Little Rock’s top bartenders share the recipes and stories behind the best cocktails in town.
Gallagher Smash / Capital Bar & Grill
2½ oz. watermelon juice
1½ oz. London dry gin
1 oz. lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
4 drops mint extract
Shake all ingredients, pour into a Collins glass, garnish with mint.
The story: "When I think of the South, I look back to visiting my grandparents and eating watermelon right out of the fields. They lived right by a watermelon farm, and they were so abundant we would just crack them open and eat the heart of the melon with our bare hands.
This drink evokes those memories, and the subtle mint in the background seems to take you outdoors if you close your eyes while you take a sip. We juice watermelon fresh daily and our bartender Tim grows the mint we use for garnishing in his own garden. We also use it to make our own extract in house that we add in very small doses to the drink to add another layer of complexity."
Ginger Mojito / La Terraza Rum & Lounge
2 mint leaves
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp pure cane sugar
30 ml Don Q Rum
2 oz. soda water topped off with ice
The story: "We pride ourselves on offering something new and out of the ordinary in Little Rock with our vast rum selection – we have over 20 different kinds – so naturally Mojitos are our signature cocktail. They’re perfect for any season, and the possibilities are endless.
For summer, we are excited about our new line using seasonal ingredients ranging from fresh berries and pineapple to ginger and coconut. The new ginger and coconut mojitos will be menu staples that will complement our ever-popular spiced mojito (prepared with cayenne pepper). Our lead bartender, Samantha Hall, has an incredible ability to find a cocktail or rum that each individual will love. She begins by investigating their taste preferences, and if provided with the opportunity, she can find a rum that will wow even the most devout cocktail connoisseur.'
The Good Christian / South on Main
1.5 oz. Purkhart Pear Williams
1 oz. local honey syrup (we use K-Bee Honey, 1:1 water to honey)
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
4-5 dashes 100-proof Herbsaint
The story: "Now is a great time to sit on a front porch or patio with a refreshing cocktail and to reflect and enjoy the pleasant evening weather. The Good Christian is made with Pear Williams, an elegant but almost moonshine-like pear eau-d-vie (pear distillate). Usually it is a pricey spirit that is prohibitively expensive to use in cocktails, but a company called Haus Alpenz sourced some from Austria that is affordable and of a very high quality, and it is now available here in Arkansas.
This cocktail showcases my philosophy on how to build a great drink: Start with high-quality ingredients and combine them in a way that they stand on their own. This combination tastes like biting into a fresh Bartlett pear and pairs very nicely with lighter summer fare."
Mai Tai / The Fold
1 oz. El Dorado 3-year Rum
1 oz. El Dorado 5-year Rum
¼ oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
¾ oz. orgeat
¾ oz. fresh lime
Shake all ingredients, pour over ice and garnish with mint, lime
wedge, orange slice, luxardo cherry, a flower, or a combo of any two.
The story: "The Mai Tai is arguably the most popular tiki drink in history, with a couple of claims to its origin. It is one of the simplest drinks to make, yet in past years has become some random concoction thrown together with pineapple and orange juices, often even topped with grenadine! This is all wrong.
A Mai Tai should not be too sweet, too bitter, or too boozy, but a perfect balance of good rum, floral notes, citrus and sweet almond, with focus on quality ingredients. The orgeat is a flower water and almond syrup that is crucial in any quality Mai Tai. There are several recipes online that can easily be made at home in batches for great tiki parties. However, if the kitchen is not your friend, give us a call and we would be happy to make a little extra for you."