The Best Drinks of 2017

We in Central Arkansas are completely spoiled when it comes to our drink scene. We have several first-class breweries, one of the best distilleries in the country, and an emerging coffee and tea scene that is making large strides every year. Our beverages are so far above average, that we at Rock City Eats decided to expand this year’s “Best of” list to a full 20 entries. What’s funny: we still had to cut some of our favorites to get it down to that number. Here are the 20 best drinks of 2017.

Charlie Murphy at Petit & Keet/Raduno – Thanks to constantly moving bar staff in the city, my favorite cocktail this year actually appears on two menus. The Charlie Murphy is a little on the hard side and uses rye whiskey as a base with Averna and ginger. (Greg Henderson)

Turmeric Sparkler at The Meteor Café – Feeling sick or tired? Pick one of these bad boys up instead of a coffee and it will turn your day around. Or just get one any old time, it’s worth it. (Sara Slimp)

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The Waiting is the Hardest Part at Rebel Kettle Brewing Company – Take a golden ale, add four strains of yeast, and let the whole thing sour for 16 months. That’s how The Waiting is the Hardest Part came to be, and what a payoff it was. Only sold in six-ounce pours, this sour just poured on notes of heavy spice and stone fruit that felt like they were still developing on your palate. It was an audacious, inspired brew that typifies what Rebel Kettle brings to Arkansas’ beer scene. (Steve Shuler)

Cranberry Limeade at The Fold – A house-made cranberry compote serves as the base for this drink. The recipe has incredible flavor and packs a punch of seasonal fruitiness. It’s the perfect holiday drink to enjoy on The Fold’s heated patio. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Purple DinoSour at Rebel Kettle Brewing Company – This one has come up before back in March and is on the verge of being released again in cans. Regardless, it is a boysenberry sour that is light and full of flavor. (Greg Henderson)

Soothing Tonic by Savoy Tea – I love about everything Bentonville-based Savoy Tea makes, and am so excited they’ve decided to sell at The Green Corner Store. This tea they make at the shop is my favorite by far, it is spicy and soothing, with just the right amount of zing to it. (Sara Slimp)

Sherry Cask Wheat Whiskey at Rock Town Distillery – For its seventh anniversary, Rock Town released this gem: a single barrel wheat whiskey aged for years in a sherry cask. The fruity draw gave the whiskey a new dimension that still tasted like it had belonged there all along. Right now, everything Rock Town is trying is working out, and that’s something we can all be thankful for. (Steve Shuler)

Piña Colada at Baja Grill – I branched out of my original margarita comfort zone at Baja Grill to try their piña colada and I was not disappointed. Mine happened to be sans the alcohol, and the drink was on point. The pineapple purée, pineapple juice and coconut cream all blend together to make a fresh and fruity beverage that was superb on a warm afternoon. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Frozen Mai Tai at The Fold – Instead of a margarita, take a chance on this frozen drink for your #1 summer sipper. It is refreshing, and unfortunately, easy to take down quickly! (Sara Slimp)

Lord God Imperial Chocolate Stout at Flyway Brewing – Early in the year, Flyway released this winter mammoth and set the bar high for Little Rock’s beer scene in 2017. At 11 percent ABV, it was a powerful brew, but resting the beer on cacao nibs from Izard Chocolate gave the stout several levels of complexity. This one is my pick for best beer of 2017. (Steve Shuler)

Red Wine Sangria at 42 bar and table – I pride myself on making good sangria, but the sangria at 42 bar and table can’t be beat. It is darker and less sweet than most sangria I find available, and boy is it strong! (Sara Slimp)

Dairy-free Bubble Tea at Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co. – My favorite addition to my usual meal at Three Fold is the bubble tea. It’s dairy-free, not overly sweet, and complements my favorite spicy pork dumplings. The tapioca balls at the base of the drink add a chewy texture to finish off the drink. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Blueberry Basil Nitro Coffee at Nexus Coffee and Creative – Dozens of meetings around town this year meant I drank a lot of coffee in 2017. The Blueberry Basil Nitro has become my go-to around meeting #3 of the day. It is still caffeinated, but drinks more like a tea. It is light, crisp, and a little foamy thanks to the nitro. (Greg Henderson)

Sweet Potato Latte at Nexus Coffee and Creative – I am not a fan of pumpkin spice lattes, sorry. But this is not nearly as sweet and processed tasting as a PSL, with just the right amount of spice and simple coconut sugar. Warm and cozy all around. (Sara Slimp)

English Style Barleywine at Bike Rack Brewing – I love to check in with former Little Rock brewer Josiah Moody when I am up in Northwest Arkansas, and he knocked it out of the park with this one. The barleywine uses black currants and it is aged on French oak for possibly the best beer to come out of NWA this year. Too bad it was a limited run. (Greg Henderson)

Bourbon-Barrel Aged Love Honey Bock at Lost Forty Brewing – The first year Lost Forty barrel-aged its flagship bock, it ended up tasting like a good barrel. This year, however, the team scaled back the ABV a touch and removed the beer from the barrel earlier. The result was an aged brew that was clearly a bock, but with wonderful nuance and accents. This one was my favorite barrel-aged beer of 2017. (Steve Shuler)

Horchata at Taqueria Guadalajara – If you haven’t tried horchata, do yourself a favor and run over to Taqueria Guadalajara for lunch and order it with your meal. It’s dairy-free, has cinnamon and other spices, and will complement any dish you order. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Copita Roja at Big Orange – This one is a bit funky and way out of left field. Probably why I like it. Everything starts simple, you have a raicilla (tequila family) based drink with Schizandra Berry Tincture and lime. Then it gets fun, they top things with a goat cheese mousse and cucumber. The idea is to take a bite of the goat cheese along with the drink. It is fantastic. (Greg Henderson)

Hive Riot by Rebel Kettle and Moody Brews – It will be a long time before Josiah Moody’s influence on Little Rock’s beer scene wears off. This August, he returned for a fun collaboration with Rebel Kettle, and the result was this terrific honey rye pale ale. Rather than using the honey as a sweetener, the team scaled it back to just provide depth, letting the rye and Green Magic hops do the leg work. And nobody was surprised when the two breweries pulled it off beautifully. (Steve Shuler)

Chai Tea Latte at Nexus Coffee and Creative – One of my benchmark beverages at any coffee shop is a chai tea latte. I personally order mine with a dairy-free substitute. Nexus does it right with a robust, spiced flavor. The latte is topped with a cinnamon-dusted foam that makes for a nice presentation. (Sara Edwards Neal)

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The Best Drinks of 2017