Along with enjoying some of the best meals during 2012, we have all come across that one cocktail (or beer) that not only satisfies, but has been present at some of our most memorable times during 2012. From a night out with friends, to a romantic dinner, to having a girls gone wild moment (or two), these cocktails have been there. Like a great friend, they have never let us down and they always hit the spot. Here’s to the best cocktails of 2012 from team Hank and Swank!

Carla Soriano of Urban Swank

Italian Cream Cake Cocktail – Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails
Topping my list of preferred drinks of 2012 is the Italian Cream Cake cocktail made by Coppa Ristorante Italiano’s Executive Chef, Brandi Key. While the drink (ciroc coconut vodka, frangelico, licor 43, egg white, buttermilk whipped cream, coconut hazelnut macaroon) in and of itself was fabulous — cloud-like creamy texture, delicious taste, non-overpowering sweetness, and a “garnish” a.k.a. macaroon that stole your heart — the circumstances that ultimately put this fine drink into my hands are quite note-worthy.

You see, freelance bartender Chris Frankel teamed up with Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails to bring the Bayou City a fun, unique series called “Drinks with Chefs,” which put Houston chefs behind the bar at Double Trouble. Awesome, right? But, the chefs weren’t slingin’ just any drinks – they were making drinks that they’d made up on their own (double awesome). And it’s definitely not every day that you get a chance to have one of Houston’s best chefs make and pour you a drink. I loved visiting when Brandi was behind the bar, not only because her drink was spectacular, but because the heart, soul and dedication she put into making her special beverage was evident as she carefully crafted it. Moreover, she made the drink with such gusto that you couldn’t help but smile.

Felice Sloan of Urban Swank

Hibiscus Margarita – Sorrel Urban Bistro
This is one of my guilty pleasures of 2012! The ingredients are simple… Espolon Tequila, Grand Marnier, house infused hibiscus syrup & fresh lime juice. The thing that makes it stand out for me is that Lava salt (around the rim) and the light fragrance and taste of the Hibiscus. It’s funny how the simplest things can bring so much joy.

Hank Lewis of HankOnFood.com

Saint Arnold’s Bishop’s Barrel 1
One of our greatest local craft breweries is Saint Arnold, and the reason why they are so great is their brew masters are creative in coming up with different mixes of hops, malt, barley and aging techniques to create beers unlike any other on the planet. When I have cocktails, I am usually partial to a good single malt or blended bourbon Kentucky Bourbon like Knob Creek or Maker’s Mark. When I drink beer, I love dark beer–especially Imperial Stouts. Saint Arnold brewed a small batch Russian Imperial Stout and aged it in Oak Barrels from a Bourbon Distillery in Kentucky for 10 months. The beer begins with a Malty Whiskey Nose. It has a strong Bourbon front note, which blends with a dark, malty middle. There is a twangy Bourbon finish with some burnt sweetness in the aftertaste. The beer tastes quite bold served cold. However, as it warms to about 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, hints of spice and chocolate mix in with the Bourbon, and a little more sweetness emerges. The saddest part about this beer is that it is a single run and unless someone is hoarding a stash somewhere, it is all gone, much to my dismay.

White Sangria – 1252 Tapas Bar
Normally Sangria is fruit-infused red wine. However, I’d never had a white wine version before the preview 1252 Tapas Bar invited me to back in August. Here they served up a refreshing white wine cocktail infused with fresh tropical fruit that was light and refreshing, very much the opposite of traditional red sangria. I loved it so much. While I’m normally a Bourbon cocktail fella, this very different kind of cocktail was so unique it stood out in my mind all year. The only thing I can compare it to is a fruit infused Champagne punch called Bolle that is popular in Germany.

Shanna Jones of Urban Swank

Lemongrass Lychee Martini – Rattan Asian Bistro
A traditional martini (gin/vodka and vermouth) is really not my style. I’m a huge fan of a great, refreshing, and slightly sweet martini, which I guess could be called a “vodkatini”. The lemongrass herb and the lychee fruit have joined in holy matrimony to create my favorite cocktail of the year…the Lemongrass Lychee Martini from Rattan Asian Bistro. The lemony flavor of the lemongrass permeates through the cocktail which balances the sweet lychee. The combination of these two polar opposites results in a refreshingly simple drink that I simply adore. In addition, I like the fact that I can still “taste” the alcohol and don’t feel like I am merely enjoying Kool-Aid in a martini glass. Cheers to the year of the vodkatini…may it live on forever!

The Urban Swank Girls

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