When Josh Fuller, Brian Singleton, and Curtis McGill opened Public House in 2014 at the corner of 34th and Coulter, they gave Dustin Anderson free reign to create a bar to his liking. With “Comfort, Corks, Cocktails, Craft” appearing prominently on its signage, the team intended it to be a place where the upscale dining experience was matched by an upscale drinking experience. Anderson embraced the challenge.
“I’m a big fan of whiskey and bourbon and scotch, so I tried to stock as much as possible, anything I could get my hands on,” he says. “Right now, I think we have the biggest whiskey selection in Amarillo.” Boasting more than 70 bottles, the Public House collection includes all the standards – high-end bourbons, single-malt scotches – as well as some truly standout drinks. “I don’t have much left, but I have a bottle of Michter’s 20-Year. It runs around $700 and they only sold seven bottles to Texas,” he says of the limited-edition bourbon, which cost patrons $90 a glass. “I’m pretty positive we’re the only place in town that had it on the shelf.”
Anderson also takes pride in offering a number of handcrafted classic cocktails. Beyond high-profile revivals like the Old Fashioned or Sazerac, Public House has been serving plenty of Aviators (a pre-Prohibition gin-based cocktail) and one of the bar’s best sellers, the salt-and-pepper martini. “I found it in a book of old classic cocktails,” he says. This spicy and refreshing martini is made from vodka, grapefruit juice, and bitters, served with a salted rim.
“Everything that goes around comes around – fashion, drinks, something old becomes new again,” Anderson explains. “Really old drinks are where cocktails are going right now.”
Chad Lardie has seen the same evolution. He opened Embers Steakhouse five years ago. Back then, the most frequently ordered cocktail was a margarita. “That’s just kind of Amarillo’s taste,” he says today, with a chuckle. The city’s favorite cocktail may still be the standard mixture of tequila, triple sec and lime juice – frozen or on the rocks – but those tastes are slowly changing.
Lardie changes his drink menu on a regular basis. Six months ago, he introduced a well-received Bloody Mary menu, which includes a jalapeño-flavored Mary and one with a base of barbecue sauce. Both have proven popular during weekend brunch, as is the Grapefruit Delight, a refreshing beer cocktail combining grapefruit ale with grapefruit vodka. “These days people are more willing to try new foods,” he says. “The same goes for cocktails.”
Embers Steak House Want a truly distinctive craft cocktail? Look no further than Chad Lardie’s adventurous Bloody Mary menu at Embers Steak House. Barbecue and bacon lovers will taste both of those flavors in the savory Texas Bloody Mary, and the “Bloody Bull” features a base of brothy au jus paired with Bloody Mary mix. Then there’s the spicy Samurai. “It has kind of an Asian influence,” Lardie says. “We use Sriracha vodka with soy sauce and Sriracha sauce and a fortune cookie as a garnish.”
Macaroni Joe’s In addition to its award-winning wine list, Macaroni Joe’s serves barrel-aged cocktails. While most bars combine cocktail ingredients on the spot – to be shaken or stirred, then served – barrel-aged cocktails are pre-mixed, then aged in small oak barrels for several weeks. Hazel says the aging softens and mellows out the flavors a bit. “You get that oakiness from the barrel, and they come out a little sweeter,” he explains. “Like our wine list, it’s something you’re more likely to see in big cities. We’re trying to bring it here.” Try the barrel-aged Manhattan or the classic cognac-based Vieux Carré, a sweet, smooth New Orleans specialty.
OHMS Café & Bar Located downtown across Tyler Street from Chase Tower, OHMS Café & Bar has been a standout destination since owner Mary Fuller and her family bought it in 1992. Its weekday Happy Hour (4-7 p.m., with dollar-off cocktails) draws a diverse selection of businesspeople, many of whom become regulars thanks to the cozy bar’s custom cocktails. Manager Leslie Fuller-Meier says the Billy Goat – a Moscow mule made with pineapple-infused vodka – is a local favorite. For something with a kick, try the spicy margarita and its base of jalapeño- and cilantro-infused tequila.
Public House “I didn’t intend this to be a whiskey bar,” says bar manager Dustin Anderson. “It just got away from me and I kept ordering more and more and more. I like the way it filled up the bar.” Aside from gaining attention for his classic cocktails, Anderson’s whiskey obsession has put Public House on the map for local aficionados – and arrived at the perfect time. Today’s whiskeys taste better, are more refined, and more complex than ever before, he says. If you’re new to whiskey as a standalone drink, ask him for suggestions. Start with a classic American bourbon or a highland single malt Scotch.
Taste Dessert Bar One of the only true dessert bars in Amarillo, Taste is an after-dinner lounge owned by Sean and McKay Anderson. The desserts are indulgent, but don’t miss Sean’s handcrafted cocktails – many of which are paired to match the daily dessert menu. We’re fans of his Whiskey Sour, which drops an egg white into Bulleit Bourbon for a wonderfully silky concoction. Prefer something on the sweeter side? Try the decadent Chocolatini, made with Bailey's, chocolate vodka, and Godiva Chocolate Liqueur. You may never return to regular martinis again.
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by Jason Boyett
Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.