Booze and Brews

Oklahoma harbors a wealth of watering holes. Here’s a guide to some of the state’s beloved bars and breweries, plus a flight of seasonal concoctions, etymologies and tips from experienced barkeeps.

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Libations for Any Occasion

Celebrations or special nights

O Bar, OKC
Atop midtown’s upscale Ambassador Hotel, this perfect penthouse has an extensive wine list, cocktails and food from Café Cuvée, a French bistro on the first floor. “With arguably the best skyline view of the city through rain or shine, our outlook over Oklahoma City alone can guarantee an always beautiful evening,” says Brandon Folkers, bar manager and beverage director. A cocktail favorite is “the Ambassador Sling, our take on the Singapore Sling,” he says. “It’s sweet and tangy, with a house-made pineapple shrub as one ingredient of eight.” obarokc.com

Summit Club, Tulsa
Members and their guests know the Summit experience is as memorable as the view. The venerable private dining and social club has an elegant vibe similar to establishments in London’s Soho district. summittulsa.com 

Vast, OKC
Enjoy the skyline panorama while sipping an Aviation, a cocktail of Boodles gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, crème de violette and lemon, or choosing from the vast menu of a restaurant given four diamonds by AAA. vastokc.com

Roof Sixty-Six, Tulsa 
Open daily as a high-flyin’ spot for selfie seekers, this joint atop the Hotel Indigo has glorious views of downtown, just a mile from the original Route 66. Sip a handcrafted cocktail or enjoy half-priced wine on Wednesdays. facebook.com/roofsixtysixbar

Mantel Wine Bar and Bistro, OKC 
The Mantel in Bricktown offers upscale ambiance, an impressive selection of wines and top-shelf liquor. themantelokc.com

Mixco, Tulsa
Mixco is downtown’s speakeasy with eclectic spirits, beers and wines. Among Mixco’s curated cocktails are a bevy of clever names, including Aperol We’ve Been Through, and You Bitter, You Bitter, You Bet. mixcotulsa.com

Day drinking

Roosevelt’s, Tulsa
Wander Cherry Street to discover this gastropub, with 80 craft beers, many wines and cocktails like Tulsa Thyme, a concoction of Hendricks gin, lemon juice, local honey syrup and thyme. The temperature-controlled patio is a major draw. rooseveltstulsa.com

Packard’s, OKC
Originally a showroom for Packard automobiles, this place retains floor-to-ceiling windows and original marble floors. Packard’s has an extensive wine list with some obscure selections. “Happy hours are every week day from 2:30 to 6 p.m. and brunch is Saturdays and Sundays,” says John Ross, director of operations. “People love our house mix signature bloody mary and our cold-brew Old Fashioned, made with cold-brew coffee, which we’ve [served] since we opened seven years ago … before cold brew got so popular.” packardsokc.com

Blue Rose Café, Tulsa
With roll-up doors and indoor/outdoor service, this fixture on the east bank of the Arkansas River has affordable house drinks, like Patio lemonade, made with lemon vodka and lemonade and topped with a cherry. bluerosecafetulsa.com

Whiskey Cake, OKC
For farm-fresh comfort food and a variety of house cocktails, this neighborhood joint has select whiskeys straight from curated barrels chosen yearly in Kentucky. whiskeycake.com 

Brewery crawl

Cabin Boys Brewery, Tulsa
Try a Cabin Boys brew, such as Cornerstone, a Belgian-style saison with spices and a malt foundation. The site is replete with a large social area for games. Cabin Boys brews are also sold in local restaurants and liquor shops. cabinboysbrewery.com

Prairie Artisan Ales, OKC
Prairie has won awards for its quirky brews, which are sought by discerning purveyors on five continents. Try a barrel-aged stout, then a crisp, farmhouse ale in trendy digs. prairieales.com

Marshall Brewing, Tulsa
Founded in 2008, Marshall was Tulsa’s first production craft brewery. Ask about monthly tours and enjoy favorites, including This Land Lager, Atlas IPA and the seasonal Oktoberfest. marshallbrewing.com

Bricktown Brewery, Greater OKC, Greater Tulsa, Shawnee
With a wide selection of craft and local beers, Bricktown hits the spot for a cold one, like the Bluesberry Ale, a purple-blue fruity winner. bricktownbrewery.com

Stonecloud Brewing Co., OKC
The historic Sunshine Laundry Building transformed into Stonecloud, a brewery and taproom where prime pours are the focus, with snacks available – or you can bring your own food. stonecloudbrewing.com

American Solera, Tulsa
Owner Chase Healey started crafting beer from a west Tulsa metal shop and has won multiple international kudos with a wooden cask methodology where contents are consistently aged-blended and never completely emptied. “We’re making some of the best beer in the world, not just in the U.S. – beer of a caliber that people want to come back for because not many do it quite like we are,” he says. “And our new facility at Sixth and Utica provides an experience beyond beer in the glass. It’s a 100-year-old manufacturing warehouse renovated with a Scandinavian influence, big architectural elements – it’s like no other spot in town.” americansolera.com

Tried-and-true favorites

Saturn Room, Tulsa
Please the tiki gods and drink at this kitschy cool spot, where you can choose among house classics and shareables like Tropical Itch, made of Puerto Rican and Jamaican rums, vodka, Grand Marnier liqueur, mango, lime and bitters. The Chi Chi – delicious but dangerous because the liquor content sneaks up on you – is renowned. saturnroom.com

Ponyboy, OKC
Stay gold at Ponyboy, where the emphasis is a dance floor that can’t be beat, live music and frosty beverages. ponyboyokc.com

Hodges Bend, Tulsa
Baristas, sommeliers and bartenders can suggest coffees, hand-picked wines, classic cocktails and adapted interpretations. Some $7 cocktails are offered Monday through Friday at happy hour. hodges-bend.com

Flashback Retropub, OKC
The 1980s live here.“We expanded our space and now are up to over 100 arcade games, pinball and gaming tables, with new ones like Skee-ball and basketball,” owner Jose Rodriguez says. “The music, the videos, movies, memorabilia and cartoons – people light up when they walk in.” The pub’s biggest annual event is April’s Pretty In Pink Prom. For fun, the Nerds cocktail comes with an actual box of Nerds candy. flashbackretropub.com

Max Retropub, Tulsa
Step back in time with arcade games, Wednesday night trivia and drinks like the Raspberry Beret, made with Dekuyper Razzmatazz schnapps, Maker’s Mark bourbon and cranberry juice, and rimmed with crushed Pop Rocks. maxretropub.com

Skinny Slims, OKC 
In the old public house tradition, this Bricktown pub has more than 60 beers, a full bar selection and televised sports to cheer. facebook.com/skinnyslimsokc

Etymology

Many libation names derive from unconfirmed legends. Regardless, knowing these make for great bar trivia.

Bloody mary: There are several claims to this drink’s bizarre moniker, which arose in the 1920s or ’30s. The inspiration may have been Queen Mary I (nicknamed Bloody Mary as she murderously tried to turn England back to Catholicism), Hollywood starlet Mary Pickford or a waitress named Mary who worked at a Chicago bar called the Bucket of Blood.

Dark ’n’ Stormy: The business that trademarked this name says the drink was invented in Bermuda after World War I. Legend says a sailor took one look at the drink’s dark color and said it appeared just like threatening storm clouds.

French 75: The drink purportedly got its name during World War I because its strong flavor felt like getting hit with a French 75mm field gun.

Fuzzy navel: Invented in the 1980s, this mixture of peach schnapps and orange juice has a simple (and safe for work) explanation – fuzzy is a nod to the schnapps and navel refers to the use of a navel orange.

Gimlet: Some claim the drink is named after the tool of the same name because of its piercing effects on drinkers. Others say it was named after surgeon admiral Thomas Gimlette, reputed to have added lime juice to the concoction to combat scurvy in sailors.

Pimm’s cup: James Pimm introduced this drink in a London oyster bar in the early 1800s. He offered a gin-based concoction, with secret herbs and spices, to his customers to aid in digestion. The small glass he served it in was called a No. 1 Cup.

Hidden gems

High Dive, Tulsa
A downtown coffee house by day, High Dive also has eclectic food and a beverage menu categorized by morning drinks, beer, wine, hurricanes and cocktails … shaken or stirred. highdivetulsa.com

Bar Arbolada, OKC
With high windows, plants and a dazzling, marble-topped bar, Bar Arbolada offers beer, wine and house drinks, including Laveta and Le, made with vodka, cantaloupe, lemon and La Croix sparkling water. facebook.com/bararbolada

Cellar Dweller, Tulsa
Snug in a basement and with a classic, speakeasy vibe, mood lighting and big, comfy chairs, this is a downtown favorite – for those who find it. facebook.com/cellardwellertulsa

The Other Room, OKC
Picasso Café’s laid-back bar, The Other Room, tempts patrons with an 11-page drink menu, overstuffed benches and cozy, draped tables, along with an intimate back patio. picassosonpaseo.com

Vintage Wine Bar, Tulsa
Nestled in an airy, elegant spot in the Blue Dome District, Vintage provides a connoisseur’s selection of wine, beer and specialty cocktails, along with happy hours and cozy nights by the patio fireplace.“I’m a small, independent business owner, and I support small wineries to bring that story of small farmers to Oklahoma from all over the world,” owner and operator Matt Sanders says. “The guys we support put out maybe 125 cases in a year, not hundreds of thousands.” winebartulsa.com

Barkeep, OKC
Barkeep is ideal for an after-work or weekend drink and the place to procure many bar tools and ingredients. This joint is OKC’s spirits gem, catering to professional mixologists and those tending bar at home. Classes are available. barkeepokc.com

Empire Bar, Tulsa
Soccer aficionados flock to this obscure stone building on Peoria Avenue just south of Cherry Street. It’s packed during significant international and European league matches shown on numerous TVs. Bring your dog (before 8 p.m.) … and certainly your own food if you’re hungry because the Empire only serves a host of cold beers, whiskeys and cocktails. facebook.com/empirebartulsa


Drinks for Every Season

Spring

Mother of Dragons

  • 5 large basil leaves
  • 1½ ounces Bacardi dragonberry rum
  • 1 ounce Lemoncello liqueur
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

Top with Prosecco sparkling wine

Pour over muddled strawberries

Courtesy Sarah Elliot at Summit Club


Fall

The Formation

  • 1½ ounces gin
  • ½ ounce Licor 43
  • 1 ounce plum syrup
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice
  • 4 drops vanilla bitters
  • 4 drops herbal honey bitters
  • 1 egg white

Stencil with cinnamon and sugar

Courtesy Julia McLish at Barkeep

Summer

Greens

  • 1½ ounces green smoothie-infused vodka
  • ½ ounce tomato and cracked black pepper syrup
  • ¼ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ dropper vile Winship’s cucumber bitters

Top with Topo Chico sparkling water

Season rim of glass with salt and ranch dressing powder

Garnish with cherry tomato and spinach

Courtesy Julia McLish at Barkeep


Winter

Hot Box Taxi

  • 1 ounce mezcal
  • ½ ounce Amara liqueur
  • ½ ounce Alchermes liqueur
  • ¼ ounce Cynar liqueur
  • 1 dash black walnut bitters
  • 2 drops chocolate bitters

Serve with flamed orange peel expression

Courtesy Sarah Elliot at Summit Club


The Perfect Drink

Bars around Oklahoma have the keys to perfection … or at least the special ingredients or twists to make cocktails dazzle.

  • For a classic libation, Sarah Elliot of Tulsa’s Summit Club says “balance between sweetness, acidity, complexity and booziness is found through proper proportions of citrus, bitters, sweetener, your liqueurs and spirits. One of the classics is a great example – the Bee’s Knees. Too much honey, it’s off. Too much lemon, it’s off. And if you’re like me, just one dash of lavender bitters and you have yourself a fine classic.”
  • The beloved White Russian gets frozen at Roosevelt’s in Tulsa and retitled as The Dude Abides.
  • Vast in OKC presents a Manhattan with its own twist – Old Forester bourbon, Punt e Mes vermouth, strong tonic, Angostura bitters and sherry rinse.
  • Margaritas take many forms, and OKC’s Whiskey Cake goes spicy with a mango habanero margarita, made with El Jimador Reposado tequila, wood-grilled mango habanero syrup, Benedictine liqueur, lime and agave.
  • Brandon Folkers, bar manager of O Bar, boasts about the “Kōhi 43, a spin on the Rob Roy classic, with Jura 10-year-old scotch, a smoky Japanese whiskey, and then you replace Drambuie liqueur with a split of espresso liqueur and Licor 43.”
  • Julia McLish, owner of OKC’s Barkeep, says “only three ingredients go into what is considered a classic cocktail: spirits, sugar and bitters.” Examples are the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan. 

The Happiest Hours

Drink and dine on the cheap at one (or all) of these happy hours.

Scratch Kitchen and Cocktails, Norman
Swing by from 3 to 6 p.m. and after 9 p.m. daily (and 3 p.m. to close Thursdays) for $5 cocktails and half-price, low-point beers and appetizers. eatatscratch.com 

Pub W, Tulsa and Greater OKC
Beers, wines and cocktails are discounted daily, and some prices change with the hour – $3 from 3 to 4; $4 from 4 to 5; and $5 from 5 to 6. pubdub.com

Pony Boy, OKC
Enjoy $4 craft cocktails, $6 glasses of wine and discounted snacks from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays and all day Sunday. ponyboyokc.com

Local Bison, Tulsa
Appetizers are $5 and local beers and wines are $4 from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. thelocalbison.com

Roka, Tulsa
Don’t miss $3 beers, $5 cocktails, $4 glasses of wine and several appetizers from 3 to 6 p.m. daily. rokatulsa.com

Andolini’s Pizzeria, Tulsa
From 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays, Andolini’s offers select pizza slices and draft beers for $2.50 each. andopizza.com

Garage Burgers and Beer, Greater OKC and Greater Tulsa
During the so-called Rad Hour, the Garage offers $2 domestic beers, $3 house wines and $5 specialty cocktails from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. eatatthegarage.com

Tracy LeGrand
Author: Tracy LeGrand