Best Drinks of 2018

At Rock City Eats, we’ve often talked about how Little Rock’s drink scene is at least as good as its food scene, if not better. This year saw the continued excellence of breweries in the city as well as the ascendance of great tea, coffee and spirits businesses. It’s a great time to be thirsty in Arkansas. Here, in no particular order, are our 25 favorite beverages of 2018.

Arkansour at Allsopp & Chapple/Ira’s – After a dramatic divorce and renaming, Ira’s is no longer around, but it did offer us this fantastic cocktail before closing. Cappelletti, gin and vermouth gave this one its strong, tart flavors, but it was the shaken egg white that provided the silky texture that really helped frame everything well. (Steve Shuler)

Cuban Pull at Moody Brews – It has been far too long since Josiah Moody has put out one of the best all around beers in the state. Now that he has returned from Arkansas, it is flowing again, and it is just as good as ever. (Greg Henderson)

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Brasileira at Trio’s ­– This spring cocktail menu standout was a favorite at first sip. It combines coconut water rum and cream syrup into a refreshing and creamy concoction that is essentially a boozy, coconut milkshake. The flavors from the banana liqueur, lime juice and orange bitters round out the drink. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Dankenstein at Rebel Kettle – No other brewery does massive flavor like Rebel Kettle, and this might be the biggest one they’ve done yet. Technically called C Street Block 5, this triple IPA paired an 11 percent ABV with a monster hop profile. And the reason it’s on this list? The balance was impeccable. I’ve been craving this one since it came out this spring. (SS)

BrewMosas at Lost Forty Brewing – This Sunday brunch staple is a great alternative to the usual mimosa with that headache-inducing champagne. The brewery mixes its Day Drinker Belgian Blonde beer with orange juice, and it pairs quite nicely with any breakfast sandwich, the housemade biscuits and gravy, or even the larger than life pancakes. (Kaitlin Barger)

Coffee & Cigarettes at South on Main – This one brings back memories of smoky bars listening to good music. It starts with rye and cognac, then adds caffe amaro for a coffee flavor and lemon to round things off. Then they use a tobacco-infused sugar on the rim of the glass to give it a deep, rich, cigar-like nose as you sip. It is the perfect sensual, storytelling cocktail. (GH)

Rumdorla Teardrop at Mylo Coffee Co. – This intriguing winter coffee shot doesn’t really fit into the classic café feel. It’s not meant to be sipped on. It’s meant to be slammed so that the rum, almond, cream and coffee flavors crash over your palate in a cacophony of eye-widening wonder. I don’t care that it’s out of place. It’s a remarkable experience. (SS)

Turmeric Tonic at Meteor Café – Sipping this golden-hued tonic while working in the sunny cafe is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the herbal tea. The flavor is a bit earthy and gingery, and, as a bonus, turmeric has been on my radar this year for its natural anti-inflammatory properties. (SEN)

Whiskey Umami at Big Orange – It took me a month to decide if I even liked this cocktail or not. I do, but don’t be surprised if you are as confused as I was in the first sip. Cocktail wizard Ben Bell cooked this one up, and shows why he is one of the best in the business. It is wildly savory, using rye whiskey, sake, and miso as a base. (GH)

Free Range Finca Peña Oscura at Flyway Brewing – The ongoing Free Range Brown Ale coffee series has provided plenty of intrigue this year, but it was the second version that was my favorite. The El Salvadoran coffee was blended perfectly, so that both the coffee and the beer presented in equal strength. Hats off. (SS)

House Margarita at Dos Rocas Beer and Tacos – If you’re looking for a perfect not too sweet margarita, try the House Margarita at Dos Rocas. I tend to steer away from margaritas since so many are too saturated with sweet and sour mix, but this one is just right. It contains 100% agave tequila, fresh lime juice, triple sec, simple syrup and a tasty salt rim. (KB)

Buttery Perfection at Table 28 – The fat-washing trend in cocktails is growing; typically you see bacon as the base. In this one, Table 28 uses brown butter on a mostly-traditional Manhattan cocktail, which has been the best local use of the concept so far. (GH)

BDCS 2018 at Ozark Beer Company – No, it’s not a Central Arkansas beer, but BDCS is the one brew made in our state that draws a national crowd. At the release party, I met people from Montana, Kansas and Texas who came just to get some cans. And for good reason: the 2018 version was as smooth, subtle and delicious as any year before it. (SS)

Fat Bottom Girl at Rock Town Distillery – When Rock Town finally opened a bar, they did it the right way: by hiring industry vets and producing cocktails like the Fat Bottom Girl. It is a bourbon-based tiki cocktail that is well balanced and really allows the bourbon to shine. (GH)

Toasted Marshmallow Latte at Honey Pies – I always get a little thrill when someone pulls out a culinary blow torch because it often means a sugary, delicate dessert is getting a delicious finishing touch. This latte is like sipping a s’mores on a perfect fall day. I’m always a fan of a fire-seared marshmallow, and sitting atop a latte is the ultimate garnish in my book. (SEN)

Double Love Honey Anniversary Doppelbock at Lost Forty Brewing – No beer this year was more subtle, more nuanced or more rewarding. This is what happens when elite brewers are working at the top of their game. It is my pick for best beer of 2018, and honestly, it wasn’t a hard pick. Oh, and it’s available right now. Go get it. (SS)

Lord God Imperial Chocolate Stout at Flyway Brewing – Little Rock needs that one great beer release to look forward to each year. The annual Lord God from Flyway is that beer. It is an imperial chocolate stout that seems to get better every round. (GH)

Four-year Rye at Rock Town Distillery – Every year, Rock Town puts out a special spirit to celebrate their birthday, and it just seems to get better every time. This rye is a joyously sharp sip, with a peppery burst that starts crisp and finishes smooth. Rock Town keeps getting top marks from critics worldwide, and this Four-year Rye shows why. (SS)

Mole! Mole! Mole! at Petit & Keet – It starts with a mezcal base and adds house made chocolate bitters for a light smoky cocktail. Then they top it with a roasted lemon dipped in chocolate bark syrup. This is one from last winter I hope returns soon. (GH)

Anniversary Stout at Stone’s Throw Brewing – Not every annual stout release is automatically the best brew of the year, but this year’s version at Stone’s Throw definitely makes the cut. It’s smooth and deceptively mellow, but it’s the punchy oatmeal backbone that had me exclaiming. (SS)

Bluewing Berry Wheat at Flyway Brewing – Arkansas’ most popular beer is perfect if you like a hint of sweet. The kiss of tartness keeps the sweetness from going over the top, and it’s very refreshing. (KB)

Dulcet Devotion at Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co. – Look, there is very little at Prestonrose I don’t enjoy, but this perfect saison was simply staggering. Created for a close friend’s wedding party, Liz Preston infused the classic saison recipe with lavender for a fragrant, sweet finish. I loved it so much I bought two growlers to take home. It was truly a special summer brew. (SS)

Mayan Mocha at Mugs Café – This spiced mocha is one of my all-time favorites with espresso, dark chocolate, cayenne pepper, and steamed milk. The combo of the dark chocolate and chili pepper amps up the subtle aspects of each natural flavors. (SEN)

London Smog at Rebel Kettle – Rebel has always made a name for itself with unique beers. Historically it has always been their sours that excite me; this year it was their London Smog, a New England IPA brewed with Earl Grey tea. I love grabbing a London fog from the coffee shop, and this was a very nice play on it. (GH)

Café con Miel at Flyway Brewing – In the end, it was Flyway this year that consistently got my top marks. The addition of Mark Sniff to the brew team gave Flyway a noticeable boost in creativity, and it came out in brews like this Café con Miel. Spanish for “coffee with honey,” this deep, malty brew not only pushed the envelope creatively, but it kept in place Flyway’s dogged devotion to balanced, approachable beers. (SS)

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Best Drinks of 2018