Drinking Diaries

Dallas drinking den Midnight Rambler pours fun into every cocktail

Dallas drinking den Midnight Rambler pours fun into every cocktail

midnight rambler opening
Midnight Rambler is serious fun with seriously good cocktails.  Photo by Daniel Driensky

My liver might be pickled. But if it isn't, then surely it's close. I'm not complaining, though, because it's getting nothing but Dallas' finest brine these days.

The city is awash with so many new cocktail bars that it's becoming hard to find the time to visit old favorites. But I'm trying to make room for everyone; hence the pickling. I'll let you decide which of these new cocktail bars is the best while I continue to appreciate how each feels separate in idea from the others, even though their purposes are similar: to create drinks that excite, confuse and inspire.

My latest drinking excursion took me to Midnight Rambler, the subterranean spot beneath The Joule hotel. Conceived by New Yorkers Chad Solomon and Christy Pope, it feels like a rock-and-roll salon, with arching wood buttresses and chromed globe lighting resting over a brass bar already showing the memories of drinks that have been poured since the bar opened last fall.

Tattooed bartenders in skinny ties and rolled-up sleeves glide back and forth between patrons, effortlessly creating drinks like the Hell Hound, with blanco tequila, chipotle mezcal, cilantro, pineapple and lime. I'm sipping this drink as the DJ flips through crates of vinyls — from Talking Heads to Bob Seger to the rest of the '70s and '80s — and I take in the energy on this busy Thursday night, when the bar and tables and booths are packed. It's fun.

Even as the guy next to me decides this is the time to pull out his vape, I'm overwhelmed by that feeling: Midnight Rambler is fun. Not only for people who can look at the recipe for Cuffs & Buttons — spiced bourbon, stone fruit, acacia honey, Creole bitters and lemon zest — and know what it should taste like, but also for those who've heard about Midnight Rambler and dared to seek out the bar at the bottom of the stairs.

Although I'm a fan of fellow newcomers Parliament and Bowen House, I don't think either is as enjoyable as this place. That's not an indictment against them but rather a compliment to Pope and Solomon for creating a bar that not only serves great drinks, but also feels personal. I haven't been to Midnight Rambler as many times as I've been to, say, Black Swan Saloon, but I feel like I have.

Back in October 2012, Pope told me that Dallas was where New York was in 2006 in terms of cocktail bars. I'm not sure if we're now in 2009 or what, but with places like Midnight Rambler, we are closing ground.