Perhaps some of you remember in March when I did a local Queen's Park Swizzle tour? Well, it was so damn fun I decided to do it again, but this time, I needed to look beyond Dallas.
I wanted to find the loveliest Queen's Park Swizzle in the Lone Star State -- and I would definitely need some backup. (Player 2 now enters the game.) The lively and wildly knowledgeable Scott Fitzgerald, rum expert and Mount Gay Rum national ambassador, decided to fly from New York City and join me in search of Texas' best Queen's Park. We then packed up our swizzle sticks, a few bottles of Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, fired up Google Maps, and hit the road.
It took four days, more than 20 bars, and dozens of Ubers to tear through Dallas, Austin, and Houston for answers.
Before we get to the tour, what is a Queen's Park Swizzle?
This cocktail is rum, lime, sugar, mint, Angostura bitters over crushed ice, and made with moxie. Punch has a great quick synopsis here. The cocktail was originally made with Demerara rum (typically darker, richer rums from Guyana), but I encourage everyone to switch it out for rums from all over the world or blend a couple together to make it your own. My personal spec is:
- 2 oz. Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum (Barbados)
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- Angostura bitters
On to highlights from our
On the drive, of course, we refilled at the Czech Stop and Scott had his first ever kolache (crazy, I know). No one worry, he picked a savory roll, as one should. I found a mix CD in the car console that I made for my teenage cousins, but forgot to get in the mail. It's pretty sweet and, yes, I still make mix CDs. We listened through it twice and you can listen to it too!
After depositing our bags and the car at the hotel, it was time to get serious. First stop: The Townsend. Managing partner Justin Elliott is one hell of a critical thinker and he's thought plenty about the Queen's Park Swizzle.
"The Queen's Park Swizzle is probably the most essential cocktail that is still largely unknown outside the realm of cocktail deep-geekery. When perfectly balanced, it may well be the most complete cocktail of all, touching on umami with a well-chosen rum, sweet (sugar), sour (lime), and playing with both hot and cool aromatics (bitter and mint)," Elliott says.
For our particular swizzles, he used Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, and a few moments later we had bright, lively, and enviably frosty QPSs, which were delightfully balanced -- and therefore --"slammable." Oh boy, I was coming in a little hot. If you really want to party, the Townsend is also playing with a killer house swizzle featuring Hamilton 151 (yeehaw!).
We visited six more spots including Jessica and Michael Sanders' Drink.Well, where Jessica incorporated Mexican mint for a more herbal and earthy flavor. Garage Bar was another major stand out, as bar manager Chauncy James composed a blend of Diplimatico and El Dorado 12 rums and used house mint syrup. The result was rich, enduring, and delicious.
Dennis Gobis, co-owner/operator of the Roosevelt Room, was the only Austin bar we called on where the Queen's Park Swizzle was actually featured on the menu. He also opted for Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, the proportion of sugar and bitters was perfect, and the lime juice was unbelievable zesty with a tiny bit of sweetness. Not only beautiful, this proved to be one of my favorite QPSs I have ever enjoyed.
The next morning was relatively painless and all signs of mild hangover were expunged after a sweltering bowl of pho from Elizabeth Street Cafe. We hit the road to Houston and five hours and a couple of snafus later, we were sitting at Julep's bar smiling at general manager Kenneth Freeman. He remains one of the friendliest and most welcoming hosts I have ever encountered. Kenny made us a couple of dazzling swizzles with Plantation 3 Star, which made for a sweet grassiness and was impeccably balanced with cooling mint and refreshing lime.
Our next stop was heavyweight Anvil Bar and Refuge, where our bartender Sarah offered two separate variations: half of the order as the house recipe with Flor de Cana 4-year and the additional half with Mount Gay Rum Extra Old. The lighter Nicaraguan option was energizing, bright, and familiar. The extra old Barbados variation was substantial and almost opulent; both cocktails were spectacular and faultlessly executed.
The next morning, Scott and I silently rode for a while, waiting for the fog to burn off. Luckily, we discovered a Eugene Mirman comedy CD shoved in the side door, which brought us over an hour of laughter until the headaches started to fade. We arrived in Dallas by the afternoon, regrouped, and headed out.
Dallas seemed to be the most consistently comfortable with the Queens Park Swizzle (I blame myself) and everywhere we visited truly delivered.
Victor Tango's is an obvious choice for tasty cocktails and dinner. VT's has been making classic cocktails for Dallas since 2008 and the Queen's Park Swizzle is certainly dialed in. Any day, any bartender, any time, you will get a terrific QPS here (and okonomiyaki, if you hurry).
After a few stops, we made it to Black Swan, where the Queen's Park features shaved ice, starts off strong, and then develops beautifully with a healthy dose of Angostura bitters.
We ended the night at Midnight Rambler in the basement of the Joule hotel. The house QPS is classic, refreshing, and, like everything else in the bar, executed with tremendous precision. We agreed that the swizzle was the pinnacle of sweet, sour, cool, and warm. If you reference my notebook for this particular cocktail, keep in mind this is the last stop of a hectic three days, I just had drawn a page full of sloppy looking stars. I think it was my way of saying, "Yup. Just like this."
Thank you to everyone who participated and facilitated such fun experiences for us throughout Texas. Thank you for welcoming us in your bars and being silly with us (I love you guys!). It was extremely difficult to narrow down our favorites, and this is just to our taste, but here are the Queen's Park Swizzles Scott and I think lead the pack:
- Austin: Dennis Gobis, the Roosevelt Room
- Houston: Kenneth Freeman, Julep
- Dallas: Zach Smigiel, Midnight Rambler
- Best in Show: Zach Smigiel, Midnight Rambler
Don't forget to swizzle responsibly and here are even more places to score a terrific Queen's Park: Weather Up (Austin), Isla (Austin), Lei Low Bar (Houston), Mansion Bar (Dallas), Parliament (Dallas), Libertine Bar (Dallas)
Emily Arseneau is a hospitality consultant and student of her craft who is currently collaborating with a group of bartenders nationwide called Collectif1806, which focuses on cocktail revival and education. She resides in Dallas and is partial to topknots and Queen's Park Swizzles.