High Spirits

The 2016 Cocktail Awards

Locating the top tipple in town is no easy task. By polling groups of friends, discoursing with bartenders, deliberating with the editorial staff and taking suggestions from readers, we’ve made our picks for 2016.

With more than a decade of experience behind a bar, I presume to have a solid grasp on what makes a good cocktail (and a bad one, which is more common, unfortunately). Despite what thirsty palates crave, the same formula applies if a drink is to be successful: quality components and correct method with a touch of imagination.

For margaritas, the ingredients must be fresh and mixed only with top-shelf tequila. Martinis should be shaken until your triceps ache and your fingers stick to the tin. Mojitos must be muddled, and a well-composed cocktail may take nearly 10 minutes to create. So be patient.

Whether you stir it, shake it or muddle it, the 30 creative cocktails on our list are sure to quench your thirst.

Margaritas

Dirty Margarita
Grace
$14

Being the least traditional on the list, the Dirty Margarita at Grace is a successful blend of Avion Reposado, Grand Marnier, lemon, lime and orange juice plus pressed olives. It’s a modern take on an old classic with a nice salty, sour finish.
777 Main St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.877.3388
gracefortworth.com

Skinny Rita Rocks
Joe T. Garcia’s
$8.50

You will find the margarita at Joe T.’s on nearly every best margarita list and for good reason. There’s no secret method that makes this basic margarita so amazing; it’s simply the quality ingredients. I have many happy memories linked to sharing a pitcher of margaritas on Joe T’s primo patio, and I learned in my 20s to treat this potent amigo with respect.
2201 N. Commerce St.
Fort Worth 76164
817.626.4356
joets.com

Rocks Rita
Benito’s
$7.95

This homey neighborhood restaurant on Magnolia is a popular late-night dining spot (open until 2 a.m. on weekends). Benito’s legendary large margaritas go down easy with the Tex-Mex classics on the menu.
1450 W. Magnolia Ave.
Fort Worth 76104
817.332.8633
benitosmexican.com

Himalayan Sea Salt Margarita
Righteous Foods
$14

Lanny “Mexicutioner” Lancarte is the brain and muscle behind Righteous Foods. He opened the restaurant with a dedication to fresh and healthy whole foods, and the libations served are no different. With a drink menu divided into “detox” and “retox” sections, I often opt for the latter. When I first sipped the Himalayan Sea Salt Margarita, made with IXA Silver Organic Tequila, Fruitlab Organic Orange Liqueur and lime, it was as if I’d found a lost treasure. At $14 a pop, I save this treat for special occasions…like anytime I’m in the general vicinity.
3405 W. 7th St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.850.9996
eatrighteously.com

Revolver Margarita
Revolver Taco Lounge
$10

Revolver Taco Lounge brings the food of Mexico to Fort Worth. At this family-owned and -operated restaurant, everything is made from scratch by skilled matriarchs. With one of the best tequila selections in the city, the hand-crafted margaritas are created by purist bartenders where everything is fresh and nothing comes from a mix.
2822 W. 7th St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.820.0122
RELOCATING:
2418 Forest Park Blvd.
Fort Worth 76109
revolvertacolounge.com


We can't have a list of Best Margaritas without including the FW MAGarita from Rio Mambo, created by our publisher, Hal Brown, and Rio Mambo owner Brent Johnson.


Martinis

The VIP
Del Frisco’s
$15

Del Frisco’s may have earned its spot on the map with its prime-grade steaks, but its signature cocktail, The VIP (Vodka Infused Pineapple), is a star in its own right. Featuring Svedka Clementine Vodka infused with fresh Hawaiian pineapple, this cocktail is the toast of the town. The cocktail is also served at Del Frisco’s more casual sister restaurant, Del Frisco’s Grille.
812 Main St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.877.3999
delfriscos.com

Lychee Martini
Cannon Chinese Kitchen
$10

Set in a restored 1930s bungalow with plush furniture and fun wallpaper, Cannon Chinese Kitchen serves traditional Chinese cuisine prepared from scratch. I’m embarrassed to say that the first time I visited Cannon, I wasn’t familiar with what lychee was. The server informed me that it is a small fruit with a sweet white flesh. I’m proud to say that it was love at first sip. The lychee puree and lemon vodka are shaken into submission and served ice cold.
304 W. Cannon St.
Fort Worth 76104
817.238.3726
cannonchinesekitchen.com

Chocolate Martini
MICHAELS Restaurant
$12

The Ancho Chile Bar at MICHAELS is a long-time meet-up spot for celebrations, TCU game days and cozying up next to the large stone fireplace. While the hand-squeezed “South Texas” Margarita is many patrons’ favorite at MICHAELS, I prefer a sweeter post-meal cocktail on the menu. The Chocolate Martini is Stoli Vanilla, Godiva Dark and White Chocolate Liqueurs, Frangelico and Baileys Irish Cream shaken and served in a chocolate syrup-laced martini glass. It’s worth every last calorie.
3413 W. 7th St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.877.3413
michaelscuisine.com

Melancholy
Clay Pigeon
$15

Making everything in-house, from breads and desserts to butchering their own meat and fish and preparing their own charcuterie, Clay Pigeon is dedicated to local, organic and fresh ingredients. That philosophy can be tasted in the Melancholy martini, incorporating cucumber vodka, watermelon juice and a simple syrup with green tea and mint.
2731 White Settlement Road
Fort Worth 76107
817.882.8065
claypigeonfd.com

Extra Dirty Vodka Martini
Scat Jazz Lounge
$9.75

Tucked away in an alley near Sundance Square, Scat Jazz Lounge looks like the kind of underground club you’d see in the movies. It’s the perfect dark and swanky spot to enjoy a craft cocktail and excellent musical talent. The martinis here are made the right way, where the bartenders might experience a touch of frostbite from shaking your drink.
111 W. 4th St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.870.9100
scatjazzlounge.com

Brain Freezers

Moontang
Rodeo Goat
$7

The Moontang at Rodeo Goat always puts a smile on my face. The menu lists the ingredients of Firefly Moonshine blended with Tang and “other stuff.” I don’t know what that other stuff is, but it hits the spot. The main thing you taste is the Tang, which brings back childhood memories, and it’s served in a rocks glass with an orange slice and cherry. Oh…and Rodeo Goat serves some of the best house-ground burgers on the planet.
2836 Bledsoe St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.877.4628
rodeogoat.com

Spiked Dr. Pepper
Landmark Bar & Kitchen
$12

Sailor Jerry Rum and Dr. Pepper combine to make this fun frozen sipper at Landmark Bar & Kitchen. This watering hole in the West 7th area is an adult playground complete with vintage arcade games, oversized patio, mechanical bull and 30 HD TVs.
3008 Bledsoe St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.984.1166
landmarkfw.com

Frozen Peach Bellini
Social House
$10

For a peachy keen brunch experience, Social House is the place. Carafes of Mimosas and Peach Bellinis are the centerpieces of most tables on weekends even though the restaurant boasts more than 100 beers on tap. Adding a Frozen Peach Bellini to the menu was genius and necessary for keeping patio guests cool. The concoction contains Absolute Peach, champagne and puréed peaches.
840 Currie St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.820.1510
socialhousefortworth.com

Banana Daiquiri
The Usual
$12

The Usual Bar on Magnolia invites its guests to “stop in for a drink and see what it’s like to be guided through a bar by the hand of a truly skilled bartender.” Specializing in Prohibition-era cocktails, Fairmount residents applauded the arrival of a quirky smoke-free bar with shady patio. Mixologists at The Usual infuse some wild ingredients into their creations such as smoked maple syrup, bison grass infused vodka, molasses and various herbs. The Banana Daiquiri is unlike any other and can be ordered on Wednesday nights. It’s anything but the usual.
1408 W. Magnolia Ave.
Fort Worth 76104
817.810.0114
theusualbar.com

Frosty Buffalo
Buffalo Brothers
$8

Located just off TCU campus, Buffalo Brothers is a popular college hangout. The wings are done the right way here, and the Frosty Buffalo, made with Buffalo Trace Whiskey and Coca-Cola, is like no whiskey and coke I’ve ever had.
3015 S. University Drive
Fort Worth 76109
817.386.9601
buffalobrostexas.com

Oldies But Goodies

Sazerac
Fixture – Kitchen and Social Lounge
$10

In the heart of the Near Southside, Fixture - Kitchen and Social Lounge is serving up delicious craft cocktails. Fixture’s focus on beverages is equally important as its focus on the eclectic comfort food it serves. The bar menu changes with what’s in season, and the Sazerac is not currently found there. Not a problem. Any of Fixture’s talented mixologists will eagerly and flawlessly execute this old classic featuring Copper & King’s Brandy, Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, bitters, sugar, Absinthe and flamed lemon peel garnish.
401 W. Magnolia Ave.
Fort Worth 76104
817.708.2663
fixturefw.com

Algonquin
Silver Leaf Cigar Lounge
$11

Silver Leaf contains one of the highest quality collections of cigars in Fort Worth. What goes better with a good cigar than a perfectly concocted cocktail? The knowledgeable staff will help you navigate the menu to find the right pairing, but the top pick for me is Silver Leaf’s Algonquin. It’s comprised of Herman Marshall Rye Bourbon, Dolin Dry Vermouth, fresh pineapple juice and Belle de Brillet Pear Brandy.
426 Commerce St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.887.9535
silverleafcigar.com

Aviary Julep
Bird Café
$13

Unlike many of the other libations found on this list, the Aviary Julep at Bird Café is one that most won’t be able to replicate at home. The flavor profiles and methods used to prepare several of its drinks are complex and best left to the experts. The Aviary Julep is a wildly imaginative variation of a Mint Julep and is made by mixing up Waterloo Antique barrel-aged gin, Marie Brizard Parfait Amour, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup and mint
155 E. 4th St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.332.2473
birdinthe.net

French 75
Proper
$7

Just past Hemphill on Magnolia Avenue sits Proper, a hole-in-the-wall bar that makes some mean drinks. My favorite is the French 75, which blends champagne, gin, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup. Dating back to World War I, this cocktail was said to have such a kick that it was similar to being shot with a French 75mm field gun. I can’t say I’ve experienced that, but I do limit consumption to two per visit.
409 W. Magnolia Ave.
Fort Worth 76104
817.984.1133

Fort Worth Old Fashioned (pictured at top)
Reata Restaurant
$12.95

The Fort Worth Old Fashioned at Reata would definitely meet Don Draper’s standards. Made with TX Whiskey, of course, this traditional classic is also laced with bitters, simple syrup, a slice of orange peel and a Maraschino cherry. Bottoms up.
310 Houston St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.336.1009
reata.net

Mojitos

Coconut Water Mojito
Water Horse Pool Bar at Omni
$12

Even if you aren’t a guest enjoying the poolside amenities at the Omni Hotel in downtown Fort Worth, you can still partake of the boozy creations as you jealously long for some splash time. The Water Horse Pool Bar offers guests high-definition TVs, fabulous food and drinks even more refreshing than the breeze on the bar’s roof deck.
My personal favorite this season, the Coconut Water Mojito, has a sweetness from the coconut that played harmoniously with the mint.
1300 Houston St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.535.6664
omnihotels.com

Mojito
La Perla Negra
$8

La Perla Negra is the collaborative vision of Ramiro Ramirez of Salsa Limon, Andrew De La Torre of Embargo and Imran Khan of The Lunch Box and Black Rooster Bakery. The atmosphere is relaxed, yet sophisticated and reminiscent of an island cantina. La Perla Negra’s classic Mojito is the perfect blend of quality rum, mint, lime and sugar. If you have nothing better to do at the start of the week, Mojito Mondays offer $5 specialty mojitos.
910 Houston St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.882.8108
lpnegra.com

Blue Moon Mojito
Mash’d
$9.25

Moonshine was originally a nickname for different illegal endeavors that took place under the cover of darkness. Those who made and sold alcohol in this manner became known as moonshiners, which was popular even before Prohibition. Now moonshine is featured on bar menus nationwide. Mash’d incorporates organic Maine blueberry house-infused moonshine with fresh lime, sugar and mint in its highly consumed Blue Moon Mojito.
2948 Crockett St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.882.6723
mashd.com

Durazno Mojito
Gloria’s Latin Cuisine
$10

As one of the only chain restaurants on the list, Gloria’s reigns supreme with its mojito proficiency. With a menu consisting of Salvadoran and Tex-Mex inspiration, popular drink choices include the margaritas, mojitos and sangria. My favorite go-to is the Durazno Mojito with rum, peach, mint and a splash of Sprite for that fizzy finish.
2600 W. 7th St., #175
Fort Worth 76107
817.332.8800
gloriascuisine.com

Blueberry Mojito
Reservoir
$9

Muddling is the key to a good mojito, and Reservoir bartenders have it down to an art. The Blueberry Mojito with fresh mint leaves, blueberry and Pearl Blueberry Vodka is shaken and served on the rocks.
1001 Foch St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.334.0560
bar-reservoir.com

Bloody Marys

Bloody Mary
Little Red Wasp
$8

Little Red Wasp is the comfortable and sleek younger sibling to nearby Grace. With valet parking and an elevated happy hour menu, the expansive bar lining an entire side of the restaurant is usually hopping. The inventory of liquor is impressive, as is the beer selection, but it’s the Bloody Mary that has me coming back weekend after weekend. Made with Western Son Vodka, Ballast Point Bloody Mary Mix and Best Maid Extreme Hot Pickles, this downtown eatery flies easily into our top cocktail list.
808 Main St.
Fort Worth 76102
817.877.3111
littleredwasp.com

Bloody Mary
Lucile’s Stateside Bistro
$7.58

Are you one who hates to eat your vegetables? I’m not sure you’d find this on the food pyramid, but Lucile’s Bloody Mary mixes top-notch vodka with a combination of tomato juices and V-8. Served traditionally with the additions of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, as well as a winning combination of spices, it’s no wonder you’ll be seeing red on just about every table during brunch.
1450 W. Magnolia Ave.
4700 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Fort Worth 76107
817.738.4761
lucilesstatesidebistro.com

Bloody Mary
Lola’s Saloon
$6

Lola’s has been open for a decade and is best known for hosting shows by the best underground bands on the verge of breaking into the big time. An expansive back patio addition includes a massive stage, large shade trees and parking for food trucks. Lola’s makes our list for the best Bloody Mary bang for the buck.
2736 W. 6th St.
Fort Worth 76107
817.877.0666
lolassaloon.com

Turnt Up Bloody Mary
The Bearded Lady
$8

The Bearded Lady packs a powerful punch with its Turnt Up Bloody Mary, served on Sundays. Made with a very spicy house-made mix and featuring pickled okra, lemon and lime slices and a bacon straw, this spicy devil is a brunch-time must.
1229 7th Ave.
Fort Worth 76104
817.349.9832

Bloody Mary
Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery
$6.44

I’ll never forget my first “real” Bloody Mary. It was a hair-of-the-dog situation. Visited Esperanza’s, a Joe T. Garcia’s spin-off restaurant, for a fix of its to-die-for Chilaquiles. Someone in my party ordered a round for the table. I couldn’t believe the complexity of flavors since my only experience with the cocktail prior to that had been on morning flights. Esperanza’s is a long-time Fort Worth staple offering authentic Mexican food in a no-frills atmosphere with one of the best on-site bakeries in town. The Bloody Marys are made-to-order and can be modified for less spice if you prefer.
1601 Park Place Ave.
Fort Worth 76110
817.923.1961
joets.com