This content is for those over the legal drinking age. Enjoy the best of RGV spirits but please drink responsibly.
A cocktail is not just a cocktail anymore. It can be a form of expression, really a work of art, developed by a unique individual. You can almost compare these drinks to the work of a famous artist. Each one is a unique expression of energy, character and feeling. This is the art of Mixology, the craft of preparing mixed drinks. Now, I know what you might be thinking, “isn’t that just a bartender”, the answer, no. A mixologist is more than a bartender. These unique individuals have a special kind of talent and creativity. They are inventors and innovators as well as artists. Anyone can whip up a vodka tonic, but a true mixologist adds his own twist to it and will keep you coming back for more. Here in the RGV, mixology is a rising trend. We are a community that just keeps growing and with all the new restaurants and bars, we’ve got a growing crop of talented Mixologists. Are you wondering where to find the most unforgettable cocktails in the RGV? Here are a couple of my favorites in the Upper Valley.
SALT-New American Table
210 N. Main St., McAllen
Just to take in the ambiance of this location is reason enough to pay them a visit. When walking in, the first thing you notice is the array of liquor, beer, and wine available to their patrons. Being a tequila type of girl, first thing I notice is the great selection which includes Casa Dragones, Patron, Don Julio-1942, the best of the best. The bar is not a huge, it is just big enough to allow you to sit with a few friends and have a nice intimate conversation, or just talk to the mixologists, as I did.
When the menu was handed to me, and I couldn’t decide which of the “Salt Sips” I should order so I asked which they recommend. They suggested either the Texas Peach or Texas Buck. I ordered the peach. The mixologist behind the bar quickly started preparing my drink and I saw her muddle some fresh mint along with lemon juice, agave and other tasteful ingredients. She finished up the concoction with a rough shake of the cocktail and served it up in a beautifully dressed glass with peach salt around the rim. Man, was I glad I ordered this drink! The flavors made it the perfect summertime refreshment. The hint of mint punctuated the bountiful flavors of peach mixed with the Texas whisky. It was all so perfectly combined.
The Texas Peach was so good, I just had to try the Texas Buck, which has a combination of ginger beer, Texas whiskey and Meyer lemon. Wow, this drink was made to perfection. All of the ingredients were brilliantly put together to make the most crisp and well rounded beverage.
I only take a few sips from the two drinks I just ordered because I wanted to try more, and be a responsible drinker. I glance at the menu once again, but the mixologist suggests that I try an off-menu original cocktail created by her coworker, Priscilla. It’s called “black and blue” and has quickly become a customer favorite. She told me what it consists of, and it’s my favorite, berry based. I watched as she muddled blueberries and blackberries then added some vodka, lemon and agave. This. Drink. Was. Amazing. The ingredients were so well balanced, not too sweet and not too sour, just the right amounts to leave a satisfying taste in your mouth. Mixologists at SALT more than know what they are doing, they are masters of their craft and deserve a standing ovation. You are sure to walk out knowing that you had one of the best drinks in the RGV, hands down.
5001 N. 10TH St, McAllen
Walking into El Divino, you know that you are in for a treat. The Mixologists behind the bar are all dressed to the nines and are right at your service, often greeting regular customers by name. The bar is stacked and goes so high that a ladder is required to reach to the top shelf. I looked at the menu was amazed to see that there are pages full of not so ordinary drink selections. There was one, in particular, that caught my eye that I just had to try out. The Texas Campfire Fashion sounded just like summertime to me. The way this drink was prepared was outstanding. First, a cedar plank was pulled out and three different glasses were placed upon it: one empty, another with a round ice cube, and the last with some fine Texas whiskey. Next, I watched in awe as a cinnamon stick was lit and burned with the cedar wood with the glass cupped over to capture all of that smoky goodness. The last step was to place the ice in the smoked glass and then add that flavorful whiskey. There was no doubt in my mind that this drink was going to taste just as it’s called, like a smokey campfire. As I took my first sip, I tasted the subtle flavor of cinnamon, with a hint of smoke and the semi sweet whiskey. Of course, this drink is one to be savored and sipped slowly, something that you will want to last.
El Divino has a wide selection of drinks to choose from which are all made on the spot and with the freshest ingredients. The ingredients are so fresh, the menu even changes seasonally! I am sure there is not a drink in house that you will not be satisfied with. They vary from classic margaritas to the Bird Dog Presidential, which I highly recommend. I must say that Divino’s Mixologists are highly talented individuals always crafting something creative and tasteful.
Hopefully, these first two drink hot spots will whet your appetite. The RGV is full of talent, and this is just the beginning. Join me on a journey as we meet more Mixologists and taste the best libations around the RGV. Let me know what you think of these establishments while you enjoy some of the finest cocktails around, made by some of the friendliest people. Stay tuned for more of the best of the what the Valley has to offer. You won’t want to miss the second installment in this series.
Remember, drink responsibly. Buzzed driving is drunk driving and always have a designated driver or call one of the many reliable RGV taxi services.