in an evening.
Next I tried the Pink Lady (gin, apple brandy, lemon, honey, grenadine, and egg white), which tasted like I was drinking a cloud…a delicious, gin-filled cloud. This drink is sweet and creamy- definitely a hit with me. I probably would have claimed this one to be my favorite … until I found the next drink.
My last drink was the I Yam What I Yam (butter-rum, meletti amaro, sweet potato shrub, and bitters topped with a roasted marshmallow). Yes … yes, you did read that right: Thanksgiving goodness … in your mouth in an easy-to-consume liquid form. (Stretchy pants not required.) This was, by all means, my favorite cocktail of the night. Sweet potato shrub is not something I had ever tried (or really had ever heard of) and I was apprehensive. I wasn’t sure it would translate into a cocktail. Foolish! It adds just the right amount of savory to counter the butter-rum and when you take a sip, while smelling the just-roasted marshmallow … well it’s just heaven.
The last thing we’ll mention is Whisler’s Oaxacan-style mezcalería, Mezcalería Tobalá. It’s a smaller bar upstairs carries a plethora of mezcals in half-pours to taste or full-pours.
Whisler’s is open everyday from 4pm-2am and is currently still serving their fall cocktail menu. Be sure to stay tuned for all of their future sure-to-amaze seasonal cocktail lists and be sure to ask who created your drink!
EUREKA! Opened December 8 in West Village, Eureka! offers “food elevated”, 40+ craft beers on tap, 35+ small-batch whiskeys, live music, a daily happy hour, a killer patio, and occasional events. Menus: FOOD | DRINK Daily “Hoppy” Hour: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close
KNIFE Their Pudding on the Nog cocktail (recipe below) will be available at Knife’s bar through the holidays!
Pudding on the Nog (Created by Charlie Moore, Knife, Dallas, TX) 1 ½ parts Maker’s Mark® Bourbon ½ part amaro
1 part simple syrup
1 part heavy cream
2 parts whole milk
2 bar spoons sugar-free, low-fat vanilla pudding mix
Add all ingredients into a shaker tin and shake without ice until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly and pour into a rocks glass; freshly grate nutmeg and cinnamon stick over the top, and enjoy!
HOPDODDY If you can’t beat the freeze, join it! The Frozen Banana shake features our honey roasted bananas, rich chocolate sauce and a chocolate dipped banana chip! One sip will remind you that sunnier days are ahead after the winter freezes. This classic summer treat in shake form is the perfect way to celebrate December. AVAILABLE: Monday, December 8 through Sunday, December 21 COST: $6
The new event space at the Renaissance Dallas is NOW OPEN and offers 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space. And the space is sexy as hell and the food is out of the world. (After all … Asador is in charge of their banquet catering!)
Crown is releasing its first single barrel whisky exclusively in Texas! COST: 750 mL, $55
For the first time in its 75-year history, legendary Canadian Whisky brand Crown Royal will offer only Texas consumers the opportunity to savor the root of Crown Royal’s signature smoothness, the unique Coffey Rye whisky, bottled straight from the barrel.
An exceptionally smooth blend balanced by creamy and fruity notes of banana and rich oak undertones from maturing in new American wood resulting in a long lasting and expansive finish. The aromas are rich and robust on the nose with slight hints of vanilla and fruit.
AT SECOND BLUSH
Founders Brewing Co. will re-release Blushing Monk, a decadent Belgian raspberry ale, in March 2015 to mark the twelfth installment in the brewery’s popular Backstage Series.
Blushing Monk (9.2% ABV) will be sold in 750mL bottles, with a suggested retail price of $16.99 per bottle.
Laphroaig Scotch put together a hilarious video that set drinker reviews to holiday songs. Kind of hilarious.
Laphroaig® Scot’s Cider
1 part Laphroaig® 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
½ part DeKuyper® Mixologist Series Ginger Liqueur
3 parts Hot Apple Cider
Build in a pre-heated coffee mug.
Garnish with a lemon wedge studded with cloves and a dash of fresh ground cinnamon.
SNAIL MAIL COCKTAIL
CHEERS by Southern Fried Paper & SusieDrinksDallas, a collaboration I’ve been working on with Southern Fried Paper, is now available for purchase! With boozy cards, prints, coasters, swizzle sticks, and more, you can send a friend a note telling him he’s your cup of tea whiskey!
I mean … if you like me at all you’ll check out what we’ve done. No pressure.
Price: $3.50 – $20 Purchase: At the Southern Fried Paper retail section of 2524 Converse Street or online starting December 15.
BUZZED AND WIRED Nespresso’s new Vertuoline brewing system is sleek, slim, and pretty damn sexy looking. Oh, and it brews a damn good cup of espresso. It was one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” this year … and, well … if it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for me.
If you need ideas for cocktails to get you buzzed and wired, check out some of my Buzzed Boozing recipes here!
Price: $299 for the VertuoLine system Purchase: Online or at the NorthPark Center boutique
I obviously need something to put my yummy espresso in … duh. I chose Nespresso’s Pixie Espresso cups in black (Ristretto), but they come in a bunch of colors, including rose gold! (I won’t judge your color choice.) I also just realized that it looks like a pod upside-down.
Price: $35 Purchase: Online or at the NorthPark Center boutique
Anyone can make an Old Fashioned in a glass, but how many of you can say that you can make it as a rich, chewy caramel? Shotwell has a cute 4-flavor caramel sampler that includes each of their four featured flavors, including Old Fashioned and Craft Beer & Pretzel that is perfect for boozy gifting!
DON’T BE A TOOL … JUST GIVE A TOOL
My whole apartment is black, white, and gold, and that makes finding bar tools a bitch to find. Luckily West Elm’s Deco Barware Collection is a set of gold-finish bar tools to help me round out my bar cart (which coincidentally was also purchased at West Elm).
BOOZY JAM With flavors like “Drunken Monkey Jam” and “You’re My Boy Blue-berry Bourbon Jam”, you can’t go too far wrong with this 4-flavor boozy jam sample pack. Because toast deserves better than boring jelly.
Price: $15 for the 4 flavor sampler, $10 per full-size jar
Purchase: The Jam Stand
WEAR YOUR COCKTAIL ON YOUR SLEEVE A local t-shirt company started by two Frisco teachers is making a splash with their soft, wearable tees. Tumbleweed TexStyles lets you show your Texas pride … and your drink order!
BONUS: I’m giving away one WINE t-shirt (pictured right) this holiday season! To enter to win the shirt, you can either post this gift guide on Twitter and tag #FestiveFinds and @drinkdallas -OR- post your favorite gift on this guide to Instagram and tag #FestiveFinds and @susiedrinksdallas
Price: starting at $9.50 (and get 20% off any apparel, gear, and glassware with the code SUSIE)
Purchase: Tumbleweed TexStyles
LOBALL A HIGHBALL While cold balls can be a problem, these are a solution. The LoBall Whiskey Sphere is a stainless steel ball is filled with a cooling liquid that has a lower freezing point than water, so it stays cooler for longer.
Bonus: you can have it engraved with any text you’d like or even a custom image for just $10.
IN-FLIGHT BUZZ Complete with a spoon/muddler hybrid, bitters, cane sugar packets, a coaster, and recipes, this Carry-On Cocktail Kit is a tin that helps make the crying baby and the dry, recirculated air a little less awful. Plus, getting drunk at 10,000 feet is easier.
AN ICE CREAM DREAM
This is all you need to know: alcohol + ice cream. Brilliant, right? BuzzBars offers sorbet and ice cream bars in flavors like Blitzed Berry (strawberry ice cream & rum), The Drunken Cookie (Cookies ’n Cream ice cream & whiskey), and the Larry King Heart Bar (berry sorbet & merlot wine).
You can order their BuzzPacks now (12-bar cases)! Order ASAP because they’ll go out December 15-24.
Price: $100/BuzzPack (includes gift wrap & overnight shipping) Purchase: At Spec’s or at buzzbaricecream.com.
BRUNCH BUNCH | Proof + Pantry will start serving Sunday brunch! More details here.
THIS APP DELIVERS (BOOZE) | Minibar, an app that allows users to order booze and have it delivered within an hour. Seriously.
Starting December 9, Clark Food & Wine on Lower Greenville will begin offering happy hour from 4-7pm Monday – Friday. Even better? They’ll offer select cocktails for just $4 during happy hour on Tuesdays!
SER is now offering reverse happy hour Thursday – Sunday, 10pm to close! Enjoy drink specials ($6-8) and shared plates and sweet ($7-9).
LEMON LOVE | Deep Eddy Vodka released its newest flavor, lemon! Look for it starting in January 2015!
WIN THE ULTIMATE BEACH LOVER’S PRIZE FROM BLUE CHAIR BAY RUM | Blue Chair Bay Rum will be doing a holiday giveaway, the “12 Days of Christmas”, where fans can enter for the opportunity to win daily prizes. Prizes include Blue Chair Bay swag, Kenny Chesney items and the ultimate beach lover’s prize. The giveaway is on Facebook and runs until December 12. Feel free to share the news with your readers and enter yourself, if you’re interested.
The holiday season is upon us. Traffic is unreal, grocery stores are out of chocolate chips, and you have neither the time nor the inclination to bake homemade cookies for that White Elephant party/teacher gifts/hostess gift/birthday party. Now that you’ve decided to outsource your holiday baking, you’re faced with even more decisions: Are cupcakes too childish? Are cake balls still in? Will that whole cake get eaten? What exactly is a fruit cake?
Enter: JK Chocolate.
Purveyor of Microchip Cookies, cakes, and unfairly decadent chocolate sauces and the brainchild of Julie and Karleen, the roots of JK Chocolate reach back to 1984 when the two friends would prepare homemade chocolate sauces for their children’s teachers. The word spread quickly about their confections, and the teachers- bereft of the heavenly sauces after the kids grew up and headed to college- begged the duo to sell their products. The rest is cookie history.
JK Chocolate sells seven flavors of their perfectly munch able treats: Midnight Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Chip Crunch, Peanut Butter Chip with Sea Salt, Six Spice Gingersnap, Pecan Sweeties, Cheddar Cheesies with Texas Heat, and, of course, The Original Chocolate Chip.
Available in 11- and 20-ounce cans, the flavors are also available in gift packs, party favor sets and multi-pack sets of smaller 1.5- and 2-ounce jars. You can mix and match flavors, cookies, sauces and mini-cakes for the perfect hostess gift, holiday snack, party favor or office presents.
The jar of Original Chocolate Chip Microchip cookies I brought home lasted a whopping two hours, so plan on buying more rather than less. They might be small, but they pack a hefty, homemade taste that’ll leave you craving more.
For store location, hours, online ordering and serving ideas, visit their website at www.jkchocolate.com.
10 oz strong coffee, brewed (I recommend Nespresso’s Hazelino or Vanizio)
2 oz International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer
1½ oz whipped cream vodka
Brew the coffee. Add creamer and 1½ ounces of whipped cream vodka. Top with whipped cream.
BAILEY’S ESPRESSO MARTINI
2 oz Baileys® Original Irish Cream
¼ oz Smirnoff® No. 21 Vodka
1 shot of espresso, chilled (I recommend Nespresso’s Voltesso)
3 coffee beans
Combine Baileys, vodka, espresso, and ice into shaker. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with coffee beans.
THE BLIND ABBOT
1½ oz Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey
1 oz chilled freshly brewed coffee (I recommend Nespresso’s Odacio or Vanizio)
¾ oz Galliano Ristretto
½ oz Cinnamon Syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Whipped cream and ground cinnamon (for serving)
Combine whiskey, coffee, liqueur, cinnamon syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker; fill shaker with ice. Shake until outside of shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into an Irish coffee glass and top with whipped cream and cinnamon.
BAILEY’S JAVA DROP SHOT
1 oz Baileys® Original Irish Cream
½ oz Coffee Liqueur
Chocolate covered espresso beans
Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into shot glass. Top with whipped cream and espresso beans.
VINTAGE COFFEE COCKTAIL 14.9 oz Guinness
1 tablespoon malt extract (optional)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
½ cup heavy cream
4 oz hot espresso
1½ oz Paddy Old Irish Whiskey
1 teaspoon mild-flavored (light) molasses
Combine Guinness and malt extract, if using, in a small saucepan; scrape in vanilla seeds and add pod. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, swirling occasionally, until reduced by one-third, about 12 minutes; remove vanilla bean and let cool. Whisk cream and 1 ½ oz. Guinness reduction in a small bowl until slightly thickened. Stir espresso, whiskey, and molasses in an Irish coffee glass until molasses is dissolved. Top with Guinness whipped cream and nutmeg.
WAKE THE DEAD SHOT
1 oz Patron XO Cafe coffee liqueur
1 oz Patron Silver Tequila
½ oz espresso (I recommend Nespresso’s Diavolitto)
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.Shake well. Strain into a shot glass.
If you’ve ever paid a visit to Plano’s increasingly popular Historic District, chances are you are already familiar with the deliciousness that is Urban Rio. Hopefully, this also means you are well-acquainted with Urban Rio’s breezy, rooftop watering hole, On the Rocks Cantina. In case you’ve been missing out: This “Next-Mex” eatery features inventive menu items influenced by Mexican and Spanish flavors and ingredients from the Rio Grande Valley. Urban Rio places a heavy emphasis on fresh, creative menu items, with scratch-made ingredients (they grind their own corn for their tortillas). On the Rocks Cantina features 14 beer taps (10 of which are craft, including local selections), 8 frozen liquor taps, a creative variety of handcrafted cocktails, and assorted vino.
Even if Urban Rio is heavy in your rotation (as it should be), here is a little tidbit you may not know: Each month, Urban Rio features a five course cocktail pairing dinner, and it’s only $34.90 per person. Let that sink in for a minute. The average price tag of a craft cocktail in Dallas is in the double digits. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further on what a ridiculous deal this is.
I happily attended Urban Rio’s November Fall Cocktail Dinner. The menu was both festive and creative, with some delightfully unexpected offerings thrown in.
The first course paired a decadent Pumpkin Martini with a velvety Butternut Squash Soup. The Pumpkin Martini (spiced rum, pumpkin spice syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, crowned with house-made pumpkin whipped cream) made me feel like I was abusing my grown-up powers and indulging in dessert before dinner; this baby was sinfully creamy and delicious. The Butternut Squash Soup was prepared with a puree of onion and celery, which gave the soup a lovely, smooth texture without being overly rich. This gourd-centric pairing slapped us in the face with autumn-y goodness.
Our second course featured the Berry Breeze cocktail, paired with Berry Jalapeño Shrimp. The Berry Breeze (pear vodka, apple juice, and cranberry juice) was lightly sweet with a lovely pop cranberry. The sweetness of the cocktail was offset by the garlicky shrimp, accompanied by a zesty berry-jalapeño sauce and a strawberry pico.
For the third course, we were treated to a Maple Old Fashioned, paired with Roasted Ham. The Maple Old Fashioned (maple rye whiskey, cranberry bitters) was surprisingly sweet and decadent for a spirit forward cocktail with only two ingredients. The sweet maple flavor paired beautifully with the smokiness of the ham, which was crowned with a zesty maple mustard sauce, served atop creamy leek mashed potatoes.
“Why stop at just one entree?” asked Urban Rio. The fourth course featured the Pecan Dream cocktail, paired with Pecan Crusted Salmon. This pairing was my favorite, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. I heard all kinds of praise songs being sung for the Pecan Dream (house-infused toasted pecan rum, banana, vanilla vodka, walnut liqueur, and sugar). This one-of-a-kind cocktail was reminiscent of delicious banana nut bread. It paired beautifully with the flaky, pecan-crusted salmon, which was prepared with mustard in the crust for just the right amount of contrasting bite to offset the sweetness of the cocktail. Bravo.
Finally, our fifth and final course paired the Chocolate Covered Raspberry, abeer creation, with an indulgent Chocolate Mousse. So, the Chocolate Covered Raspberry (Grapevine Brewery’s Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout with Lindemans Framboise) was technically not a cocktail … but, I am totally OK with this, because it was freaking delicious. Aptly named, the sweet, jammy, raspberry goodness paired perfectly with the rich, creamy chocolate mousse. I don’t usually consider beer when pondering after-dinner libations, but I definitely will going forward. Yum.
To tide you over ’til Urban Rio’s next amazing cocktail dinner in December (scheduled for December 16, at 6:30), the kind folks at the On the Rocks Cantina were kind enough to share a duo of festive holiday drink recipes you can create for yourself, at home.
Cranberry Mule 2 oz Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka
1 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz simple syrup
Fill copper mug with ice. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with fresh mint. Strain into mug and top with ginger beer (we prefer Gosling’s!). Garnish with fresh cranberry skewer, lime wedge and sprig of fresh mint.
Winter Vixen Cocktail 1 oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1.5 oz POM pomegranate juice
Fresh pomegranate seeds
Fill the bottom of the champagne flute with pomegranate seeds (about ten). Layer St. Germain and pomegranate juice in the champagne flute and top with champagne.
Urban Rio Cocktail Dinners are hosted on a monthly basis, typically on the third Tuesday of every month (check out their events calendar to confirm future dates and times). Once again, the cost is just $34.90 per person (tax and gratuities not included)- such an amazing deal! Space is always limited, so make your reservation ASAP! For reservations, call 972-543-8911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some other noteworthy Urban Rio happenings:
Check out On the Rocks Cantina’s 7 Deals for 7 Days specials, featuring:
Monday- $1 off all beer
Tuesday- $2 off cocktails on the rocks
Wednesday- $3 off Crown and Down
Thursday- $4 frozen drinks
Friday- $5 glasses of wine
Saturday- $6 beer-ritas
Sunday- $7 off bottles of wine
Be sure to check out their events calendar for additional drink specials and live music offerings.
Sister restaurant Urban Crust is pairing with Urban Rio to throw a festive NYE bash at Urban Crust’s Rooftop Event Spot. The “Cocktails and Confetti” NYE party will feature live music from the Josh Goode Band, small bites from Urban Crust, and a cash bar with signature drinks from Urban Rio (credit cards also accepted). Tickets are $50 and will go on sale on December 2. Tickets can be purchased here.
I hear that Urban Rio will be offering a new series of quarterly beer dinners, launching in 2015. Just like the cocktail dinners, the five-course beer dinner will be offered for only $34.90 per person! The inaugural event, featuring Texas beers, take place on March 17, so make your reservations and mark your calendars!
URBAN RIO 1000 E. 14th St. Ste. 100, Plano, TX 75074
Hours of Operation: Open Daily: 11 AM – 2 AM Brunch Menu offered Sat. & Sun. from 11AM – 3PM
I recently had the opportunity to check out Cook Hall’s new fall menu (read about it here). It was basically bomb.com (side note: I was kind of shocked to find that this URL doesn’t seem to be registered…hmm). That being said, I was SUPER excited when Cook Hall generously extended an invitation to check out one of their signature beer dinners! Cook Hall hosts a bi-monthly 5-course beer pairing dinner, with themes ranging from the creative (whiskey versus beer throwdown!), to the educational (i.e., brewery or variety specific pairings). October featured a Spaten Brewing beer dinner. Jackpot.
First, a little about Spaten Brewing Company: They have been around the block a time or two. This Bavarian brewery has been one of the leading exporters of German beer for over a century. Spaten is pretty much committed to kickin’ it old school when it comes to their brewing philosophy; they continue to brew in the tradition of the German Purity Law, circa 1516 (!), decreeing that beer should only be brewed using malt, hops, and water. Shocking revelation that a historic German brewery would do things by the book, I know.
Cook Hall prepared a five-course menu featuring thoughtful and creative beer and food pairings throughout the evening.
We started out sampling Spaten’s Premium Lager (Munich Helles Lager/5.2%). This crisp, balanced lager was notably drinkable, and paved the way for our delicate yet delicious starter, Roasted Beet Salad, served with blue cheese, dried fruits, and nuts. The tender, sweet beets paired nicely with the maltiness of the Lager.
2nd Course brought us Spaten’s Oktoberfest (Marzen/Oktoberfest/5.9%)- one of the sanctioned beers of Oktoberfest Munich (i.e. “THE” Oktoberfest…sorry, Addision/Lake Highlands/McKinney!). This smooth, full-bodied Marzen, with its malty aroma, was slightly bitter yet balanced with hints of caramel. Paired with the creamy, decadent, Butternut Squash Soup with oyster mushrooms, this duo could not have been a more perfect way to welcome fall (Seriously…this soup is everything. Please come try it before it goes away).
3rd Course featured Spaten Franziskaner (Hefeweizen/5.0%), the brewery’s Bavarian wheat beer. Spaten’s hefe is lightly malty with a creamy finish, bringing lovely notes of banana and clove to the table. The Franziskaner paired nicely with our next dish, Gulf Shrimp & Smoked Bacon, with papaya mustard and avocado. The smooth, wheaty finish of the hefe was a match made in Heaven for tangy notes of chili and cumin in the papaya mustard.
4th Course, they brought out the big guns; Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock/7.6%). I love a good doppelbock, and Optimator is about as good as it gets. This sweet, malty offering is heavy-bodied, and features notes of caramel and licorice. It was a rich, indulgent accompaniment for our main course, the Braised Short Rib with ginger and chive spaetzle. Oh man, this was the good stuff. The short rib was fork tender, and the ginger and chive were a lovely, surprising twist on this traditional German noodle dish.
The 5th and final offering was Spaten’s Dunkel (Munich Dunkel Lager/5.5%). This medium-bodied dunkel is lightly sweet and moderately, complex, with caramel and toffee flavors. If you have never enjoyed a thoughtfully selected beer with dessert, you have been missing out, my friends. The Dunkel paired beautifully with Caramel Roasted Pairs, served with brown butter ice cream. Lighter caramel notes from the beer intensified the richer caramel flavors in this dessert dish, and it really worked.
Bravo, Cook Hall. Bravo, Spaten.
Cook Hall beer dinners are hosted on a bi-monthly basis. Each 5 course meal includes one full-sized beer, and tasting sizes of four subsequent beers. The cost is $55 per person (tax & gratuities not included)- a great deal! Presently, the next beer dinner is planned for early December (firm date and menu TBD- check back here for updates). Space is limited, so make your reservation ASAP!