With bars across the U.S. closing (temporarily, we hope), we’ve all been challenged so far this year to make our own cocktails. I believe that the Old Fashioned has long been a cocktail that allows us to define ourselves, much like our Starbucks order. (For example, I’m a triple grande almond milk latte with sugar-free vanilla over light ice. Because I can make those demands.) But, whether you watch your bartender’s every move to understand the right way to flame an orange peel or eyeball something until it looks like it’s almost the right color, we could all use a few tips on the home bar front when it comes to making one of the most popular cocktails of the last decade.
When making an old fashioned, there are some shortcuts that can offer not only a great drink, but consistency. And to me, consistency is key. If you have friends over and one guest’s first cocktail is watered down and the next has too much bitters, you’ve already lost the battle. So, looking for something to give your home bar a consistent cocktail every time, we found DeKuyper Classic Ol’ Fashion Liqueur to be a reliable option.
They make it pretty easy to put together your cocktail … pour some of their liqueur over ice and just add bourbon. (We can all handle that, right?) They call it an easy “two-step solution for cocktail lovers of all skill levels.” They describe it as a “tart citrus balanced by bitter notes and a touch of sweetness, followed by hints of orange and bakery spice”. It’s easy, consistent, and you never have to worry about having the right ingredients on-hand or throwing on a mask and gloves to go to the liquor store to pick up a bottle of bitters.
On a recent road trip, I took the bottle along so we didn’t have to bring all the ingredients for an Old Fashioned. Poured over ice and combined with Jim Beam Black, all I had to think about bringing along was the garnish!
DeKuyper Classic Ol’ Fashioned Liqueur Order on Drizly.com
We’re all celebrating things and each other a little differently right now, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t gather, dress up, celebrate each other, or enjoy a drink together! Since I’m sheltered in place with my mom, we wanted to have a little party, so we invited some of our friends to join us for a boozy tea party … over Zoom!
We sent out a PaperlessPost invitation and, amazingly, everyone was able to attend! (In my opinion, it’s best to keep Zoom “parties” a little smaller—8 or less—so people aren’t speaking over one another and everyone can be engaged and participate. We ended up with 11, which was lovely, but a little tougher to keep everyone chatting.)
Just because we couldn’t be in the same room didn’t mean I couldn’t still make it a real party, so we planned to deliver goodies to each attendee before. The local guests got hand delivered favors, drinks, and snacks, and we sent recipes and scheduled deliveries ahead of time for the out of towners. (Drizly is great for alcohol deliveries!)
My mom and I gathered whatever gift bags and crinkle paper we had on-hand and laid our materials out to stuff the bags. Mini bottles of booze, mixers, garnish for the drinks, boozy gummies from Sugarfina, tea, a bottle of Campo Viejo Brut Reserva Cava, a little bag of Pokey O’s cookies, a box of sweet items, and a box of “tea sandwiches”.
What’s a tipsy tea party without the tipsy?! Each attendee was given the chance to pick a spirit—TX Whiskey, Absolut Elyx, and Beefeater Gin—to enjoy a cocktail during our tea. I had a local bartender* create cocktails for us and batch them out and I purchased mini and 375mL bottles of my chosen spirits so each guest only had to add the spirit to the drink for a perfectly mixed cocktail.
Since our bars and restaurants are operating much differently than usual, many hospitality professionals are out of work. While I COULD have taken a few hours to have come up with these on my own, I decided that giving some work to a bartender was a better choice. Luckily, Chris (aka Betty Cocktail) lives around the corner from me, so I had her take over for me! (She is brilliant — if you need a cocktail class or cocktail pairings for a dinner, give her a buzz!!!) bettycocktail.com
STRAWBERRY BASIL FIZZ (Recipe courtesy of TX Whiskey)
1 oz TX Whiskey
.5 oz St. Germain
.5 oz lime juice
2 oz sparkling wine
3-5 basil leaves
Muddle strawberries and basil, then add TX, St. Germain, and lime juice. Shake with ice until well combined. Strain over fresh ice, top with sparkling wine and garnish with strawberries.
OOLONG AGO (Recipe courtesy of Betty Cocktail)
1.5 oz Beefeater
.5 oz lemon juice
1.5 oz Oolong syrup
For syrup: boil 3 cups of water with 12 oz doctored agave and dehydrated citrus peels, Add 2 Citrus Oolong teabags and steep for 2 hours.
DON’T BE DANDELYIN’ (Recipe courtesy of Betty Cocktail)
1.5 oz Absolut Elyx
.5 oz lemon juice
1.5 oz Dandelion Root syrup (boil 3 cups water with 12 oz dark agave, add 2 teabags and steep for 2 hours)
For syrup: boil 3 cups of water with 12 oz of dark agave, the add 2 Dandelion Root teabags and steep for 2 hours.
My mom and I couldn’t agree on what we wanted the table to look like, so she went for a more classic tea look, and I took mine up a notch bringing some antique items and a contrasting table cloth together with plenty of flowers and gold accents. (Because that’s 100% my aesthetic.) And I topped it all off with a teapot from Vulgar Teacups. My mom hated it; I loved it.
To get everyone in the mood, I made a playlist of some of my favorite jaunty tea-party-with-an-edge songs. I have to admit that I started with a few songs from the “A Simple Favor” soundtrack, because it’s fire. Check it out below, and share it from Spotify!
What’s tea without some fancy bites? We packaged up some of our favorites like homemade cucumber sandwiches, cheese wafers, and chicken salad sandwiches. (I chose not to make the chicken salad myself and got it from Bowen House!)
CRIPSY RICE COOKIES
2 C sharp cheddar cheese
.5 C softened butter
1 C flour
.5 t cayenne pepper
1 t Worcestershire sauce
.5 t salt
.75 C Rice Krispies
Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix cheese, butter, flour, cayenne, Worcestershire and salt until mixture lightly sticks together. Gently fold cereal into dough. Shape into 1-inch balls and put on a baking sheet with about an inch of space for expansion. Then use a fork to flatten each and leave lines on top. Bake 15 minutes at 350º, or until they’re slightly crispy. Allow to cool on a rack.
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced very thin
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 C light mayonnaise
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t onion salt
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
sliced white bread, crusts removed
1 pinch lemon pepper
Slice cucumbers and allow to drain between paper towels for at least 10 minutes. (Best done in a colander.) Remove crust from bread. Mix all remaining items together and spread on one side of every piece of bread. Add cucumbers on half the pieces, spread out evenly. Sprinkle a bit of dill on each side with cucumbers. Build into sandwiches and cut into your desired shape.
Dallas didn’t get too cold (yet) this year, but on the days it has, I found myself craving something warm and boozy. Once I had gotten past my hot toddies and it was too late in the day for an Irish Coffee, I turned to hot chocolate cocktails!
I put together a few different spirited options for y’all … from the traditionally spiked vodka, then went to tequila and scotch options. Because it’s always fun to try something different, right?
PEPPERMINT WHITE CHOCOLATE (VODKA)
½ C Absolut Elyx vodka
½ C white chocolate chips
1½ C milk*
¼ C sweetened condensed milk
1 t vanilla extract or vanilla paste
whipped cream (if desired)
Add chocolate and milks to a medium saucepan and summer, stirring constantly, until chips are melted. Once melted, remove from heat and add vodka. Top with whipped cream and peppermint pieces, if desired.
SPICY HOT CHOCOLATE (TEQUILA)
3 oz Patrón Tequila (more if desired)
3 C milk*
3 T cocoa powder
3 T tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of sea salt
¼ t cinnamon
¼ t cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients (except for tequila) to a saucepan and whisk until combined. Heat on low until it’s slightly boiling, then remove from the stove. Add tequila, then pour into mugs and top as desired. (I added cinnamon marshmallows and a pinch of cayenne pepper on top.)
HIGHLAND HOT CHOCOLATE (SCOTCH)
3 oz Highland Park Magnus Scotch whisky (more if desired)
3 C milk*
3 T cocoa powder
3 T tbsp granulated sugar
1 t Sugar in the Raw (or any coarse brown sugar)
Pinch of sea salt
Combine all ingredients (except for whisky) to a saucepan and whisk until combined. Heat on low until it’s slightly boiling, then remove from the stove. Add whisky, then pour into mugs and top as desired.
… you can also whip up my famous HAUTE CHOCOLATE and add whatever spirit sounds good to you.
¼ C cocoa powder
½ C hot water
20 oz semi-sweet chocolate
10 C whole milk
2½ C heavy cream
12 oz can evaporated milk
¼ t salt
Either in a crock pot or a large pot, whisk cocoa powder with hot water until mixed. Add in chocolate, milk, heavy cream, evaporated milk, and pinch of salt. If using a crock pot, cook for at least 2 hours on high OR low for 4 hours and stir occasionally. Keep on warm to serve. If using a pot on the stove, heat for about 15 minutes on medium and stir often. Then, keep on simmer and continue to stir occasionally. Makes about 20 servings.
*the higher the fat content of the milk you use, the richer your drink will be
Dallas’s Ocean Prime just hit its 10th Anniversary in the heart of Uptown, and to show their gratitude to all of the thirsty (and hungry) Dallasites that have showed them the love the last 10 years, they offered a 10 Years, 10 Items, $10 special menu during the month of January in the OP Lounge and on the newly renovated terrace.
The Ocean Prime favorites that graced the menu were their best-sellers, and for a good reason. The OP experts I’m sure could rattle them off … but for those that are less familiar with their steak- and seafood-heavy menu, we’ll list them so you can seem like you know JUST what you’re doing next time you visit.
> Cocktails: Berries & Bubbles, Black Orchid, Cucumber Gimlet, Pine Fin Martini
> Food: calamari, goat cheese ravioli, sushi, ahi tuna tartar, 10 layer carrot cake, peanut butter torte
Although everything on the 10 Years, 10 Items was delightful, The Berries and Bubbles cocktail shines as the MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE in the lineup. The secret ingredient is dry ice that creates a bubbly, misty and energetic drink that not only tastes delicious, but will have everyone in the bar asking what it is so they can get one, too. (Susie’s note: Make before you set the trend to let all the dry ice smoke off or be VERY CAREFUL sipping it … because that s**t’s dangerous if ingested.)
> BLACK ORCHID (14): Three Olives Berry, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, lemon, white cranberry juice > BERRIES & BUBBLES ($14): Belvedere Citrus Vodka, marinated berries, house made sour, Domaine Chandon Brut, dry ice
Ocean Prime recently unveiled a new spin on their calamari appetizer. The calamari is still marinated in buttermilk for 24 hours before crisping up in the fryer, but now they’re using a special blend of chili, hoisin and light soy sauces to add extra, deep flavor to the seafoodie favorite. The addition of julienne carrots, scallions, red bell peppers, Mung bean sprouts and candied cashews on top is unlike any calamari we have tried. THIS IS A MUST ORDER!
If you have room (I mean … you kind of have to save room), then you can’t pass on the 10 Layer Carrot Cake. This is another OP fan favorite. With just the right amount of sweetness to satisfy your sweet tooth, this cake will guarantee you go home with a smile on your face.
Ocean Prime is a PRIME spot for happy hour or even just a quick glass of red to wash down their ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY DELICIOUS TRUFFLE POPCORN. No need for reservations, just pop in during happy hour after work to eat, drink and enjoy the mild Dallas winter on the newly renovated enclosed terrace oasis! (Susie’s note: Make sure you say hi to the Marcos at the bar … both will show you some really incredible hospitality.)
Sometimes you get to the end of the night and you can’t choose between a nightcap and dessert. Our friends at Arctic Buzz have you taken care of with their boozy ice cream!
With ABVs (alcohol by volume) from 6.6% to 8.9%, their flavors are stout enough to taste the booze, but flavorful and well balanced. From traditional flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and cookies and cream to a little more exciting options like key lime pie and birthday cake, there’s a flavor for every ice cream lover.
I’ve tried quite a few alcoholic ice cream options and they are often not well balanced and often too strong. All of the flavors I’ve tried are delicious and surprisingly creamy, but I absolutely loved the birthday cake and am WILD about the chocolate.
While ice cream is delicious on its own, I thought that coming up with a way to get it into cocktails would be right on-brand for SusieDrinks.
RASPBERRY CREME 2 scoops Arctic Buzz Raspberry ice cream 2oz milk (try to use at least 2% or it will be too thin) 1oz Chambord 1/4 cup of frozen raspberries Whipped cream and crushed vanilla wafer crumbs
In a blender, combine all ingredients except whipped cream and cookie crumbs. Blend until smooth. (Add additional milk if needed.) Top with whipped cream and cookie crumbs.
MARGARITA MILKSHAKE 2 scoops Arctic Buzz Key Lime or Coconut ice cream 1.5oz tequila 1oz orange liqueur 2oz cup milk (try to use at least 2% or it will be too thin) Whipped cream Lime zest (grated)
In a blender, combine all ingredients except whipped cream and lime zest. Blend until smooth. Top with whipped cream and grate lime zest over the top. Add lime wedge if desired.
Available in the DFW area at: – Spec’s Dallas – 9500 N Central Expy (North Dallas) – Mr. Sugar Rush – 1408 N Riverfront Boulevard (Design District) – Chocolate Lounge – 4222 W Camp Wisdom Road (North Dallas) – Old Hag’s Pizza Pasta – 1315 W Davis Street (Bishop Arts District) – Urban Donut – 2805 Allen Street (Uptown)
Victory Plaza has seen many restaurant and bar concepts come and go, but none seemed to succeed. They were convenient, but not worth braving the crowds during events one wasn’t attending to patronize. …….. until a new HERO came to save the day.
The newest concept from Matt Ragan and 8020 Concepts, the people behind HG Sply Co., Gung Ho, and more, give us all something to love. Sports fans have giant televisions to watch their events with fellow fans and proximity to AAC. Foodies have a thoughtful menu with scratch items just like Mom used to make. And the boozehounds have a menu of unexpectedly thoughtful cocktails—some takes on classics and some originals.
Bottom line: it’s a huge place. With a capacity of 1,100 and 610 seats with six bars and up to 20 bartenders working at a time, you’d expect a churn-and-burn, high volume restaurant/bar cutting corners and cutting costs—but that’s not so with HERO. Ragan and his team have ensured that everything is done quickly and efficiently but without lowering quality … at all. Think scratch food, fresh and local ingredients when possible, zero additives, and juices squeezed fresh daily.
The staff in HERO is stacked with all-stars. You’ll see familiar faces from concepts past and others that you thought gave up the stick. One of my favorites you’ll see is our favorite bartender past from Vickery Park, Chris Young, running around making sure everything is done right behind the six bars, but always with a smile.
While the popularity of this new spot has made it a destination and caused a bit of a wait from time to time, there’s plenty of space to go around. They host a full dining room, the aforementioned SIX BARS, a large patio, and even more standing room for watching games on their GINORMOUS SCREEN … and a small 90s-themed arcade.
The dedication to making everything just that much better extends event to the simplest parts of their cocktails. Ragan’s goal was to give is bartenders the ability to make a craft cocktail in under 45 seconds, and he sure as shit did it. He standardized four cocktail bases and put them on draft, cutting prep time and the opportunity for inconsistency, and ultimately price for both HERO and the guest, all while maintaining the integrity of his menu and the ingredients used. They employ one employee whose entire job is to prepare the fruit and juices for their cocktails.
A perfect example of Ragan’s desire for consistency and quality is their house-made tonic. And if you know anything about making tonic, then you know it can be a dangerous game. It’s made with cinchona bark, which can help medicinally, if used responsibly, and it can do damage if not. He wanted to ensure it was done right, so he did it.
Their frozen drinks are even made with the most care and consideration of ingredients. Their Miami Vice, a strawberry daiquiri and piña colada swirl, happens to be a new favorite cocktail in Dallas … because 100º days are real and it’s f**king delicious. What makes it so good? They make their own coconut rum, strawberry cordial, AND coconut cream. The coconut cream in itself is culinary science at its best—they use Ticaloid 210 S, a natural stabilizer made from seaweed, to keep it emulsified. Why this? Why no shortcuts? Because they don’t do that. Ragan needed to find something that would emulsify fat in alcohol (coconut is a “fat”), but also work in cold temperatures and with alcohol, and the T210s is the only element that does all three. See? NO SHORTCUTS.
As with many of Dallas’s restaurants, the menu can be slightly daunting. So, I asked Matt what his “Go-To” items were, and he didn’t disappoint. He gave us his ideal days—both “healthy” and “cheat”. So here we go:
Here’s the bottom line: don’t write this place off. Yes, it’s huge and crowded when there’s a game, but it’s WORTH IT. It’s even more worth the effort of braving Victory Park when there’s not a game or concert. It’s the HERO we wanted, and really, it’s the one we all needed.
This year I was ecstatic to find out that my new friend’s birthday is a week after mine AND that Jimmy Buffett would be in town the same week. So, what does a Parrothead do? Host a huge tiki tailgate before the concert … obviously.
We rented an RV, made some food and some tiki bevvies, and made a day of it. We loaded up the RV with decor and furniture and a hearty group of partygoers and busted our butts to get our little spot of parking lot ready for the party.
Since I don’t have my own RV (yet…), we looked for an RV rental company, and Cruise America was the winner! We got the RV that sleeps five for three nights with 300 free miles for a song! Everyone had a place to use the restroom and cool off from the heat, and we all got to ride there together! (And there’s a super cute sticker of a dog on the window!)
The setup was as it should be: over the top and kitsch as hell. While we were short on fans, we weren’t short on shade!
Our friend Ariel was kind enough to step behind the bar for us and serve up our awesome drinks, and that was CLUTCH. She made us look gooooood!
Every great tailgate needs great booze. So, to stick with the tiki theme, we worked with some of our favorite brands to make tiki-friendly cocktails that we batched out to make them easy to enjoy.
Elyx Copper Cup #1946
1.5oz Absolut Elyx Handcrafted Vodka
.75oz GH Mumm Champagne
1.5oz coconut water
.5oz lemon juice
.5oz honey simple syrup
Combine all ingredients except champagne and shake to combine and chill. Pour over new ice and top with champagne. Garnish with coconut shavings and a pineapple wedge. Makes two cocktails.
Patrón Tiki ‘Rita
2oz Patrón Reposado Tequila
.5oz Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur
.25oz Allspice Dram
.5oz lime juice
.25oz vanilla simple syrup
.5oz grapefruit juice
Rim a glass with Himalayan sea salt. Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice in the prepared glass and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg and a slice of lime with cloves.
Plantation Mai Tai
1oz Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum
1oz Plantation Original Dark Rum
.75oz lime juice
Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice and garnish with a pineapple wedge.
1.5oz strawberry-infused Maker’s Mark Whiskey
.5oz Giffard Creme de Fraise du Bois Liqueur
bar spoon of strawberry purée
.5oz lemon juice
.25oz simple syrup
.25oz coconut milk
Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice and garnish with a strawberry.
While cocktail are great, we decided they weren’t enough. So, we got some wine and alcoholic gummies and made a couple high-proof popsicles.
Betty Cocktail, a friend, neighbor, and badass bar lady, makes some of the most delicious gummies that just HAPPEN to have booze in them. We’ll just say we were more than delighted when she showed up with her tray of goodies!
Our friends at Union Wine Company were kind enough to send along some cans of their Riesling Radler which, coincidentally, is costumed in the perfect jungle print, toucan and all! This summer-friendly wine in a can has hints of grapefruit and is only lightly “hopped”.
To cool us off, we thought some frozen cocktails would be the ticket. While the alcoholic popsicles were delicious, they sadly didn’t stand up in the heat. Let’s just say that they turned out to be more slushies than popsicles.
1.75C Malibu Coconut Rum
.5C Torani Creme de Banana Syrup
.5C coconut water
1 small container of banana yogurt
Combine all ingredients, then fill into popsicle sleeves. Allow to freeze for at LEAST 24 hours and keep very cold.
Combine all ingredients, then fill into popsicle sleeves. Allow to freeze for at LEAST 24 hours and keep very cold.
We knew that a six-hour tailgate party with free flowing booze needed a pretty stacked food table, so we went full-tilt tiki and had pulled pork, Hawaiian meatballs, Hawaiian Roll ham sandwiches, and more. We had an ambitious pit-master in the group, and he hit it out of the park with his pulled pork with HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCES. (Yes, sauces … two of them.) Dessert we knew would be a slam dunk, so we got some of the amazing White Chocolate Macadamia Nut & Coconut Chocolate Chip cookies from Pokey O’sand tequila-infused margarita cupcakes from Sprinkles.
ALL IN ALL …
All in all, it was a really fun day and a wonderful way to celebrate a couple birthdays. We’ll be back next year, and we have some serious plans … #tikitrouble
Hello, friends! I have been a blood donor for many years and am proud to be hosting a drive with Carter BloodCare at Texas Live on June 30!
Every two seconds, someone needs blood, and there’s no substitute for it. Each donation could save three lives, so I’d be honored if you’d join me to #giveforlife!!
Anyone who donates during this event will be thanked with:
– a complimentary slider from Lockhart Smokehouse Arlington
– goodies from Balcones Distillery
– an entry into a raffle for a “Day at Balcones with SusieDrinks”
– a “Cheers to Life” mason jar from Carter BloodCare
– a Rangers t-shirt and a BOGO Rangers ticket voucher