Howdy, Smithworks Vodka!

I recently had the privilege of welcoming Smithworks Vodka into the Lone Star State with an amazing Blake Shelton concert at the famous Billy Bob’s Texas!

Smithworks Vodka was launched in early 2016 and I’m happy to say that Smithworks has recently expanded its distribution to Texas. Over the next few months, Smithworks will be available in twenty- four states.

Smithworks is an American-made vodka that is made with corn from Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma and water from Lake Fort Smith. Smithworks is distilled three times and charcoal filtered for a smooth taste and clean finish. It’s finished and bottled with pride in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and named after the dedicated team there and their hardworking values are symbolized through the tractor icon. They say, “Born and bred in the traditions and values of America’s Heartland, Smithworks embodies the values of the place in which it comes from – local pride, simplicity and hard work.”

Blake Shelton is part of the Smithworks family. He said that he had been waiting to partner with the right brand and he found his home with Smithworks; Shelton said he shares the same values and mission as Smithworks (Vodka. His favorite way to drink Smithworks is with diet lemon-lime soda garnished with a lime. Simple enough.)

Shelton is quoted as saying, “I grew up in Ada, Oklahoma and was raised on the values of hard work, humility and an appreciation for the simple things that make up a good life. As part of the Smithworks family, I’ve been involved in the development of the brand and I’m excited for everyone to finally taste what we’ve been crafting. At its core, Smithworks celebrates that moments in life are better spent with good people and great drinks.”

For the rich mouthfeel and smooth (lack of) flavor, we were surprised by the low price tag—just under $20. A great price for this smooth, clean vodka.

SMITHWORKS VODKA
smithworksvodka.com
~$19.99 / 750mL

We’re eagerly awaiting distribution in the great state of Texas … a note from Smithworks: For now, you can find Smithworks Vodka in AR, CO, IA, KS, LA, MI, MO, NE, OH, OK, TN, IL, NC, and PA. If it’s in your neck of the woods, ask your favorite local spot about us—it’s usually the personal touch that gets it done.

Banner image courtesy of Smithworks.

Tricky Fish

One of the newest restaurants in the Waterside development over in Cowtown put a twist on brunch.

Tricky Fish describes themselves as costal/Cajun vibe. The menu is as southern as you can get—think fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, eggs benedict, po boys, and more. Once I was done sampling all our treats, I really felt like I was deep in the heart of New Orleans … but it smelled a lot better.

“Days spent on the water and evenings spent with good friends, a cold beer and amazing food. Eating out should be a break from the real world. It should be fun, relaxing, a chance to get away from all the things that make our lives…well, complicated. A good meal, spending time with family and friends, trying local craft beer or a glass of wine on the patio – that’s what Tricky Fish is all about.”

The Brunch menu isn’t extensive, but it really packs a punch. The fried green tomatoes are on my must-order list—the batter on the tomatoes was light and crunchy, and it was topped with remoulade and blackened shrimp that complimented it perfectly. My personal favorite dish was the shrimp and grits—the Shiner Bock BBQ sauce gave the dish an extra twist that I wasn’t expecting. If you can restrain yourself from getting too full, the bananas foster monkey bread or pancakes were the right amount of sweet to complete the meal.

Pro Tip: Find some friends who like to share to take here, then order a few plates and eat family style. The portions are big and this way you have a reason to eat off your friend’s plate. They also offer a Couples Brunch for two—two entrees and a Banana’s Foster Monkey Bread for dessert for $25.

Not only is the food great at Tricky Fish, but the drink selection was a perfect way to round out the brunch menu. (You knew we’d get to the booze pretty quickly, right?) The cocktail list for brunch is about what you’d expect—they offer a DIY Mimosa Bar, an Instagram-worthy Bloody Mary (complete with pork rind, okra, and boiled shrimp), and a list of seasonal cocktails.

I tried the Lemon Wedge (Black Tea Tito’s Vodka, limoncello, honey) which was basically an adult sno-cone—and the Blossom (Bacardi Rum, Berry blossom tea, strawberry jam). The Blossom was a little sweet for my taste, but they said that it’s one their most popular drinks. Gotta love those with a bit too much of a sweet tooth ruining it for the rest of us.

If you’re looking for a relaxing brunch out west or in Richardson, Tricky Fish is the place to be.



TRICKY FISH
tricky-fish.com
Fort Worth: 5917 Convair Drive
Richardson: 1251 State Street, Suite 750

facebook.com/TrickyFishWaterSide
@tricky_fish_

HAPPY HOUR
Monday – Friday, 3pm-7pm: $2 off draft beers, wines, and seasonal cocktails
> Monday- $5 mules all day
> Wednesday- half off wine
> Thursday- $2 off craft beers all day

Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10am-2pm

Welcoming the Original ChopShop to Park Cities

So, you find yourself having lunch sans alcohol … I know, I know … ick. But hear me out. At the end of the day, we can’t have a cocktail with every meal. Just like I can’t have cheese fries daily. (A girl can dream.) Even Susie O committed to a FULL MONTH without cocktails when she was on Keto .. and she’s SusieDrinks.

If you do find yourself focusing on healthy eating or if you just want good some old-fashioned nutrition, Dallas has plenty of places that serve up delicious AND healthy food. I ventured in to one such establishment recently, one of Dallas’s newest, the Original ChopShop!

My fellow contributor, Brian, was lucky enough to check out the location in Las Colinas/Irving earlier this year, but since I don’t often venture out into the great, white North, I was excited to hear that they were opening their third DFW location closer to my stomping grounds in the Park Cities!

Dallas is an active city, and as much as we love our cocktails, we also love to stay work out and eat a healthy meal from time to time, which is why this Phoenix-born neighborhood eatery has been such a hit! (We love the hippy dippy concepts coming to us from Phoenix as of late—Flower Child being the first.)

“We’ve been thrilled by DFW’s response to our ‘Just Feel Good Food’ concept,” said Jason Morgan, CEO of Original ChopShop. “It’s exciting to watch the brand become a part of daily life for North Texans—much like how it became a staple in Phoenix. With this next opening at University Park, we believe SMU students and local residents alike will appreciate having the new Shop in close proximity. Our multi-faceted menu will make it the perfect place for an on-the-go breakfast, study session, lunch meeting or dinner for the family.”

Obviously, I had to go see what the buzz is about for myself. The new 2,675-square-foot location was packed when I got there but the interior is ultra-welcoming with a relaxed atmosphere and sunny accents – making it the perfect spot for a lunch meeting or a quick and healthy breakfast! With the location being right next to SMU, I’m sure it will quickly become a go-to study spot.

The menu features an assortment of juices, breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, and protein/superfruit bowls. There was also a solid selection of protein shakes that I will definitely be returning for! Due to my aforementioned love of cheese fries, I opted for something a bit lighter for lunch—the veggie hummus wrap. It was delicious and filling since it was packed with tons of fresh vegetables including kale, carrots, broccoli, corn, cucumber, feta cheese and of course, hummus. You can choose to make any of the ‘Between Bread’ menu items into a wheat wrap or a yummy sandwich on 12-grain ciabatta bread.

I also ordered a juice from the massive list of options. I’m notoriously indecisive so picking one was tough. I ultimately went with the ‘Daily Detox’ which has beet, apple, ginger, lemon, orange, parsley and aloe vera. It was super refreshing and light. I loved that they have all the fresh produce on display behind the counter so you can see the ingredients that they use for whatever you order!

Beyond the ‘feel good food’ they are also doing good for the community! The company has established a local partnership with Children’s Health Dallas. Original ChopShop plans to give an annual $5,000 contribution to the hospital through various initiatives, which included the VIP preview event they hosted prior to their opening. How amazing is that?

So whether you want to eat healthy in preparation for all the goodies you plan to eat this holiday season, or you’re mapping out some good options for your new year resolutions or if you just want delicious, fresh food, I hope you find yourself near a location of the Original ChopShop.

The Original ChopShop
OriginalChopShop.com
6401 Hillcrest Ave., Ste 100 & various other locations

Another Round of the SACC Begins This Week

Every January San Antonio gets drunk … drunk with power knowing that most of the cocktail industry flocked to the home of the Alamo to party, learn … and party some more at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference (the SACC). Bartenders, bar owners, and newbies come from the reaches of the south to mingle with brand ambassadors, media, and daywalkers civilians enthusiasts at seminars by day and parties by night (and, in actuality, by day too).

Leading up to the main event, brands offer dinners for the locals or the early arrivals with thoughtful and usually quite opulent pairings. Seminars are offered Thursday-Saturday alongside an absolutely overwhelming tasting room experience. And, every night of the main SACC time, there are incredibly well executed parties and celebrations featuring brands offerings tastes, cocktails, and expertly-paired food … and, if done well, a fun hook to keep people hanging at their bar.

Seminars each year offer anything from light tastings with a side of education to a full-out exploration of terroir in a specific spirit aimed at attendees ranging from industry professionals to novices and aficionados. Expect anything from the history of women in mezcal led by the brilliant Emma Janzen and Graciela Angeles Cerreño, functional bar flair instruction from our friend Phillip Smith, a history of Japanese whiskey, and a history of tiki cocktails to a class about cooking with rum. A fun twist I’m excited about this year is an offering of a daily hour of health courtesy of Ketel One and The Healthtender. If you can rouse yourself to make it to one, your body will, no doubt, thank you.
Side note: I’m delighted to see such a female presence this year in the programming; it’s beautiful to see!

There is truly something for everyone here … so long as he can enjoy a cocktail or sip some whiskey. Seminars are all sold separately … so come for one or a ton!

This year’s signature cocktail is the Call Me, Honey, created by Jordan Corney of the local Bohanans Steakhouse. (He also created Patrón’s Margarita of the Year in 2016.)

Image courtesy of the SACC

Call Me, Honey
2 oz Deep Eddy Original Vodka
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz honey syrup (2:1 honey to boiling water)
1 oz orange juice
Green cardamom pod
Lemon wheel and cinnamon for garnish

Muddle cardamom pod in a shaker tin and add remaining ingredients. Add two cubes of ice and shake. Strain with fine mesh strainer into chilled rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with lemon wheel and dust with cinnamon.

I’ll be attending Friday and Saturday’s festivities, so if you make it to Alamo City, send me a DM! If a trip south isn’t in the cards, you can follow along with this year’s SACC experience on my Instagram stories, or follow the conference hashtag #SACC2019.

SAN ANTONIO COCKTAIL CONFERENCE
sanantoniococktailconference.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

SACC 2016 Recap
A First-Timer’s Guide to SACC (by Tiffany Tran)
SACC 2015 Recap & 2016 Teaser

Kane Brown serenades Uptown Dallas Thanks to Hilton Honors

Amazing views of the Dallas skyline, a private concert by CMT winning artist, Kane Brown, a potato bar (yeah you read that right), and delicious hand-crafted cocktails. A dream come true, am I right?? Those were just some of highlights of the killer party that Hilton Honors threw at the new Canopy by Hilton Dallas Uptown.

Let me paint the scene: We walked in and were greeted with a fun photo-opp and trays of specialty cocktails that were so absolutely amazing that you don’t want to put them down. You turn the corner and see even more cocktail bars, a bacon bar, AND a mac and cheese bar! There was a crew creating Hilton Honors merchandise in real-time. There were also photographers snapping Polaroid pictures of guests that will later be turned into magnets at the afterparty. (Mine is below, so cute, right!?)

As we continued through the venue, there were trays of locally-sourced bites being passed in addition to Texan craft brews and cocktails. I was lucky enough to try a chicken wing (or three) wrapped in a waffle and drizzled in maple syrupso so good! In the opposite corner, there is a massive DIY taco bar where you could choose from brisket, chicken or pork and then add any topping you could imagine. 

Our group was invited back to gather around a small stage for a private, intimate concert. Kane Brown came out and treated the audience to an acoustic set of his songs and some other popular country songs by some of his friends.

After Kane Brown serenaded us, we headed up to the after-party at Upside, the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant. There were more cocktails, a wide assortment of desserts, and the coveted view of the Dallas skyline. The weather was being a little tricky so the skyline was playing peek-a-boo in the mist, but it gave the whole atmosphere a somewhat mysterious, exciting vibe! 

A big hats-off to Hilton for being gracious enough to invite our team to this experience that they put on for their Hilton Honors members. The platform allows members to cash-in points for VIP access to sporting events, bucket list-worthy adventures, private concerts (like this one), and even singing lessons with chart-topping artists. I don’t know about you, but after looking at all the things you can cash in your points for—Belgium getaways, Trans-Siberian Orchestra Concert Tickets?!—I’m totally ready to become a member!

Sound good to be true? Check out all the things Hilton Honors members are experiencing on Instagram.

And if you haven’t been to the Upside at the Canopy in West Village – it’s an excellent choice for date night, girls’ night or just casual after-work drinks! 

Upside at the Canopy by Hilton Dallas Uptown
upsidewestvillage.com
canopy3.hilton.com
2950 Cityplace West
Dallas, Texas 75204

Meet Vidorra, your new rooftop patio obsession

I love Deep Ellum. Like.. I really really love it. I love all the quirkiness and the constantly changing bars, restaurants and local businesses. It’s not news that Deep Ellum has been the home to tons of new cocktail bars and restaurants in the past few years, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The newest addition to Main Street is Vidorra, “Cocina de Mexico.” You can’t miss the bright yellow sign and the rooftop patio with killer views of the Dallas skyline.

Honestly, this place has so many insta-worthy backdrops, it’s unreal. The décor is Mexican-inspired with vibrant colors and unique textures throughout. There is a moss-covered wall, seating suspended on ropes to create swings, colorful couches perfect for all your group photos, and more.

(Oh, and it’s not just pretty … they also make some great food and drinks.) I’ll be the first to admit, I made a mistake right away when ordering my cocktail. I was so busy soaking in the atmosphere that I hardly had time to get through their extensive menu of margarita riffs. So, I panicked when it was time to order and went with “The Gold Digger”, their take on a frozen mango margarita. Don’t get me wrong … it was delicious, but I quickly discovered that they have an extensive cocktail list on the back of the menu that branches out beyond fabulous margaritas.

Their cocktail list plays around with recipes that feature a variety of mezcals and tequilas to make some seriously killer cocktails. After my margarita, I tried a cocktail called “Howl at the Moon” that has Lunazul Reposado tequila, Mandarin Napoleon liqueur, both orange and vanilla bitters, all barrel-aged for a week. It was so delicious that I had to have two. Whatever.

As far as food goes, you really can’t go wrong. For the appetizer, they sent out a massive bowl of their flaming fundito in a 400º Molajete dish. If it weren’t so hot, I probably would’ve drank the queso straight from the bowl. (No shame here … it was delicious.) For my meal, I got the pick two fajitas with steak and chicken and it was easily enough food for 2-3 people—especially because you need to save room to sample all of the delicious cocktails.

Speaking of cocktails, I ended my evening with a cocktail called “The Verdict” (tequila, Mezcal, agave, absinthe and bitters). The flavor was very intense but it was definitely the crowd favorite at our table.

So go for the drinks, the atmosphere, the food or the views. Whatever you do … just get there!


VIDORRA
vidorradallas.com
2642 Main Street (Deep Ellum)
972.215.0640

Visiting Mexico’s Riviera Maya with The Beach Planner

I love to plan vacations. Like, really love to. But, between my consulting agency, freelance writing, and the time I put in for y’all here, I have less time to do the research to make for a great trip than I’d like. So, when I was planning a trip to Mexico and found The Beach Planner, and after hearing what she does, I was more than happy to let her take the reigns.

It sounded too good to be true—Devin Alenky, a former executive assistant, she opted for the beaches of Mexico over New York City to do what she loves—plan travel for the most adventurous of us. (We’ve all wanted to take that kind of a chance, right?) Her attention to detail and conscientiousness make her the perfect travel planner. From airport transportation to upgraded lodging and even restaurant and bar suggestions (including some menu item suggestions!), she handles the nitty gritty for you.

Each group she works with is given a completely tailored experience—bachelor(ette) parties, couples, families, etc.—she can make the best suggestions for your group, whatever your situation or budget. Her services allow you to take your vacation beyond the all-inclusive to get than a cookie cutter experience out of your vacation. “When booking an all inclusive resort, one essentially never leaves the hotel,” says Devin. “People are often hesitant or even afraid to wander the area on their own.” As a result, Riviera Maya travelers miss out on the true culture here, the real gems of Mexico.”

The Beach Planner assists with every aspect of your vacation, including:
– lodging
– airport transfers
activities like cenote tours (cenotes are natural sink holes used as swimming holes), mermaid school, private boat charters, zip lining through the jungle, and cooking classes
– dining and cocktail recommendations
– fitness class recommendations and ways to stay active
– currency exchanges
– general recommendations, travel tips, and more
– local event notifications

The best part of the completely tailored trip planning experience offered by The Beach Planner is that her trip planning services are free as long as you book your lodging through her. Tell me, honestly, how is this not worth it?!

In the coming weeks, I’ll write up the experience Sarah and I had specifically in my Riviera Maya travel guide—from airport transportation complete with bus beers to a full day of rooftop pool/beach club hopping. We were blown away by the detail, but ultimately happy to have found someone who wanted to make our experience so authentic and enjoyable. … because sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy a vacation from time to time.

So, when are you heading to Mexico … and taking me along?


THE BEACH PLANNER
thebeachplanner.com
@thebeachplanner

Gold Bar Whiskey: It’s What Outside That Counts

I firmly believe there is a time and place for everything in the world of spirits. Yes, it’s nice to find a really great sipping whiskey or a gin with a few different notes that make a unique G&T, but I’m also intrigued by novelties. Visiting a new place? Hit me with your crazy, local novelty liquor. (Even you, Chicago … malört me.) Got a crazy bottle or random flavor idea to throw at me? Well you should know I’m the guy who went on like a full two year moonshine bender, just because I could. And I’m the guy who agreed to review Captain Morgan’s Jack-O Blast for Susie.

If you want to know exactly how Gold Bar Whiskey tastes, the easy review is that it’s fine. It’s a tad sweet with notes of honey and vanilla plus a bit of heat at the end. I would recommend it in a cocktail over it being a sipping whiskey. (And some cocktail recipes are included for you below.) There’s a bit of information on the bottle about being finished in French oak wine casks from Napa Valley (swanky), with a cursory line about the contents being a mash bill of rye, corn and barley. But the bulk of the information is about the gold packaging and the art on it. So, again, this is all fine. You will sip this, nod and go “alright, cool,” like me and our three other tasters, then you’ll start talking about the packaging if it hasn’t already been a large part of the conversation.

So, about the packaging … drumroll … it’s a giant faux gold bar.

Lay it flat and pretend you stole it from the world’s drunkest mint while cackling like a super villain.
… Use it for balance and display it, letting all your friends know that you have achieved the level of success required to drink from a golden container.
… Allow it to be a conversation starter about how the United States made a mistake abandoning the gold standard in the 1930s.
… Do a few “Austin Powers: Goldmember” lines until no one wants to talk to you. “I love goooold … the taste of it, the smell of it, the texture.”
… Use is as a photo prop. (Because, you will.) Make sure to search Instagram for those aspirational shots that will make you feel like you are part of something. By drinking gold, you truly become gold … right?

Ok, if you made it this far, I will again stress the whiskey is fine. You can make a pretty decent cocktail from it. I’d recommend it as a novelty for parties or housewarming parties, because think how cool it’ll be to be thought of every time someone comments on the giant gold bar on your friend’s bar. Again, there’s a time and a place for everything, so if you need to set a scene or mood or just want the pics from your next gathering to pop, this is a cool way to switch things up.

The Libertine

LIBERTINE
4oz Gold Bar® Whiskey
2oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2oz Simple Syrup
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
2 Tsp. Orange Marmalade
1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice
1 Egg White

New York Sour

NEW YORK SOUR
2oz Gold Bar® Whiskey
1oz Lemon Juice
1oz Liber&Co Gum Syrup
.5oz Red Wine


Gold Bar Whiskey
goldbarwhiskey.com
$39.99 -$49.99 per 750ML bottle
ABV: 80 proof, 40% ABV
Mash: blended whiskey, approximately 88% corn, 9% rye, 3% barley
Finished: French Oak Cabernet wine casks from the Napa Valley
Age: no age statement

Available in 27 states and 12 countries globally. Distilled in San Francisco, CA

***Brian was given a bottle of Gold Bar Whiskey to try out for a complete review.*** Images courtesy of Gold Bar Whiskey.

Susie knows all things boozy …