It’s patio season and that means one thing, it’s the perfect time to perch yourself outside with one of Little Rock’s most notable bartenders nearby. Merrick Fagan of Trio’s Restaurant doesn’t disappoint with his inspired spring cocktails, each carefully and thoughtfully crafted to achieve a perfected end result.
In the mix is a combination of familiar, but updated classics with Fagan’s special touch. What you’ll find are bright, crisp and floral flavors. He keeps the menu varied and full of surprises. A couple drinks are lower ABV. You won’t find any lesser quality in these options; they are still full of flavor and let you enjoy more of them responsibly. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Fagan cocktail menu without at least one Tiki-inspired drink.
Look for the handful of syrups and blends throughout the menu. Fagan created these specifically for his cocktails. A delicious almond orgeat as well as a house-infused vanilla bean vodka are just two out of many house-made mixes that you’ll find in his drinks.
Fool Me Once
This one begins with Gin — a liquor I’m not usually fond of — but this cocktail made my top three favorites that I’ve tried thus far. It’s light, bright and floral.
“You get some sweetness from the orgeat, but it’s balanced out from the lemon, prosecco and mild bitterness of the Aperol,” says Fagan.
Ask Fagan about the history of the ingredients or his thought process behind a drink and you’ll learn something new and fascinating every time.
Made with Mastiha, the Cool Breeze has the most intriguing flavor in my opinion and an interesting history to boot. Fagan shares, “Mastiha is made from the resin of a mastic tree in Greece. Mastic being the predecessor to chewing gum. The flavor is as much minty as it is cedary.”
Hands down, my favorite. The coconut water rum and cream syrup act like coconut milk when mixed together. It is both refreshing and creamy but also has depth and complexity that surpassed my expectations of a coconut cocktail.
“This cocktail is based very loosely on a traditional Brazilian cocktail called a Batida, which is essentially a boozy milkshake,” says Fagan. “It is suitable as a dessert cocktail, but not cloying.”
The flavors from the banana liqueur, lime juice and orange bitters were subtle and rounded out the drink. “Cachaça — made from fresh pressed sugarcane juice — is much more grassy and vegetal. It’s got a different sort of funk to it,” Fagan describes.
“We are pretty squarely in Tiki territory in terms of our flavor profile, color and presentation,” Fagan leads. “But several of the ingredients are things that people might not necessarily associate with Tiki.”
This cocktail has a split-base of Blanco tequila and Pisco and additions of lime juice, orgeat, maraschino and Curaçao — a very divisive ingredient. Fagan notes, “Both the Blanco tequila and the Pisco both have really nice floral notes that the orgeat accentuates.” He continues, “Where a lot of Tiki drinks would use Angostura Bitters, I’m using Becherovka which is a Czech herbal liqueur which has a lot of the same flavor profiles.”
Another solid cocktail here and not what you might expect from a blue drink. This strays from the artificial flavors you find in the bright blue fish bowl from some spots, and offers better ingredients and a crisp, refreshing finish.
This gives a whole new meaning to the euphemism, pick your poison. There are five; count ‘em, FIVE rums in this drink. It’s limited to two per person, and if that doesn’t intrigue you, there’s also a tiny skull and crossbones printed next to the title.
“I wanted some richness and some funk. I wanted a depth of flavor more than anything else. Once you start adding several syrups and other things, you want that liquor backbone to hold up,” explains Fagan.
Fagan drafted up nine versions of this rum barrel variation before landing on the winner which you can enjoy today.
What does Q.E.D. stand for, you ask? “Quod erat demonstrandum, which is Latin for ‘that which was to be demonstrated’”. Fagan elaborates with a grin, “That is what you will find at the end of logical mathematical and philosophical proofs. The proof is over, overproof rums.”
If you hustle over to Trio’s you might get lucky and take home a souvenir rum barrel mug. As Fagan likes to call it, the “barrel of fun” is only available while supplies last.
Be sure to scope out the rest of the new menu and bask in this beautiful spring weather with one of Merrick Fagan’s new spring cocktails.