I’m a big fan of the “fancy” cocktail. Don’t get me wrong … there is a time and a place for a good ol’ plain Jane vodka soda. (Usually that time is whenever I am on a diet, and that place is wallowing in a pool of sadness…just kidding! …kind of.) But, if I really want to savor what I’m drinking, I enjoy seeing what happens when bartenders are allowed to flex their mixology muscles and craft drinks that stretch beyond the realm of classic cocktail offerings. If you’ve never been to Pepper Smash at The Shops at Legacy in Plano, believe me when I say that “creative” is their thing. I am still trying to figure out whether their cocktails are more aptly described as “art,” or “science,”- but whatever the case may be- they are mixing up some mighty delicious libations.
Pepper Smash graciously invited me in to check out a few of their new menu offerings, and of course to reacquaint myself with a few of their delicious signature cocktails.
We kicked off the evening with one of Pepper Smash’s most popular cocktails: the Fire Smoked Dr. Pepper ($11). As the name suggests, this cocktail is quite literally smoked before your very eyes, infusing Maker’s Mark with a smoldering oak essence created with a nifty apparatus apparently designed for this very purpose (though it vaguely looks like something Walter White would have stashed in his RV). Imperial sugar Dr. Pepper is add to the mix, giving the cocktail a delightfully familiar sweet-smokiness.
Smoked wood chips are impressive, to be sure, but you aren’t really winning at craft cocktails until you throw a cotton candy machine into the mix. That’s right, Pepper Smash keeps a cotton candy machine behind the bar for the sole purpose of crafting one drink: the Cotton Candy Martini ($10 — Absolut, lemon juice, vanilla syrup, champagne, and you guessed it: cotton candy). I had a hard time conceptualizing how this cocktail would “work”, so I had to order it to see for myself. A familiar fluffy cloud of pink cotton candy is served in a martini glass, and the liquid ingredients are then poured over the cotton candy, which dissolves amidst a fleeting instant of melancholy. But, you can still taste it. Not shockingly, this cocktail is on the saccharine side and reminded me vaguely of a boozy Orange Crush. Definitely an interesting selection.
Because cotton candy machines and booze smoking apparatuses apparently aren’t enough, Pepper Smash offers two cocktails that are frozen with liquid nitrogen: the Pineapple Express ($11 — Bacardi Pineapple, ginger, pineapple juice, champagne) and the Triple M’s Explosion ($12 — pineapple and strawberry infused vodka). The presentation of this duo is dramatic to say the least, as wisps of “smoke” dance atop your cocktail glass when it is placed in front of you.
“But, what is a Pepper Smash,” you may wonder? I’m glad you asked, because I simply can’t visit without ordering one. The cocktail kitchen’s namesake, the Pepper Smash ($10), incorporates a bold blend of Tito’s vodka, red bell pepper, jalapeno, onions marinated in 100 proof vodka agave, and lime juice. Spicy and robust with just a hint of sweetness, this unique savory cocktail is probably my favorite one on the menu. (I recommended it to the guy seated next to me at the bar, and he ended up drinking three.) I say the Pepper Smash is “probably” my favorite, because I have a hard time dismissing Eden’s Garden ($12 — Plymouth gin, elderflower, cucumber, basil, mint, jalapeno, lime juice- as a close second).
With so many creative, tasty cocktails to focus on, it would be easy to overlook the food at Pepper Smash. Don’t. Everything I have ever sampled from their kitchen has been seriously delicious. Sometimes, I find myself day dreaming about their Smokey Mac & Cheese ($9 — cavatappi pasta, sharp cheddar, gruyere, smoke). Everything I sampled on this visit was equally as tempting.
We started out with the Pimento Cheese ($8), which was topped with bacon jam, and accompanied by buttery grilled sourdough and blistered shishito peppers. Holy new favorite appetizer. If there is something in this world that cannot be improved upon by bacon jam, I want to hear about it.
Pepper Smash always hits it out of the park with their flatbreads, and this visit was no exception. We sampled the Al Pastor ($12 — cider braised pulled pork, sweet onion puree, pineapple, jalapeño, and lime). The toppings were generously portioned, with a little taste of every ingredient in every bite. If you are a fiend for spicy dishes, this flatbread is definitely for you; loaded with fresh jalapeños, this dish definitely woke up my palate.
When it comes time for dessert and the manager asks, “Wanna try something weird?” there’s clearly only one correct response. We were presented with a liquid nitrogen frozen ice cream concoction- incorporating Licor 43, vanilla ice cream base, basil, and fresh strawberries. I love unexpected flavors in desserts, and the basil was an awesome addition. This was an off-menu delight, but I feel confident it can be snagged upon request.
TLDR: the next time you feel inclined to treat yo’self to an incredibly unique, seriously indulgent cocktail experience (yes, it really is an experience), + some killer eats, head on over to Pepper Smash at the Shops at Legacy. (And probably plan on Ubering it because the urge to try all of the cocktails on the menu is pretty overwhelming.)
Happy Hour: 3-6pm Daily
$3 beer | $3 wells | $6 domestic wines
HOURS OF OPERATION:
MON – THU 3 PM – 11 PM
FRI – SAT 11 AM – 1 AM
SUN 11 AM – 11 PM