Lower Greenville's Truck Yard might just be the hottest thing to hit Dallas this year. The casual hangout spot is the brainchild of Twisted Root founder Jason Boso, and folks are flocking there in droves to sample cheesesteaks and food truck fare and sip on reasonably priced cocktails that are either poured from a tap or served up in a bottle. Those bottled cocktails are the creation of Emily Perkins, bar manager at Victor Tangos, serious rum enthusiast and "honorary member of the Truck Yard family" (she also created the cocktail menu for nearby HG Sply Co). Eater recently sat down with Perkins to get the scoop on her tasty bottled drinks.
How did the plan come about to do the bottled cocktails at Truck Yard?
It's all super practical. Bottled cocktails also happent to be really trendy right now, but this has nothing to do with that. [laughs] It's really just practical. Jason Boso, who was a regular at The Porch when I worked there and became a friend, approached me about his idea [for the Truck Yard] and he said he wanted to do a Swiss Family Robinson-style treehouse to be a sort of refuge, an adult playground where people could enjoy the view. He wanted to have cocktails up there, but he said 'There's no bar or open ice, and no way to have fruit out, it's not sanitary, so I don't really know what to do.' So I decided well, we'll just bottle them and treat them like beers that we're popping the top off of and just keep them in an ice chest, so everything's 100 percent sanitary and stays fresh, and is not exposed to the elements in anyway.
So it's basically the perfect solution to the problem.
Totally. The big issue is, we'd like to carbonate them. So we tried forced carbonation with a CO2 tank and we also tried running it thru a draft system, and it works — kind of. It's really, really subtle bubbles, and we want to get that really aggressive carbonation like you're popping the top off a Coke. All of the methods we tried, even the expensive carbonation systems, just don't really work that great. It's bubbly but not that bubbly.
Then we went to Tales of the Cocktail [over the summer in New Orleans] and went to a seminar on how to carbonate drinks. We had tried all the methods they mentioned so we were like, okay, what else? Then suddenly this scientist guy [Evan Wallace] revealed this super-expensive carbonation system he invented called Perlini. We got a crazy discount on it because we were at the seminar. I pretty much stood up while he was in the middle of the seminar and was like, 'We'll take it! Can we buy that one right now!?' and he was just like 'Um no, this is a prototype, and can you wait 5 minutes?'
We were literally the first customers, we're just waiting on them to fine-tune some details and deliver it. It can carbonate 100 cocktails an hour, right in the bottles we're already using. You basically put it in a keg, or even just a trashcan full of ice, and you just feed the machine bottles and it carbonates it for you, then you cap it. It's basically a tiny factory and it makes seriously bubbly cocktails.
So right now we have batched cocktails because it's practical, they're refreshing, it solves all our problems, they're fun. But it's going to go a step further and be even cooler soon, as soon as we get this machine in, which will hopefully be soon. Once that's in it'll have a whole new element, and then we'll switch out some recipes to be more seasonally appropriate. Since we'll have access to the carbonation, I have the idea to do a housemade cola syrup and do rum and cokes. Maybe some bubbly Cuba Libres. I definitely want to play with coconut water. We're just going to basically keep it summer year-round in that treehouse, no matter how cold it gets!
Tell us about the current lineup of bottled cocktails?
They're all twists on classics. We wanted to keep it simple, we knew this would be a really high-volume place so you have to keep that in mind. It was important to us that we had all rum-based cocktails to keep it that treehouse, Swiss Family Robinson, tropical kind of feel, since 9 times out of 10 it's hot outside here. So they're really easy-drinking, and high-proof, so we wanted to make them refreshing with a little sweetness because they are very potent, so be careful!
The Knickerdropper in particular is a nod to tiki cocktails because it is a play off a Knickerbocker which is the progenitor of tiki drinks. The original is made with raspberry liqueur, so we did a raspberry shrub. A shrub is a drinking vinegar, a simple syrup that you add your choice of vinegar to. We use apple cider vinegar for a sort of sweet-and-savory taste and it's so good, it's my favorite. I love all my children equally but I love the Knickerdropper best. [laughs] Then we've got the House Dackerie, which is a classic daquiri template — rum, lime, sugar, and we use a ginger-infused velvet falernum which is the Truck Yard twist. Then there's the Cable Car, which is a straight-up classic, I didn't modify that too much except for adding a little sugar to make it more appropriate for the local palate. That was invented in San Francisco in the 1990s, its essentially just a Sidecar with spiced rum. It's really refreshing, it basically tastes like spiked lemonade.Then we've got the Fixin' To, which is just a fix template; a fix is a spirit, pineapple syrup, lime. In this case it's rum, our housemade pineapple syrup and lime, plus a little Aperol to give it a little of that grapefruit bitterness because fixes can be really sweet.
They're delicious, they're really simple, just 4 or 5 ingredients because they make so many of them every day. They make them daily because they've gotta be fresh, otherwise the citrus will turn quickly. But the volume that they're doing, they're not keeping anything longer than a day anyway. There's very little left over at the end of the night, if any at all.
The bottled cocktails are only available in the Truck Yard's treehouse bar, so wander on up there if you'd like to sample Perkins' creations — just beware those stairs, which can get a little treacherous when you've had a couple.