Tarantula Tiki Lounge’s Spider Grog will heat up your holiday right. Photo by Teresa Yanaros

As Christmas lights shine bright and the holidays hit full stride, we discover ourselves caught in the struggle of a busy life. Bogged down with the awkwardness of gift exchanges, holiday office jubilee, or tipsily texting Tinder strangers, a pandemic put a halt on all that cheerful glee. If 2020 were a present from Satan (no, that is not misspelled), it would be a lump of coal in a well-worn stocking that reeks of soured milk and charred bacon.

We don’t have to allow this lump-of-coal year to alter our holiday festivities. While most local bars have reopened, we safely encourage your visiting, although three local bars have generously shared holiday cocktail recipes out of gentle care — if only to prevent your inner-Scrooge from being rattled by ghosts. Or relatives. Whichever you fear the most.

Opening a year ago at the Jennings and Pennsylvania intersection on the Near Southside, Low Key Tavern is proprietor Chas Taiple’s latest concoction in addition to the West 7th speakeasy Bodega. With High Top pub coming soon to the former Pizza Bar None space next door, Taiple took a breather to let us in on a drink that’s perfect for this time of year.

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“Aromatic smells we are all familiar with for the holidays,” said Taiple when running down the list of ingredients of Griswold’s Old Fashioned. “Cinnamon, baking spice, oranges. And the double oak by Woodford Reserve is a solid whisky choice. It’s a reminder of the log fire burning in the fireplace.”


Griswold’s Old Fashioned

½ oz cinnamon tea syrup

2 oz Woodford Reserve Double Oak

Dash Peychaud’s bitters

Dash orange bitters

Rosemary sprig for garnish


Low Key Tavern’s second annual coat drive will be held on Sat, Dec 19. Get your whistle wet while providing warmth for someone else.

Up the street and around the block is where Fort Worthians transform into Hawaiians to unleash their inner Don Ho. Tarantula Tiki Lounge is the brainchild of co-owners Autumn Brackeen and Jason Alford, who also keep West Magnolia Avenue stalwart Boiled Owl hooting.

Providing a brief background, Brackeen dives into what she calls their signature swill, the Black Spider Grog.

“We started crafting the menu almost three years ago, and this gem was the very first creation,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do a play on the classic navy grog but wanted to put a Tarantula signature on it. After experimenting with housemade blackberry syrup, we landed on this strong, fruity, perfectly balanced cocktail that is sure you leave you happily buzzing. The rich combination of three distinct rums and allspice dram give the Black Spider Grog a flavor that can be enjoyed year-round, but it also tastes perfectly festive for the holiday season.”


Black Spider Grog

1 oz Diplomatico Reserva rum

1 oz Lemon Hart Blackpool

spiced rum

1 oz Plantation 3 Stars rum

¾ oz fresh lime juice

¾ oz housemade blackberry syrup

½ oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

½ oz grapefruit juice


Combine in a shaker with cubed ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a grog mug filled with nugget ice. Garnish with fresh blackberries, an orchid, and your favorite swizzle. Aloha to that!

The final two recipes are a boozy doozy. Owner Lisa Little-Adams of Proper on Magnolia has again turned this quaint neighborhood go-to into the North Pole for their Christmas pop-up happening now.

The Papa Elf beverage joins forces with local liquor maker Blackland Distillery.

“We’ve been trying to support owner Markus Kypreos and general manager Megan McClinton from Blackland as much as possible during COVID,” Little-Adams said, “and when Megan brought us this new product, we jumped on it. It fits perfectly with our Christmas menu and is such a good product.”


The Papa Elf

1¼ oz Blackland Texas Pecan Brown Sugar Bourbon

1¼ oz rye whiskey

1 dropper of cardamom bitters (2-3 dashes)


Add all ingredients to a tumbler, stir with a big cube of ice or a snowball. (Make sure it’s not yellow snow.) Garnish with brown butter tincture or lemon peel spritzed and cinnamon stick.

“His Heart Grew 333 Times that Day is our next recipe,” Little-Adams said. “This is essentially a variation of a Grasshopper but with a little chile kick and not too much mint. I’m not a cream drink person, but this is just delicious. It’s hard to not drink more than one. I also wanted a green drink to tie in with the name. It’s referring to a line in The Grinch but with a secret message to my children.”


His Heart Grew 333 Times that Day

6-10 mint leaves (depending on size)

½ oz Hendrix Gin

1 oz Crème de Cacao

¼ oz Ancho Reyes Verde Chile Liqueur

¼ oz pandan

1 oz heavy cream


Lightly muddle mint with gin before adding other ingredients, then shake and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with one mint leaf.

Here’s your chance to avoid a nightmare before Christmas and turn your holidays into holidaze. Drink up, Grinches!