This list of cocktails in Central Arkansas isn’t meant to be a “Best of” list because taste can be subjective. I can’t claim to have had all of the cocktails in the area. What I can do, however, is to give you a list of some of my favorite cocktails in the area based on purely subjective preferences. This list is limited to cocktails, which I will stretch to include highballs but must have liquor in combination with other ingredients excluding beermosas and whiskey on the rocks. This is also about individual drinks and not the overall bar or restaurant experience. This is the sixth in the 2018 Favorites lists and you can check out the archive here. These are mt favorite Little Rock 3 cocktails I am craving right now in no particular order.
As a reminder, I am not a critic and I have friends who have or do work at many locations around town including South on Main and Trios.
Before David Burnett left as the Bar Manager of South on Main to become the General Manager at Baci, he helped set the standard for South on Main’s Social Hour with $5 Old Fashioneds. The Old Fashioneds made at South on Main are pretty much the perfected version of what I try to do at home making them but consistently day after day and year after year. Even the rail bourbon is one of my favorites – Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond. The 100 Proof higher rye mash bill bourbon has fantastic flavor that is only enhanced with the rest of the Old Fashioned’s ingredients. A well made Old Fashioned in a great environment is a joy and there are others that follow the same successful plan, but this year South on Main gets my nod.
Something else you may have noticed over the years is how much I love gin & tonics. It is my default highball and my go-to order at a busy bar. Celebrating Rocktown’s move to a new location, they also have a revamped cocktail program including The Darby! The Darby starts as a gin & tonic, using Rocktown’s Feast in the Field gin made in conjunction with Heifer International but then layers flavors in, not unlike a Spanish gin tonica. The use of cucumber water ice cubes and frozen raspberries provide both contrasting and amplifying flavors. The cucumber ice as it melts highlights the unique botanicals in the gin itself while the tartness of the raspberry bumps up against that distinct twang of tonic water.
Trios – Sea Flower
Okay, the menu has probably changed by now, but the Sea Flower was a great experience at Trio’s! Under Merrick’s guidance, the bar program at Trio’s matches the long standing favorite’s accolades for its food. A heavy inspiration from the Tiki side of the cocktail culture, Trio’s cocktails are a classy and forward expression of the best parts of mixology. The Sea Flower takes pisco and layers it with falernum and St. Germain to create a light and engaging cocktail that has a strong backbone of tart citric appeal, which may explain my love of it.
La Hacienda has always had some fantastic margaritas to have with your dinner, but they have doubled down on those efforts lately. Long time fans will remember when la Hacienda’s original location was closed for remodeling … okay actually they pretty much took it completely down and rebuilt it. In addition to the fresh take on the interior and the more efficient kitchen, they added the Aztec Margarita. It is a high quality margarita made with good tequila, freshly squeezed, juice, and served in an aesthetically pleasing earthenware mug. This may sound like what you expect from a good margarita, but La Hacienda deserves the kudos for going with the higher quality margarita on the menu! Stop by and order one and you’ll see it is the equal of any margarita in town!
That’s my list of my favorite cocktails in central Arkansas right now! We’ve seen cocktails come back over the last decade from being a menu afterthought to a strong and central part of nearly every restaurant in town. The hard part was narrowing it down as there were some great cocktails from Big Orange, Proof, CBG, 109 & Co. and so many more. It is truly a fantastic time for cocktail loving consumers – we have come a long way in the last decade and I am have never been prouder of our bartenders. What are your current favorites? Drop a comment here, or any other social media and let me know!