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Sips of summer

Oak Street Drafthouse & Cocktail Parlor makes the Bee’s Knees cocktail.
Oak Street Drafthouse & Cocktail Parlor makes the Bee’s Knees cocktail.

Fruit flavors dominate in seasonal concoctions

It’s going to get hot again, and the staff at Denton Time decided it was high time to suggest some seasonal libations. Patios all over Denton are ripe for summer cocktails, and the devoted workers at your neighborhood newspaper were good for a round or two.

Given the healthy number of bars and restaurant bars in our fair city, this is but a small sampling of refreshments you might be missing in favor of your faithful brews and mixed drinks.

So if you’re in the mood to forgo your typical drink for something special, put up your feet and check out Part 1 of our survey of Denton’s summertime sipping.

Sweetwater Grill & Tavern

115 S. Elm St. Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 11 a.m.

to midnight Sunday and Monday.

An array of fun and colorful drinks have hit the local bar menu at Sweetwater Grill & Tavern this summer.

Dayna Kulik, a bartender at Sweetwater for the past 17 years, said this season the key to a good drink that beats the heat is fresh fruit.

“We want to provide something that’s light and refreshing,” she said.

Two of the summer’s newest cocktails? A Salty Dog and Mango Screwdriver.

The Salty Dog consists of Texas vodka and fresh squeezed grapefruit served chilled over ice with a salted rim.

The Mango Screwdriver is blended with house-made mango infused vodka and fresh squeezed orange juice garnished with a slice of fruit.

Kulik said the two cocktails are just examples of many they are now serving with that “hint of freshness.”

“We also do a lot of muddling with strawberries and vodka. Those are mostly ordered as a shot,” she said.

Whether it’s juicing a watermelon or thinking up her next drink idea — pineapple vodka perhaps? — Kulik said one thing she knows is these aren’t your typical artificially flavored vodkas.

“While those are nice, these have the real thing and keep it, well, a bit healthier,” she said.

Sweetwater staff recommends trying a fruit-infused cocktail with one of the restaurant’s many signature salads, on special daily.

“They are just a delight paired with a salad or fish, keeping the whole meal light and summery,” Kulik said.

Buzz factor: Sweetwater pours flavorful drinks, but the bartenders don’t skimp on the spirits. Lightweights will feel it halfway through the second serving. Heavyweights? Vaya con Dios.

— Megan Gray

Hickory Street Lounge

212 E. Hickory St. Open 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday and Monday.

The duo holding the bar down at a busy post-happy hour at Hickory Street Lounge were more than ready to mix up a cocktail perfect for the rare temperate July night.

Dapper barkeep Adam said the local watering hole doesn’t have any named summer specials. What the tavern does have, though, are some neglected new flavors for the season.

“We’ve got strawberry, blueberry and watermelon flavors we’ve been mixing,” he said. “I’m not sure why, but the strawberry is the weakest flavor of the three.”

We asked him to mix up something with the watermelon, the flavor recommended, and Adam went straight to work.

We’ll call this refreshing drink the Pink Lady.

The guys will probably pass on this blushing beverage. A light pink shade lightened by that delectable cubed ice, this beverage was a watermelon vodka served with the “sour” found in whiskey, amaretto and vodka sours. A nice twist of lemon, maybe some lime and syrup. A fresh stick of watermelon for a garnish, and the glass was ready to drink.

Not as sweet as a daiquiri, and not as assertive as a vodka martini, the Pink Lady is best drunk fresh. It’s not a drink to be paired with anything, really. It’d fit right into happy hour with the girls or at a bridal shower brunch, preferably with savory finger foods.

It’s hard to beat fresh watermelon, and the stick of it resting in our drink was especially nice after soaking in the drink.

Buzz factor: Almost none. You could drink three of these cocktails and maintain your decorum.

— Lucinda Breeding

Oak Street Drafthouse

& Cocktail Parlor

308 E. Oak St.

Open noon to 2 a.m. daily.

We fudged the rules a little when we joined a big crowd sitting, standing and leaning in every room (and the patios) at Oak Street Drafthouse & Cocktail Parlor. (Don’t look at us like that. We weren’t in the mood for beer.)

So we tried something you can only get in Denton, and with the huge row of beer taps behind the bar, we just know this cocktail is overlooked.

We tried the Bee’s Knees. Named for the most distinguished ingredient, Armadillo Ale Works’ lemonade, this is one duplicitous drink. Light taste, big kick.

The bartender whipped up a double of this signature cocktail. With Tito’s vodka, the local craft brewery’s bottled lemonade soda and a slice of lemon, this cocktail is just the glass for a weeknight on the drafthouse patio.

Armadillo Ale Works’ Bee’s Knees Lemonade is a grown-up take on the childhood favorite, and Tito’s is a silky brand of vodka. The lemonade is a lighter soda than you’ll find at your convenience store fountain, and together, the flavors are a mild, friendly mix. You’ll get lots of refreshment without morning-after regret.

That said, Bee’s Knees isn’t a candied drink. Its profile is cool and smooth. Oak Street doesn’t do food, but this would be a nice counter to a warm stadium-style pretzel or a hot dog. It’s served as a double on the rocks.

Buzz factor: Beware. Drinking more than a few of these will deliver a bit of a mule kick. But it’s a perfect summer cocktail that won’t fill you up or weigh you down. We can vouch for the Bee’s Knees as a prelude to stouter stuff at the Denton Movie Tavern. Just remember that if you’re planning to drink in multiples at the movie house or elsewhere, designate a driver. Local bars are up for responsible regulars.