Dallas' Six Best Cocktail Bars

Categories: Drinking

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Mark Graham
The Windmill's Charlie Papaceno, dean of the Dallas cocktail scene.
With the emergence of Dallas' craft cocktail scene, bartenders -- OK, fine, mixologists -- have come to expect the city's notoriously conservative orderers utter those two magic words: "surprise me." It's an approach I've been taking more and more over the last year, and as a result I've been on some great cocktail adventures.

Here are my six favorites. Tell them City of Ate sent you, unless you're going to order vodka cran, in which case tell them Yelp sent you.

*****

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Catherine Downes
The glass is empty. Our glass is full.
Smyth
Next to a non-descript door on Travis Street, the words "Please buzz the call box" are inscribed on a small, white sign. The reservations-only bar Smyth feels like an old-school speakeasy, with dimly lit corner tables, a retro soundtrack and a tuxedoed maître d' welcoming every guest.

There are no menus; the bartenders simply ask for a liquor of choice and a flavor profile. (Do you like fruity drinks? Bitter? Herbal?) I told Josh the Barkeep: "Whiskey, more Manhattan than old-fashioned. Oh, and use a good whiskey." The experience is so great you'll want to order another, but don't forget what they say about stores without price tags: "if you have to ask, you can't afford it."

*****

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Kevin Todora
A Manhattan club cocktail at Bolsa.
Bolsa
Over the years, Bolsa has earned accolades from us as the "Best Place to Take a Date" and "Best Patio." But what if you're looking for the best place to take a date, sit on a patio and sip a cocktail? Still Bolsa.

This Bishop Arts District staple serves up fresh ingredients in classic drinks like house-made ginger beer in the dark and stormy, alongside unique cocktails like Gin & Jam, which is made with the jam of the week. One of the especially delicious concoctions is the Jane Doe, which is the perfect mixture of tart and sweet with a crisp flavor from the strawberry and orange blossom water and a hint of bitters. The food ain't bad, either.

*****

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via Victor Tango's
Victor Tango's
Victor Tango's clearly believes in the importance of menu variety. The mixologists are always shaking up the scratch cocktail list, offering variations on classic drinks like Pimm's Cup 10 and inventing signature drinks including the namesake cucumber, tequila and lime mixture. The bar keeps recipes of old drinks on file too, which allows return visitors access to a secret menu of sorts. Want to feel like an insider? Order a Ginger Crush.

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24 comments
mihalikbecky
mihalikbecky

Trina at Cedars Social is definitely worth visiting!  She is so enthusiastic and is always ready with a smile or the perfect drink.  My husband and I have tried to stump her and she keeps us coming back for more! I don't know what magic or angel kisses she is adding to her drinks behind the bar but we have never been disappointed with any of her concoctions!  Cheers to her and the other masterminds at The Cedars Social! 

Chelsea Delzell
Chelsea Delzell

Kristin Delzell...the windmill lounge looks awesome!

Al Renteria
Al Renteria

I can vouch for Black Swan Saloon and Windmill Lounge.

Nancy Moore
Nancy Moore

That Dutch Kitchen -- 'er uh...Windmill Bar guy will spritz you up a really nice non-alcoholic beverage, too! I tried one of his and I was convinced!

Sam Shelby
Sam Shelby

We tried finding black swan saloon but were too stupid!

Mustafa Al-Laylah
Mustafa Al-Laylah

I dunno. In my eyes if it's a term used during the origins of American bar culture, during the height of American bar culture (40's-60's), and during it's current renaissance I believe it's safe to say it's here to stay. Now terms like "bar chef", "tipplerist", and the like will have to earn their keep to stick around with that same degree of longevity.

hoomommy
hoomommy

You can't be serious! 1/2 of these are not "cocktail lounges". Last time I was at Swan they didn't even have a menu. You totally missed this. How could you cite The Windmill and leave off the People's Last Stand and Tate's? 

Mustafa Al-Laylah
Mustafa Al-Laylah

Would that include all the instances where it was used to describe the craft in the 19th century onwards?

Jon Jackson
Jon Jackson

The term mixologist should be banned from use. Forever.

Gabe48
Gabe48

Yeah, those places are good, but the best BBQ in Dallas is at Mac's. They are only open for lunch, but the jalapeno sausage and ribs are the BEST.  Don't sleep on Macs!

Peacock214
Peacock214

Smyth.....sounds contrived (the whole faux speakeasy thing) and pretentious. 


Andrea Phleger
Andrea Phleger

Victor Tango's looks delicious! Let's set a date soon and try one or an evening where we try all ;)

OldmanK
OldmanK

@Sam Shelby Next door to Fuzzy's Taco Shop

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

@hoomommy Where does it say that they're supposed to be lounges? "Cocktail." "Bars." The Windmill and Black Swan are easily in the top 5, and maybe 1-2. 

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@Jon Jackson As should Facebook postings on this here site.

mihalikbecky
mihalikbecky

@Peacock214 I think a lot of people think that until they actually visit Smyth.  We have been many times.  I have scheduled a happy hour after work with co-workers and then had a nice date night with my husband.  Every time we have been there we have been treated warmly and the staff has been so attentive.  

kerry.prokup
kerry.prokup

@MattL11 @hoomommy When you have a wall of infused liquor and no indication of what they are, having a menu helps. Especially when the bartender asks "What can I get you?" and then acts annoyed when you ask "Well, what do you have?"

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