Houlihan’s is bringing craft cocktails to the chain restaurant scene with their new 10-drink menu. (At least as much as a chain of its caliber can.) Houlihan’s introduced new drinks for our tasting pleasure at the Prestonwood location in Addison over a week in May. Using unusual techniques and unique spirits, Houlihan’s new drink menu looks more like something out of a hipster speakeasy than a suburban chain restaurant.
Take, for example, their Oak Aged Manhattan. This cocktail is aged on-site, using a mix of orange peels and oak staves for a barrel-less aging process. Houlihan’s mixologists claim this technique gives a smooth, subtly nuanced spirit in less time. When I tasted it, there were undertones of maple and vanilla. It is a simple but well-balanced cocktail–just as it should be. Mine came served with a salty, fatty, perfectly candied bacon.
My second drink, the Houdini, took a decidedly sweeter, fruity direction despite the high-proof spirit used. Henry McKenna Single-Barrel Kentucky Bourbon mingles with maple syrup and homemade ginger-peach syrup. This is refreshing cocktail is a perfect patio drink.
The rest of the new drink menu really has something to suit all tastes. One of the more classic additions is a slightly remixed Dirty Martini, shaken up with the addition of huge olives stuffed with pungent gorgonzola cheese and some delicious candied bacon. They even offer a tiki drink–the Blue Taboo. It looks like a sugar rush in a glass, but it’s more than just that; the drink is undeniably sweet, but it is well-balanced by the addition of Owl’s Brew Coco-Lada, which is a handcrafted black tea brewed in coconut water with chai spices and pineapple juice. Now I didn’t sample it, but the Bleeding Rose is definitely one of the more original creations offered on the new drink list. St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, Absolut Hibiskus and fresh sour mix create the base of this cocktail which is poured over an Aperol-tea ice cube. The melting Aperol, a blazing orange-colored bitter Italian aperitif, will change the flavor profile of the Bleeding Rose over the course of the drink. And on another positive note even the ice is made of alcohol –so it’s the drink that keeps on giving!
Let’s not forget the food, because drinking on an empty stomach rarely ends well. I tried out the avocado toast with burrata. This summer special has a ton of fresh avocado smeared on top of toasted rustic bread and is seasoned with jalapeño, cilantro and garlic, to give it a bit of kick. A sweet, creamy burrata cooled the heat and added to the overall decadence of the dish. The portion size was generous enough to make for a light summer dinner. And not letting an opportunity get away to try something else from the limited time menu, I went with the Mahi-Mahi salad, complete with jumbo lump crab and a sweet and tangy citrus and pineapple salad.
The 10 new cocktails are only available at the Prestonwood location, but eventually they will roll out to Houlihan’s restaurants around the country.
… I guess, for now, we are the lucky ones. Cheers!
*Thank you to Houlihan’s for picking up the tab and inviting me to check out the new menu items!*