The Pappas brothers have operated restaurants in Texas since the seventies, following in the footsteps of their grandfather, a Greek immigrant who was a successful restaurateur in his own right. Now with more than eighty locations, the company is still family-owned and staffed by generations of Pappases. Befitting such an esteemed history, there’s not an expense spared in the lush appointments of the steakhouses (one in Dallas and another in Houston), and the bar is no exception.
Until recently, deluxe environs were no guarantee that the cocktails wouldn’t be an afterthought, with fine restaurants and hotels serving up the same banal offerings as their down-market counterparts. But the sea change in American bartending, evident to anyone who has dined out lately, is challenging mediocrity across the board: quality cocktails are no longer the province of only a handful of esoteric mixology dens. Artful drink making is trickling into the farthest reaches of the hospitality business.
Leading the charge at Pappas is Matt Tanner, a Houston-area native who took over the cocktail programs for all the company’s restaurants in 2013. One of his first priorities was the bar menu for the steakhouses, the most recent version of which is superb. Take his Raspberry Smash cocktail, which starts with Caña Brava, a Panamanian rum made by expatriate Cuban rum maker “Don Pancho” Fernandez. To that Tanner adds the French herbal liqueur Suze, lemon juice, a thyme-infused syrup, and fresh raspberries. The drink is served julep-style over shaved ice in an Indian water cup, garnished with raspberries and a sprig of thyme, and dusted with pulverized sugar that has been perfumed with vanilla pods. It’s pure liquid luxury.
4 raspberries, plus a few more for garnish
1 ounce thyme-infused simple syrup (many recipes can be found online)
1 1/2 ounces Caña Brava rum
1/2 ounce Suze
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh thyme, for garnish
powdered sugar, for garnish
In the bottom of a mixing tin, muddle raspberries and thyme syrup. Add spirits and lemon juice and fill with ice; shake vigorously to chill. Strain onto crushed ice in a julep cup, Indian water cup, or rocks glass. Garnish with fresh raspberries and a sprig of thyme and dust with powdered sugar.