Kane Brown serenades Uptown Dallas Thanks to Hilton Honors

Amazing views of the Dallas skyline, a private concert by CMT winning artist, Kane Brown, a potato bar (yeah you read that right), and delicious hand-crafted cocktails. A dream come true, am I right?? Those were just some of highlights of the killer party that Hilton Honors threw at the new Canopy by Hilton Dallas Uptown.

Let me paint the scene: We walked in and were greeted with a fun photo-opp and trays of specialty cocktails that were so absolutely amazing that you don’t want to put them down. You turn the corner and see even more cocktail bars, a bacon bar, AND a mac and cheese bar! There was a crew creating Hilton Honors merchandise in real-time. There were also photographers snapping Polaroid pictures of guests that will later be turned into magnets at the afterparty. (Mine is below, so cute, right!?)

As we continued through the venue, there were trays of locally-sourced bites being passed in addition to Texan craft brews and cocktails. I was lucky enough to try a chicken wing (or three) wrapped in a waffle and drizzled in maple syrupso so good! In the opposite corner, there is a massive DIY taco bar where you could choose from brisket, chicken or pork and then add any topping you could imagine. 

Our group was invited back to gather around a small stage for a private, intimate concert. Kane Brown came out and treated the audience to an acoustic set of his songs and some other popular country songs by some of his friends.

After Kane Brown serenaded us, we headed up to the after-party at Upside, the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant. There were more cocktails, a wide assortment of desserts, and the coveted view of the Dallas skyline. The weather was being a little tricky so the skyline was playing peek-a-boo in the mist, but it gave the whole atmosphere a somewhat mysterious, exciting vibe! 

A big hats-off to Hilton for being gracious enough to invite our team to this experience that they put on for their Hilton Honors members. The platform allows members to cash-in points for VIP access to sporting events, bucket list-worthy adventures, private concerts (like this one), and even singing lessons with chart-topping artists. I don’t know about you, but after looking at all the things you can cash in your points for—Belgium getaways, Trans-Siberian Orchestra Concert Tickets?!—I’m totally ready to become a member!

Sound good to be true? Check out all the things Hilton Honors members are experiencing on Instagram.

And if you haven’t been to the Upside at the Canopy in West Village – it’s an excellent choice for date night, girls’ night or just casual after-work drinks! 

Upside at the Canopy by Hilton Dallas Uptown
upsidewestvillage.com
canopy3.hilton.com
2950 Cityplace West
Dallas, Texas 75204

Meet Vidorra, your new rooftop patio obsession

I love Deep Ellum. Like.. I really really love it. I love all the quirkiness and the constantly changing bars, restaurants and local businesses. It’s not news that Deep Ellum has been the home to tons of new cocktail bars and restaurants in the past few years, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The newest addition to Main Street is Vidorra, “Cocina de Mexico.” You can’t miss the bright yellow sign and the rooftop patio with killer views of the Dallas skyline.

Honestly, this place has so many insta-worthy backdrops, it’s unreal. The décor is Mexican-inspired with vibrant colors and unique textures throughout. There is a moss-covered wall, seating suspended on ropes to create swings, colorful couches perfect for all your group photos, and more.

(Oh, and it’s not just pretty … they also make some great food and drinks.) I’ll be the first to admit, I made a mistake right away when ordering my cocktail. I was so busy soaking in the atmosphere that I hardly had time to get through their extensive menu of margarita riffs. So, I panicked when it was time to order and went with “The Gold Digger”, their take on a frozen mango margarita. Don’t get me wrong … it was delicious, but I quickly discovered that they have an extensive cocktail list on the back of the menu that branches out beyond fabulous margaritas.

Their cocktail list plays around with recipes that feature a variety of mezcals and tequilas to make some seriously killer cocktails. After my margarita, I tried a cocktail called “Howl at the Moon” that has Lunazul Reposado tequila, Mandarin Napoleon liqueur, both orange and vanilla bitters, all barrel-aged for a week. It was so delicious that I had to have two. Whatever.

As far as food goes, you really can’t go wrong. For the appetizer, they sent out a massive bowl of their flaming fundito in a 400º Molajete dish. If it weren’t so hot, I probably would’ve drank the queso straight from the bowl. (No shame here … it was delicious.) For my meal, I got the pick two fajitas with steak and chicken and it was easily enough food for 2-3 people—especially because you need to save room to sample all of the delicious cocktails.

Speaking of cocktails, I ended my evening with a cocktail called “The Verdict” (tequila, Mezcal, agave, absinthe and bitters). The flavor was very intense but it was definitely the crowd favorite at our table.

So go for the drinks, the atmosphere, the food or the views. Whatever you do … just get there!


VIDORRA
vidorradallas.com
2642 Main Street (Deep Ellum)
972.215.0640

Gold Bar Whiskey: It’s What Outside That Counts

I firmly believe there is a time and place for everything in the world of spirits. Yes, it’s nice to find a really great sipping whiskey or a gin with a few different notes that make a unique G&T, but I’m also intrigued by novelties. Visiting a new place? Hit me with your crazy, local novelty liquor. (Even you, Chicago … malört me.) Got a crazy bottle or random flavor idea to throw at me? Well you should know I’m the guy who went on like a full two year moonshine bender, just because I could. And I’m the guy who agreed to review Captain Morgan’s Jack-O Blast for Susie.

If you want to know exactly how Gold Bar Whiskey tastes, the easy review is that it’s fine. It’s a tad sweet with notes of honey and vanilla plus a bit of heat at the end. I would recommend it in a cocktail over it being a sipping whiskey. (And some cocktail recipes are included for you below.) There’s a bit of information on the bottle about being finished in French oak wine casks from Napa Valley (swanky), with a cursory line about the contents being a mash bill of rye, corn and barley. But the bulk of the information is about the gold packaging and the art on it. So, again, this is all fine. You will sip this, nod and go “alright, cool,” like me and our three other tasters, then you’ll start talking about the packaging if it hasn’t already been a large part of the conversation.

So, about the packaging … drumroll … it’s a giant faux gold bar.

Lay it flat and pretend you stole it from the world’s drunkest mint while cackling like a super villain.
… Use it for balance and display it, letting all your friends know that you have achieved the level of success required to drink from a golden container.
… Allow it to be a conversation starter about how the United States made a mistake abandoning the gold standard in the 1930s.
… Do a few “Austin Powers: Goldmember” lines until no one wants to talk to you. “I love goooold … the taste of it, the smell of it, the texture.”
… Use is as a photo prop. (Because, you will.) Make sure to search Instagram for those aspirational shots that will make you feel like you are part of something. By drinking gold, you truly become gold … right?

Ok, if you made it this far, I will again stress the whiskey is fine. You can make a pretty decent cocktail from it. I’d recommend it as a novelty for parties or housewarming parties, because think how cool it’ll be to be thought of every time someone comments on the giant gold bar on your friend’s bar. Again, there’s a time and a place for everything, so if you need to set a scene or mood or just want the pics from your next gathering to pop, this is a cool way to switch things up.

The Libertine

LIBERTINE
4oz Gold Bar® Whiskey
2oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2oz Simple Syrup
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
2 Tsp. Orange Marmalade
1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice
1 Egg White

New York Sour

NEW YORK SOUR
2oz Gold Bar® Whiskey
1oz Lemon Juice
1oz Liber&Co Gum Syrup
.5oz Red Wine


Gold Bar Whiskey
goldbarwhiskey.com
$39.99 -$49.99 per 750ML bottle
ABV: 80 proof, 40% ABV
Mash: blended whiskey, approximately 88% corn, 9% rye, 3% barley
Finished: French Oak Cabernet wine casks from the Napa Valley
Age: no age statement

Available in 27 states and 12 countries globally. Distilled in San Francisco, CA

***Brian was given a bottle of Gold Bar Whiskey to try out for a complete review.*** Images courtesy of Gold Bar Whiskey.

Urban8 Food Court in The Colony

The words “Food Court” don’t usually evoke visions of cocktails, dueling pianos, Cowboys watch parties, and trivia nights. Unless you’ve been to Urban8 Food Court in The Colony.

Sure, Urban8 offers everything you would expect to find in a “typical” food court (but better, and on steroids…) and more. Urban8 features eight chef-driven food and drink options, where guests can discover locally sourced, organic ingredients suitable for an array of dietary needs/preferences—vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options included.

Offerings include:

Burger Craft: the ultimate craft-your-own hamburger experience featuring Urban8’s proprietary blend of 100% grass-fed beef. The BC Burger, topped with mild cheddar, caramelized onions and a BC special sauce, is a guest favorite!

Pho Corner: authentic Vietnamese Street Food, including pho, spring rolls, banh mi, fresh smoothies and more

Rustic Flatbreads: flatbread-style pizzas made to order in a rustic brick over; the Fig & Prosciutto is not to be missed

Beyond the Box: a gourmet salad bar, and handcrafted sandwiches. Bonus: enjoy 25% off on Mondays to counteract all of the terrible delicious decisions you made over the weekend!

Taco Cielo: from classic street tacos to carne asada fries (!!!), you won’t want to miss this south-of-the-border road trip for your taste buds. The Paneer Taco is surprising and delicious if you’re in the mood for a departure from the ordinary. Be sure to stop by on Taco Tuesday, when you can enjoy BOGO on all classic street tacos!

Firewheel Coffee: Get your caffeine fix here, where you can enjoy a cold-brew coffee or hand-crafted espresso. Ever had a Floofle? If not, you’re missing out. (It’s a popover-like pastry served with jam and maple syrup or chocolate drizzle, if you’re feeling extra-decadent.) Get one here.

Monster Yogurt: A DIY yogurt station featuring 10 rotating flavors of yogurt and 50 toppings including options like cupcake bites, Texas pecans, and dark chocolate covered espresso beans. Oh, yes.

…and last but certainly not least, in the center of the food court (perhaps signifying its importance?) is STIR.  At STIR (Stories That I Remember), you can sip on a literary-inspired cocktail made with fresh ingredients, or enjoy a craft beer or glass of wine, if that’s more your speed. One of their cocktails, the Romeo and Juliet, features balsamic vinegar, strawberries, tequila, and Naranja with fresh squeezed lime juice. It just might inspire you to write a soliloquy or two of your own. Or not … but either way, it’s delicious.

STIR features Happy Hour from 4-7 PM on weeknights, and 10 AM-7 PM on weekends, with $2 off signature cocktails, $2 off wine by the glass, and $1 off drafts and bottles. Or, visit on Wednesday nights from 5-9 PM to enjoy all you can drink wine paired with a buffet from a select food outlet!

Beyond the plethora of food and beverage offerings  available at Urban8, some form of entertainment is available practically every night of the week. Whether it’s live music, an opportunity to paint while you imbibe,  or a theme trivia night, Urban8 has no shortage of fun activities to answer the age-old question of, “What should we do tonight?” A 12 foot projection screen is available for football, UFC, and watch parties for any number of events. The Urban8 stage in the center of the food court features custom pianos and rotating stage lights, which come to life every weekend with dueling pianos and live music. Check out there calendar of events here to see what’s coming up.

 

*Note: I am envisioning myself participating in all of these activities while consuming a giant bowl of fro-yo swimming in cupcake bites, followed by (ok, possibly accompanied by) a $2 off beer. Is this heaven?


Urban8 Food Court
thecolony.urban8food.com
5265 TX-121, The Colony, TX 75056

Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 7am – midnight
Friday: 7am-2am
Saturday: 9am-2am
Sunday: 9am-12am

Pictures courtesy of Urban8. Rachel was gifted a $25 gift card to use on her visit.

Victorious Cocktail Class

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon as I entered through the front door of Tiny Victories in Oak Cliff. I made myself comfortable in a seat at the bar of this cozy bar, flooded with daylight.

My professor for the day: Ryan Payne, veteran Dallas cocktail bartender
Today’s subject: How to make a wide selection of different cocktails
The Assignment: Make and subsequently sample said boozy creations

If my classes were more like this one, I would’ve had a perfect attendance record in college. (I mean … I was close already, but it would have been easier to get to perfect.)

For anyone not yet familiar with the cocktail bar off Davis and Tyler in Oak Cliff, the establishment opened back in February of this year and was warmly welcomed by OC locals and travelers alike. The vibe is intimate, warm, and a touch irreverent. At any given time, you may catch an episode of “Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere” or movies like “Cruel Intentions” or “Caddyshack” playing on flatscreens mounted on the backbar.

The bar boasts an awesome happy hour from 4-7PM every weekday when you can get cocktails for 50% off as well as other daily specials. In the mood for Trivia Night? That’s Tuesday.  Oak Cliff Network Night? Oh, that’s the first Wednesday of every month. Craving a complimentary hotdog on Football Sundays? They’ve got you covered.

If all of that weren’t enough, Tiny Victories also hosts cocktail classes for larger groups and special events, and I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to get a sneak peek into what a class like that entails. Turns out, it entails a lot of interacting with a charismatic and knowledgeable bartender while he makes delicious drinks for me to enjoy.

I was made for this class.

From Daiquiris to Aviations, Sbagliatos and Americanos to Old Fashioneds and Queens Park Swizzles, Whiskey Sours to Miami Vices, Ryan walked us through each step of creating each kind of cocktail. The informal nature of the class made it easy to enjoy the education along with the cocktail consumption.

For any inquiries about attending your own cocktail class, contact Ryan Payne, Managing Partner at Tiny Victories.


TINY VICTORIES
tinyvictoriesoc.com
604 N. Tyler St., Dallas (Oak Cliff)
(972)685-7055

The Easiest Host Gift for the Fall

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Big Betty. The opinions and text are all mine.

Halloween. Potlucks. Thanksgiving. Football watching parties. Sunday dinners. Holiday parties. It gets exhausting thinking about how many times you’re going to be visiting someone’s home and, if you have some manners, toting a host/hostess gift. I’ve got you covered, my friends.

This cute company, Big Betty Wine (the real OGs thanks to their first hit product, the glass that fits a whole bottle of wine) has come to the rescue. All you need to do is order a pack of their Brews for You “six pack cards” and stop by your local Trader Joe’s on the way to the party. I love stopping into Trader Joe’s as they have seasonal and favorite individual beers your can pull to create your own six pack, therefore making each six pack special to that host.

Keep a pack of these gift card boxes and Sharpie in the car to scribble a little note to the host, and you’re done. (Really … it couldn’t be much easier. And you’ll look like Superguest for not showing up empty-handed.)

The six pack “cards” ring in at $9.99 for a four pack (with Prime shipping, thank you), so stock up on these and save yourself the $3.95 you’ll usually spend on a one-time use card. (Because he can use this gift box again … and it’s all about reduce, reuse, and recycle, rigth!?)

What would your perfect six pack be?


BREWS FOR YOU
ilovebigbetty.com
Instagram: @bigbettywine

#Brews4You #ad

 

Halloween. Potlucks. Thanksgiving. Football watching parties. Sunday dinners. Holiday parties. It gets exhausting thinking about how many times you’re going to be visiting someone’s home and, if you have some manners, toting a host/hostess gift. I’ve got you covered, my friends.

This cute company, Big Betty Wine (the real OGs thanks to their first hit product, the glass that fits a whole bottle of wine) has come to the rescue. All you need to do is order a pack of their Brews for You “six pack cards” and stop by your local Trader Joe’s on the way to the party. I love stopping into Trader Joe’s as they have seasonal and favorite individual beers your can pull to create your own six pack, therefore making each six pack special to that host.

Keep a pack of these gift card boxes and Sharpie in the car to scribble a little note to the host, and you’re done. (Really … it couldn’t be much easier. And you’ll look like Superguest for not showing up empty-handed.)

The six pack “cards” ring in at $9.99 for a four pack (with Prime shipping, thank you), so stock up on these and save yourself the $3.95 you’ll usually spend on a one-time use card. (Because he can use this gift box again … and it’s all about reduce, reuse, and recycle, right!?)

What would your perfect six pack be? Visit my Instagram and comment on the post about Brews for You before October 6 for the chance to win your own pack of gift boxes!


BREWS FOR YOU
ilovebigbetty.com
Instagram/Twitter: @bigbettywine

#Brews4You #ad

Get Ready to Rumble with Balcones

Balcones, Texas’s original whisky*, and Dude, Sweet Chocolate, Dallas’s signature chocolates, are teaming up. Starting in September, you can now find whisky-infused chocolates at DSC. Our team was invited to be some of the first to check out the partnership … and this was what Tiffany found …

I knew it would be a good time when I was greeted at the door of Dude, Sweet Chocolate with a cocktail. Considering that the late summer Texas humidity was particularly heavy and thick that evening, the refreshing Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky concoction was more than welcome.

Toné Castillo, Balcones brand ambassador extraordinaire, was present to tell us more about the Original Texas Whisky from Waco, Texas. Balcones takes great pride in being the first whisky to be legally produced and legally sold in Texas since Prohibition. The distillery has become quite the destination, and tours are constantly at capacity during tasting room hours. I’ve personally never visited the distillery, but after sampling the welcome cocktail and eyeing the whisky pairings that I had yet to try, I felt compelled to plan a trip.
*Note from Susie: I’ve visited. It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. Go. Taste all the things.*

As far as events go, anything that involves pairing Katherine Clapner’s chocolates with the Balcones portfolio you KNOW it’s going to be good. This is especially true when Katherine refers to one of Balcones’ spirits as “the magical unicorn”—not surprisingly, the eponymous Rumble, which is intriguingly made out of fermented Texas wildflower honey, Mission figs, and turbinado sugar. I had never heard of such a creation! And true to the name of the event, the Rumble didn’t just get one pairing this evening; it got TWO: DSC’s Flower Child truffle featuring Earl Grey tea flavors, and the FDA Salami, a playful chocolate comprised of California marizpan, dried figs, dates, cocoa nibs, and chocolate rolled to resemble a savory salami.

Katherine paired the Texas Rye 100 Proof whisky with her Vietnamese coffee house-style Hanoi fudge. I am a sucker for Vietnamese coffee, so this was an easy favorite. The TX Single Malt paired exceptionally well with Dude, Sweet’s Rooibus Chai chocolates with its toasted malt and honey notes and hints of cinnamon and cloves.

However, the showstopper was the last tasting pair: Balcones Brimstone, which tastes of campfire, brûléed sugar, and pepper, paired with BACON. FAT. CARAMEL. SKULLS.


Take a moment to let that sink in.


Brimstone’s intensity was tempered beautifully by the bacon fat and caramel, which coated the tongue like velvet.

The crowd got to walk around from station to station and taste the pairings at their leisure while Katherine and Toné walked around to answer any questions we had. The vibe was super casual and fun, with music, conversation, and laughter punctuating the subsequent hours.

I left with a warm belly, a happy spirit, and of course, a Dude, Sweet bag of goodies that I just couldn’t leave without purchasing. Sweet, indeed.


DUDE SWEET CHOCOLATE
dudesweetchocolate.com
multiple locations

BALCONES DISTILLING
balconesdistilling.com
225 South 11th Street (Waco)
(254)755-6003

Axe and the Oak

You guys… I may have found my new favorite old fashioned! Okay okay, it’s at least in my top three. But let’s back up.

Last week I went to 3Eleven Kitchen and Cocktails for the launch of Axe and the Oak Distillery to try out some cocktails featuring their Colorado Mountain Bourbon and Incline Rye Whiskey. If you haven’t heard of Axe and the Oak Distillery, that could be because they operate out of Colorado Springs, CO and just started distributing to Texas—and they made Dallas their first stop!

I had the chance to chat with some of the Axe and the Oak team that came into town for the launch. Everyone was so excited about the expansion into Texas and they couldn’t stop gushing about their experience with the distillery. They said the best thing about their brand was that “they’re surrounded by the best people in the world.” The vibes were almost contagious as everyone enjoyed snacks, cigars and most importantly, the whiskey.

Now, about that old fashioned. For the launch, they had ingredient driven provisions being served. The one I sampled was a delicious variation of a Kentucky Mule. But, I’ll be honest; their signature cocktail was the real show-stopper—the Tobacco Old Fashioned. It was almost as fun to watch them make it as it was to drink it. They got the deep smoky flavor by torching a plank of wood and then trapping smoke inside the glass before they added the bourbon … and other good stuff. The smoky flavor wasn’t overbearing and the other flavors were perfectly mixed by beverage manager, Jay Khan.

Axe and the Oak was awarded the New York International Spirit Competition “Colorado Whiskey Distillery of the Year.” You can now find their Bourbon and Rye Whiskey at Specs, Goody Goody and Siegels (with even more retailers coming soon) starting around $42 a bottle.

For more information, visit them at www.axeandtheoak.com.

Susie knows all things boozy …