Maybe it’s because my father has imbibed nothing but Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey since I was shorter than a barstool or because I’ve learned through trial and error that sticking with whiskey is the easiest way to avoid a hangover, but I find few things more refreshing than a cold whiskey sour, mint julep, or even a bourbon and lemonade on a hot day like the ones we’ll be experiencing from now until November.
A quick survey of my drinking buddies this past week, though, found that whiskey, be it bourbon or Irish, is not an obvious choice when it comes to summertime cocktails. I love a Moscow mule or a margarita as much as anyone, but I was taken aback by their tough “Whiskey is a winter drink” stance. Luckily, many of the Fort’s best bars are on my side of this argument, offering refreshing and tasty beverages that showcase the stuff along with refreshing summer fruits and juices. Below, in no particular order, I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites and where to find them, hoping that I won’t be the only one ordering a warm-weather whiskey drink next time I’m at out with my vodka- and tequila-loving pals.
Buffalo Smash, Fixture Kitchen & Social Lounge (401 W Magnolia Av, 817-708-2663)
Blackberry cocktails are the key to my heart. At this far West Magnolia Avenue hideaway run by recent Chopped winner Chef Ben Merritt, the Buffalo Smash is a perfect blend of Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon, muddled blackberry, simple syrup, mint, and lemon. I sometimes find myself wondering what blackberries add to a drink besides color. In this refreshing spritzer, they hold up to the smooth bourbon being showcased. It’s an ideal sipper for the restaurant’s perennially underrated covered patio.
Honey Badger, Fixe Southern House (5282 Marathon Av, 682-707-3965)
Aged Old Forester whiskey, honeycomb, and lemon make up this simple drink, shaken and served over ice. Lately, I’ve been enjoying one of these in the cool, dimly lit recesses of Fixe’s sizeable bar or nestled in one of their comfy leather easy chairs. As a bonus, these drinks are discounted during the Clearfork eatery’s killer happy hour (4-7pm weekdays).
Boot Stitch, Whiskey & Rye (Omni Hotel, 1300 Houston St, 817-350-4105)
This delightful mix of locally made TX Whiskey, grapefruit and lime juices, and jalapeño-infused agave, garnished with a grapefruit twist and a rosemary swig, is a good late afternoon refresher, perhaps after touring the nearby water gardens with out-of-town guests or while taking in a sports match (there’s always one on) in the Omni’s flagship watering hole.
The Grapes of Wrath, Thompson’s (900 Houston St, 817-882-8003)
After Whiskey & Rye, head two blocks down to Thompson’s, where you’ll find this take on a New York Sour. A favorite cocktail of mine that can be hard to come by round these parts, the drink here is hidden under the guise of “The Grapes of Wrath,” in keeping with the bookstore-themed speakeasy’s novel drink names. The mix of TX Whiskey, house simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, egg white, and a floater of Chateau St. Michele Syrah is balanced and sophisticated –– perfect for an after-work wind-down or any occasion really. The red wine floater elevates this from a typical whiskey sour, and it’s Instagram-worthy to boot.
Old Fashioned, The Usual (1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114)
I couldn’t write a column about whiskey in Fort Worth without mentioning this classic whiskey drink or the city’s premier cocktail bar that has perfected it. A carefully crafted, balanced Old Fashioned without too much bitters or simple syrup, is not always what you’ll get at area bars. You never have to worry about that here. The shaken mix of bourbon, sugar, and a combo of angostura and orange bitters is classic and classy, just like the West Magnolia Avenue mainstay itself. More adventurous types should try the Usual’s Montpelier, which mixes bourbon with smoked maple syrup, Italian vermouth, and a little Jamaican rum –– a combination that complements the heavy, humid air of a mid-summer night.
Now go forth and spread the word — whiskey is the winning drink of summer. Clear liquors, be damned.