Monday, November 15, 2010

Which Bars Make the Grade When You Request Something Off-Menu? Not the Ones Who Advertise Their Drinks Most.

Since our newest hobby of sampling cocktails has begun we have been surprised at the places which cannot come up with a decent cocktail. Namely, these are often places which pride themselves in promoting their cocktails.

On the other hand, we have often been surprised and pleased at the unexpected places which work hard and get a cocktail juuuuuust right.

Our test?

Not difficult. We simply ask for a cocktail we enjoy, provide the recipe when invariably no one has heard of it (along with glassware and ice requirements), and sample the results.

Here is our list, admittedly short, of places that pass ... and fail.

The key is not that hard. Willingness to please the customer and using the ingredients called for. Too bad it is such a rare combination.
  • Dino's Steak and Clawhouse in Grapevine, Texas.
    We asked for a Chelsea Sidecar. The waiter was intrigued, friendly, and happy to pass on the recipe, which he was not too proud to jot down. The result was double the usual amount and absolutely delicious. (The food was fantastic also ... pricey but fantastic.) Visited Feb. 2010.

  • Riad Mediterranean Cuisine in Springfield, Missouri.
    As with the best places, the server was interested and willing to see what the bartender knew, and then to take back the recipe when a Chelsea Sidecar was unknown to them. Again the portions were doubled. Is there anywhere in America that just doesn't want to pour liquor down your throat in gigantic quantities? At any rate, they did a stellar job, fresh lemon juice and all, when we were there on two different occasions. (The food? Authentic and wonderful.) Visited Oct. 2009.

  • Arris Pizza in Springfield, Missouri.
    This is a unique sort of pizza place, featuring Greek pizza and with a side room that is a small cocktail lounge worthy of the name. Again, the excellent service of willing servers and bartenders provided me with a delicious Chelsea Sidecar. Also, this pizza is to die for. Visited Oct. 2009.

    "What did I do to deserve this flat, flavorless Manhattan?"* If you think a cocktail can't be flat and flavorless then you've never sampled one off-menu in the below locations. Here's a tip guys. If you're bragging about your cocktails then at least have the goodness to use fresh citrus juice in it when called for.
    • Ozona Grill & Bar in Dallas, Texas.
      Although they tout a "tantalizingly good selection of drinks" (which is what I assume they mean to say on their website), Hannah discovered last weekend that what they meant was "order off our menu or face the consequences." She gave the White Spider recipe to which the waitress responded in a surly fashion. Hannah didn't think to specify it shaken with ice and served in a cocktail glass and the waitress certainly didn't ask, so it was served in an old fashioned glass with ice cubes. Made without fresh lemon juice, this was truly a disappointment and certainly a contrast with the solicitous service received by a friend who arrived later, ordered from the menu, and was peppered with questions about what sort of gin to serve in her cocktail. For shame, Ozona. Visited Oct. 2010.

    • The Porch in Dallas, Texas
      Our hopes were high as we'd read good reviews and seen the boast on their website: The 45' bar features hand crafted cocktails including retro classics and neo-classics with house made syrups, infusions and fresh juices. Not only did the waiter not bother to write down the recipe, in which I did specify "shaken with ice and served in a cocktail glass," but he scornfully told me that the old fashioned glass I received (with drink on the rocks) was a "cocktail glass" and I should have said, "martini glass."

      Thank you for that education.

      I am not sure if it was his lack of detail or the bartenders who were responsible for slipping sour mix into the Chelsea sidecar which I eventually received in a cocktail glass (warm) but the result was truly flat and flavorless. (On a side note, the food was very good but the huge silverware and booths made me feel as if I were in the land of the giants. There was also high noise level as everything had a hard surface. Those weren't deal breakers but considering the service and cocktail we won't be returning.) Visited May 2010.
      * The Simpsons