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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shaken and stirred

Posted on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Release Date: 2009-07-15

Stone Oak’s Swig North first registered on Bar Tab’s radar a few months back when we visited the Stop ’N Taco taco truck (voted number one by Current readers in the 2009 Best of San Antonio poll) parked across the street. A good taco truck rarely exists in a void; we’re talking about symbiosis here. We figured there had to be something good going on at Swig to help fill the parking lot. On Saturday night I returned to see how the cocktail culture of Swig Martini Bar on the River Walk would translate to its Stone Oak satellite.

I showed up a little late for happy hour and a little early for the throngs of Saturday-night party people. With a seat at the bar, I kicked back as the sun began to set and soaked in the wide-open interior. With a 20-foot-high ceiling, Swig feels impressive. One can grab a voyeur’s spot in the balcony and scope out the dance floor, where a DJ spins at around 10 p.m. most nights.

I began to notice staff members trickling in at the end of the bar with bags of fast food. An overheard story about some of the bartenders dancing in a swimming pool made me think they all get along like old friends. From what I could tell, this is a well-managed group, combining a wild energy with professionalism, unlike a lot of classic cocktail bars in town which are subdued and serious. The clientele ranged in age from late 20s to 50s, and were a mostly upscale party crowd, but with a healthy collegiate attitude.

On to the booze. Swig North offers an extensive drink menu. As expected there is an abundance of martini-style drinks, many with amusing names such as the Desperate Housewife or Victoria’s Secret. But it isn’t all frou-frou drinks at Swig. I at first considered ordering a martini, but Brian the bartender was happy to mix things up, so to speak. First drink: an Old Fashioned ($7) with whiskey, sugar, and bitters. The results were excellent and the price wasn’t bad either considering the quality. For my second drink, Brian stayed in the whiskey realm with a mint julep ($7). Muddling the mint and sugar looked like a lot of work, but as with the first cocktail, the julep had a nice balance of ingredients.

Before long, Swig was packed and things started getting lively: private parties collected in the balconies, a DJ started warming up the tables, and I even thought I saw a VIA bus driver come in for a drink. At this point I slipped out. Any more drinks and it wouldn’t be safe to drive, or, perhaps, even take the bus.

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