McAllen’s cocktail scene has come a long way in recent years, and master mixologists continue to raise the bar (pun intended) with carefully crafted mixed beverage menus. The new-school mixology movement is here to stay, and these local spots have made a commitment to cocktail excellence. Here are the 5 best cocktail bars in McAllen.
SALT – 210 N. Main Street
SALT has been mixing up elaborate and artful cocktails since opening its doors a little more than a year ago. SALT isn’t just another fancy one-word title either. Its brilliant bartenders use an array of house made salts to draw out the flavor in each of its inventive beverages. It has quickly become the standard-bearer in the local cocktail scene with easy-sipping refreshers like its Texas Peach, Viejito and Cucumber cocktails. From volcanic salts to truffle infused mixtures, this mineral mainstay takes center stage with SALT’s spirit-forward nectars. From daily fresh-squeezed juices to its use of fresh herbs and spices, this innovative cocktailery can mix it up with the best. Trying to stick to a low-sodium diet? Try the Viejito, which features TX whiskey, ruby port, agave nectar, bitters and fresh citrus. No salt needed with this modern take on the classic Old Fashion. Looking for a bar of a different kind? Belly up to the chefs table where its open kitchen gives you an inside look at how your food is prepared.
Insider Tip: Sit at the chefs table, where sample bites of SALT’s gourmet eats are often offered to onlookers.
Infusions Eats & Drinks – 701 N. Main Street
Infusions serves up boozy deliciousness with its variety of elaborate cocktails made with house-infused spirits. Its innovative cocktail list features South Texas-inspired elixirs, including the Mangonada and Watermelon Lollipop tinctures, to name a few. The scarlet-hued interior and vine-covered patio create an intoxicating atmosphere at the innovative booze bar which features live music regularly and a brunch menu perfect to cure your weekend hangover. The hip, lively vibe at Infusions is ideal for a night out on the town or for a mid-day recap of last night’s debauchery. Demand on the patio is high and tables are limited, so plan to get there early and imbibe expertly curated cocktails from some of the best drink-makers in McAllen.
Insider Tip: Infusions has a reputation for attracting beautiful people, providing the perfect place to meet your future soulmate.
The Centennial Club – 1410 Austin Ave
The speakeasy vibe is turned all the way up at The Centennial Club. This pre-prohibition style cocktail bar has an old-timey aesthetic where insanely talented cocktail historians whip up classic favorites. Located in historic downtown McAllen, the rustic building was once home to the White Kitchen Cafe on its first floor, and a hostel-like living area upstairs where tired travelers communed over stiff libations, much like they do today. If you’re a fan of the classics try the Holy Smoke, Centennial Club’s version of an Old Fashion, smoke infused and prepared table side. The classic cocktail den is just as serious about its eats as it is its drinks. From French imported Escargot to South Texas Ranch Style Quail Breast wrapped in Chihuahua cheese served with chimichurri sauce and queso fresco, The Centennial Club creates unforgettable flavors as rich as its history.
Insider Tip: If you’re a fan of jazz music, The Centennial Club is a must-stop. It features the best traveling jazz musicians in the country.
Bodega Tavern & Kitchen – 2901 N. 10th Street
There’s a reason why tavern was included in the name: Bodega Tavern & Kitchen. Its cocktails are just as carefully crafted as its creative cuisine. The insanely talented bartenders at this local hot spot crank out elaborate, high-octane cocktails nightly, and with a formidable mezcal list at its disposal, it’s been converting mezcal-phobic imbibers since day one. What I love is the unmistakable, unpretentious vibe at this boozy bar. Its awesomely named cocktails like the Beety Beety Bom Bom employ ingredients like Old Overhold Rye Whiskey, house beet liqueur, blood orange vinegar and Carpano Antica Formula. I tend to lean towards the Oaxacan Rose with its bright pink hue that might come off as soft, but has enough high-quality mezcal to make it a Molotov cocktail.
Insider Tip: Stop by on Tuesday when you can slurp on all-day happy hour drinks specials and $1 fresh Gulf oysters.
El Divino – 5001 N. 10th Street
The crown jewel of cocktail bars in North McAllen is, without a doubt, El Divino. Its wall full of spirits is the largest selection south of San Antonio. Hand-cut ice, fresh-squeezed juices and house made syrups are in the repertoire at this brilliant bar, and its master mixologists serve up expertly crafted cocktails using classic techniques and creative combinations on a daily basis. The pre-prohibition theme at El Divino is palpable in its carefully curated cocktails with complex flavors seamlessly layered to perfection. What I recently learned is that tucked away in the corner of this speakeasy-like establishment is its discreet cigar lounge where you can sip on seasonal favorites while you puff on a stogie. You can bring your own or buy one of its El Divino branded smokes.
Insider Tip: Try the Crispy Brussel Sprouts. I’m just going to leave it at that.
These five boozy hot spots are changing the bar scene one perfectly layered drink at a time, and South Texas has embraced the craft cocktail culture. Whether you’re looking for a classic cocktail or an innovative libation, these mainstays in McAllen’s mixed drink movement have you covered.