The 10 Best Cocktails of 2015

We couldn't be prouder to down the Shamekiller at Alchemy. - JESSICA ELIZARRARAS
Jessica Elizarraras
We couldn't be prouder to down the Shamekiller at Alchemy.

Turns out we drank a ton of booze this year. With more cocktail bars in San Antonio than ever before, choosing a top 10 was a challenge, but one we gladly accepted as we sipped, tipped and guzzled these cocktails below through 2015.

Shamekiller Alchemy Kombucha & Culture, 1123 N. Flores St., (210) 320-1168,

This fall, the little restaurant that could delivered one of the best brunches this city has to offer. The biscuits were pillowy, coddled eggs creamy and market hash a delight. Bonus: You could wash it all down with the Shamekiller, a lightened up version of tiki classic Painkiller created by Milan & Turin dude Javi Gutierrez. House-made coconut vodka (the vodka is "fat-washed" using unfiltered coconut oil so it draws in all of the oil's flavor) meets a pineapple juice-orange syrup that's thickened up for better mouth-feel with gum Arabic and a splash of bubbles. It's a patio-pounder for sure, without over-indulging in mimosas.

Bananas Foster Milkshake Cured, 306 Pearl Pkwy, Suite 101, (210) 314-3929,

I'm a dessert person through and through. So when one of the most classic desserts (flambéed bananas, vanilla ice cream, brown sugar, dark rum — what's not to love?) makes it into cocktail form, then all bets are off. During one of last year's meet the distiller dinners in advance of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, the cocktailians at Cured ditched the rum for Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery's Tennessee white whiskey. The result was sweet, not cloying and addictive. But while the homemade vanilla ice cream was an excellent touch, the star of the drink was instead the Belle Meade Bourbon booster inside a clear pipette filled with just a touch more bourbon to really warm the bones. You could release the bourbon at your own leisurely place, or breakneck speed like I did.

Brunch Cart Hot Joy, 1014 S. Alamo St., (210) 368-9324,

Mimosas are basic, and I'll fight anyone who disagrees (though I'll never turn one away either). So what's the little Asian hot spot that hates being pigeonholed as any particular genre to do when it comes to their brunch drinks? Enter the dumpling-style brunch cart. Served in smaller glasses at $3 a pop, the brunch drinks include Frozen Thai Thai, Frozen Five Spice Colada and Pho. Get. It. Though these summertime coolers are on their way out to make room for a winter brunch cart menu, the "Scream Bloody Mary" will remain and we're not mad about it. The half-sized mary is bar manager Elisabeth Forsythe's take on the tom yum soup with a strong tomato base and fragrant aromatics of keffir lime, lemongrass and galanga (similar to ginger) root. A Thai chili-infused vodka and house-made oyster sauce round out the creation, which goes great with the Korean fried chicken sandwich from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Mariposa Negra Mezcaleria Mixtli, 1523 McCullough Ave., (320-1660),

Is there such a thing as an embarrassment of riches? Or is too much never even quite enough? An admitted fondness for mezcal makes almost every drink on the Mezcaleria's list worth investigating, but early on the nod for best cocktail might have gone to Chingos de Hongos — not only for its cheeky name but also for its even ballsier use of chanterelle-infused mezcal and mushroom demi-glace syrup. But a recently revised list yielded a new seductress, the Mariposa Negra — reposado tequila this time, paired with Averna, a demerara syrup, licorice root and basil tea and Angostura bitters. The indeed dark and sultry drink is enlivened by an orange twist, the licorice comes through — but just enough, and, unlike the more intense Chingos, you will feel free to have more than one. Yes, this matters.

Trophy Wife Paramour, 102 9th St., Suite 400, (210) 340-9880,

An office full of powerful attorneys, an amazing view, a cheeky name ... the Trophy Wife combines everything your side boo needs — gin, watermelon cordial, lime, strawberries and rosé cava. Oh, and she tastes just as great whether you're trying to land a man or you're an independent honey who's makin' money. Feel me?

The Rebecca Creek bloody mary will kill what ails ya. - JESSICA ELIZARRARAS
Jessica Elizarraras
The Rebecca Creek bloody mary will kill what ails ya.

The Porthole Park Social, 224 E. Olmos Drive, (210) 822-0100,

The Porthole may be an admitted rip-off of a drink system Park Social's David Naylor learned while at Chicago's Aviary — and it does require equipment and techniques not in everybody's wheelhouse ... but wait: According to Naylor, a dedicated cadre of Olmos Parkers has become enamored enough of the $25 (serves two) drink that they have sprung for the porthole toy, inspiring him to contemplate doing a class or two on how to DIY. Naylor's own first concoction at Park was meant to be sipped in shot form; it changed substantially from first drink to last. The latest iteration, number three, is very different. Think of it as an updated clarified milk punch with brandy, dark rum, bourbon, citrus and spices, milk oolong tea, cacao nibs and even hay — from his parent's sheep ranch. "It's kinda like chocolate milk, though heavier and more chocolatey with time. It's quite soft but will definitely catch up to you," he says. Grab a friend and take the ride.

Stroke of Genius Brigid, 803 S. St. Mary's St., (210) 236-7885,

Now that Nick Kenna is filling the considerable shoes of Olaf Harmel at Brigid's diminutive bar, he has been tasked with coming up with a drink list to pay appropriate homage to the legend. "I'm looking for 20 total by January — 10 classic, 10 proprietary," says Kenna. Enter the already-ready-for-prime-time, decidedly not-classic Stroke of Genius, a cocktail with Austin-distilled Genius Gin as its base. In addition to the very floral gin, Kenna uses Pink, a new-style rosé Port from Croft (sipped solo, it comes across all raspberries and bright cherries), the orange-derived French digestif/amaro known as China-China, a dash each of orange and Angostura bitters, and a lemon swath. It's both pretty and potent at the same time. We await the next nine.

The Guns of Brixton Sternewirth, 136 E. Grayson St., (210) 223-7375,

The Three Emmas may have the best backstory (Lust! Infidelity! Murder!) at Hotel Emma's Sternewirth bar, but The Guns of Brixton comes in a close second, and may be the better cocktail — when properly made. (The first time it was eye-opening, the second, on a busier night, it was out of balance to the sweet side.) So assuming that this young operation sorts out any inconsistency issues soon, here's what to expect: Earl Grey tea, gin, cacao, lemon, Smith & Cross overproof rum, served on the rocks with a grapefruit slab. The fragrant Bergamot from the tea is first and forward but plays well with the subtler cacao. It's a drink that evolves beautifully in the glass. As for The Guns of Brixton, the Clash lyrics are more nihilistic than the drink ever could be — "You can crush us, you can bruise us..." Probably not a reference to muddling.

Punch Drunk Punk The Old Main Assoc., 2512 N. Main Ave., (210) 562-3440,

Until now, Old Main has been coasting along, not without success, on a hit parade of drinks from sibling bars Brooklynite and The Last Word. Hand-me-downs no longer rule the new cocktail menu, from which an early favorite is the Punch Drunk Punk. Yes, it has mezcal — sorry, it's a thing. As developed by bartender Ben Guerra and manager Steven Martín, the drink started out with the mezcal infused with flor de Jamaica (hibiscus) and a tequila float and morphed into a Jamaica simple syrup to be added to the mix with straight mezcal, Cynar, both lime and lemon, and a couple of drops of a hella-hot house-made chile tincture. No tequila. Watching this drink evolve into a thing of beauty — its smoke and floral qualities elevated by the tincture — was a helluva lot of fun, too.

Rebecca Creek Bloody Mary Luke, 125 E. Houston St., (210) 557-5853,

For me, this was the year of the bloody mary. Maybe I had that many hangovers to cure, or maybe I just like snacking on all the accoutrements that come with most bloodies. Whatever the reason, I've no idea why it took me so long to discover Lüke's Rebecca Creek bloody mary, a massive mason jar's worth of all things sour, salty and delicious. They start with Enchanted Rock vodka, Zing Zang's bloody mix, a healthy dose of horseradish and end with a pickle-filled skewer with house-made picklin's and two jumbo Gulf shrimp. Hangover or not, this bloody is damn good.

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