It’s not been too long since the scales of the piña colada fell off Dallas’ tastebuds, and ever since the prophets of mixology wandered in from the wild, the city has seen a resurrection of bitters, muddled mints and infused spirits.
One of the latest cathedrals to the cocktail is Parliament, tucked away on Allen Street in Uptown, where the late Keith LaBonte used to make magic at Four Lounge. Parliament is Eddie “Lucky” Campbell’s so-far magnum opus, a den of slyly sinister concoctions where the bar dominates the space as an alcoholic altar looked after by vest-and-pork-pie-hat-wearing acolytes with evil-scientist machinations swirling in their pickled minds.
The bartenders’ slavish devotion to pseudo-spiritual cocktail experiences could easily run off the rails. The menu is a tome of worldly styles, ranging from the self-myth-making Algonquin Round Table Americanism to south-of-the-border-tequila-ism as dangerous as a rattlesnake’s venom to Japanese homeopathic elixirs complete with shaved deer antler. That last one comes as the Jing, a $27 blend of Suntory Yamakazi 18 year single malt with five spice bitters, Byrrh Grand Quinquina, deer antler extract, lemon peel, vanilla and the previously mentioned microplaned deer antler.
Then there’s the crystalline ice block on display — the cross behind the altar — begging for the bartender’s saw. He carves a corner from it, then quickly chips the ice into a sphere destined for a highball. It’s a tight-rope walk of sharpened picks, dancing fingers and slippery glass that elicits a collective sigh of relief from the peanut gallery after each successful conversion.
And though self-seriousness could be excused here, this is a chapel of comfortable education for those striving to believe. There’s a refreshing lack of fascistic exclusion, a less strict fundamentalism and more charismatic pentecostalism that invites neophytes to hear the good word of an expertly executed cocktail.
If fellow Uptown newbie Bowen House is the preacher’s daughter of small-town untouchable chasteness, then Parliament is the cousin who escaped to New York, wears black leather and smokes Dunhills, and causes the rumor mill at the salon to kick into high gear whenever she comes home.
The sultry lighting, abysmal black and blood red are devilish touches that add doubt to just what is being praised here. Can something simultaneously rest in the clouds and the brimstone?
Parliament is as fully formed in idea and execution as a bar could hope to be — so confident in itself that any potential ostentation is immediately met with a whispered “of course” and 10 Hail Marys, while Sinatra sings the hymns and the bartenders transfigure a square of ice for the sacrament, and you are drunk with the spirit.