Welcome to Eater's newest feature, Best Kept Secret, in which we visit Dallas' underground, under-appreciated or unknown spots featuring great food, booze or atmosphere.
Deep Ellum's Black Swan Saloon doesn't even have a sign. Walk by, and you'd be forgiven for thinking it's an extension of, say, LaGrange next door. The skinny, mirrored dive is a world apart from the bustle of its Elm Street neighbors. But Swan regulars, of which there is a small but enthusastic army, know why they go: a bartender who pours one hell of a cocktail, mixed with very little ego.
With Gabe Sanchez behind the bar, the Swan features some of the finest crafted, creatively infused spirits in town, with none of the usual muss and fuss of the hype-friendly mixology world. Sanchez, a Ghostbar veteran, doesn't sign up for fancy bartending competitions. He doesn't even have a cocktail menu available for patrons. He's just got a wall full of marinating booze swilling around watermelon, apples, and a pepper vodka that makes his Bloody Mary one of the best in town.
His latest boozy experiment: coffee-infused bourbon. Eater Dallas stopped by to see how it's done.
His new infusion is cold-brewed overnight with nothing but liquor and locally sourced coffee grounds. From this, he makes a cold martini-styled bourbon latté and a coffee bourbon milkshake made with Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream. All topped with house-made bourbon-chocolate whipped cream.
If folks want to come in and have a beer or vodka-soda, Sanchez says he's perfectly fine with that. "But if they want something more, we got it." His extensive collection of infusions is a testament to his passion for experimentation. During Halloween last year, Sanchez made candy-infused liquors with Gummy Bears and candy corn. And when he got to talking with a barista friend, he figured a coffee bourbon was the way to go. "You don't have to try to reinvent the wheel," he says, just work on getting a simple thing done right.
Sanchez's process: slowly pour a layer of bourbon--he likes Jim Beam--over a layer of dark roast grounds in a cold-brew filter (rinse, repeat with about nine cups of booze for a half-pound of coffee, with a five-minute rest break mid-layering), then refrigerate overnight. In the morning, he'll have lost about half the liquor but he'll still have several cups of dark, delicious bourbon booze.
Do you have a best-kept secret? A patio that beats all, a bartender with the memory of an elephant, a barbecue rib that'll make Mama cry? E-mail us and we'll stop by to find out how it's done.
· Black Swan Saloon [Official Site]
[Photos: Andrea Grimes]