Nestled in Pavilion in the Park, Trio’s Restaurant is a local gem that has maintained a quality of service and unwavering excellence for many years.
We recently sat with Bar Manager, Merrick Fagan of Trio’s Restaurant to get the skinny on the new tropical, Tiki-inspired cocktail menu, which will make its debut today (June 22). These refreshing beverages will be available all summer.
The good news? These aren’t your typical sugary daiquiris.
“A lot of these are really involved cocktails,” Fagan says. “Tiki cocktails can have upwards of nine ingredients. Some of these are the stripped down version of the Tiki aesthetics, like the PCD is a very tropical tasting drink with just four ingredients.”
While most of the recipes are composed of a variety of liqueurs, there are a few notable locally-sourced ingredients.
“We make our own passion fruit syrup in-house as well as orgeat,” explains Fagan. “The passion fruit is pretty straightforward. It’s just passion fruit, sugar and water. The orgeat is a little more complicated. It’s an almond-based syrup with orange blossom water. I do a couple of trade-secret things to make it more interesting.”
Passion fruit syrup can be found in both drinks, Pacific Swizzle and the Relaxed Word. Fagan’s orgeat is mixed in the Bananarama, Black Lagoon and Kopi Kat. Additionally, Rock Town coffee makes an appearance in the Kopi Kat.
The menu is divided into Summer Cocktails and Twisted Classics. “Summer Cocktails are the more straightforward summer originals and then the Twisted Classics are very classic cocktails with little just a spin on them to do something different,” Fagan says.
There’s a drink for everyone on Fagan’s menu. “The safest one is the Cucumber Mint Gimlet. It is solid, reliable, straightforward and easy-to-drink,” says Fagan.
With all of the options available on his well-crafted menu, it was difficult to narrow down to the few options we checked out.
For something rich and bittersweet, try the Black Lagoon. As Fagan says, “Think baking chocolates.” The drink is topped with shredded coconut garnish for textural interest. Activated charcoal is the final ingredient. The spice mentioned in the ingredients reflects a baking spice, not heat spice.
The Uli Uli was designed to pair with one of Trio’s summer entrees, the Tuna Poke Bowl. Fagan explains the dish, “There’s a lot of fresh, bright flavors. There’s fruits and veggies and tuna – really nice and light. So, I wanted something that would complement that and be bright and floral.”
He continues, “There was just one color missing in the dish, and that’s blue, so I made the drink blue.”
Next up is one of the simplest mixtures and solid option, the PCD (i.e. Piña Colada Daiquiri). As Fagan explains, “I wanted to take a drink that is not Tiki drink, but is often conflated with Tiki drinks, and that’s the Piña Colada. I wanted to make it not suck.”
Fagan clarifies, “The problem with Piña Coladas is that pineapple and coconut do go so well together, but the drink is just sugar, sugar and more sugar. And that’s a great way to have a headache by the beach.”
Like many Tiki drinks, the Pacific Swizzle is sweet and sour. “There’s going to be some spice notes in there,” says Fagan. “[You’ll get] some baking spice from the Angostura bitters, there’s also going to be some ginger and clove from the falernum. The spirit-base is spread between Lychee vodka and Plantation 3 Stars which is a pretty light, bright floral rum.”
Get adventurous with one of Fagan’s favorites, the Sotol’d Ya So. “I wanted to introduce this wild spirit, that’s sort of out there, called Sotol,” Fagan says. “Which a lot of people around here don’t know about yet.”
“It’s quite earthy, a little bit smokey, very vegetal. Tastes like a desert to me,” Fagan describes.
The drink itself consists of citrus flavors lime, agave nectar and grapefruit liqueur which play well with the earthy notes of the spirit. This drink is on point if you’re a mezcal drinker, but if you’re a more adventurous tequila drinker, you might also venture a taste.
Love Little Rock and summer by trying some funky, fresh cocktails in one of the city’s oldest foodie institutions. Trio’s is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. be sure to stop by and try them out for yourself.