Glance over the menus of some of the country's leading barbecue joints and you will no doubt quickly realize that the beverage offerings leave something to be desired. Yes, the focus is the 'cue. And yes, there is more often than not, there is some mind-blowing sweet tea to be had. But what about the cocktail enthusiast, or the wine geek?
As it turns out, there's a place for them at the table too. Offering everything from signature cocktails made with house-infused spirits, to wine, craft beer, and even sake, the drink menus at these great joints are breaking the barbecue beverage mold.
Beaver's Ice House (Houston, Texas)
This Houston joint from renowned locavore chef Monica Pope has a cocktail list that truly vies for your attention — think house-made falernum, barrel-aged bitters, and tomato juice infused with celery, garlic, wasabi, and hot sauce. You'll find some well-made classics, like the Aviation and Final Word, surprisingly as at home here as they would be at any old-school cocktail bar. But perhaps more interesting are the list's creative concoctions: a take on a Margarita that uses yellow chartreuse and orange blossom water; or something called the Forecast, which mixes habanero-infused vodka with muddled cucumber, kaffir lime syrup, and fresh lemon juice.
Hill Country (New York, N.Y.)
It seems only fitting that one of the restaurants to best prove that New York City can serve up real-deal 'cue, should also have a killer cocktail menu. The decidedly bourbon- and tequila-heavy list makes good with simple, not-too-fussy combinations. Try the boozy Bullet, made with bourbon, spiced rum, and Texas-made Big Red soda, or the smoky-sweet Drink a Peach, featuring tequila and peach liqueur.
The Pit (Raleigh, N.C.)
The cocktail list at this top-rated spot may be short and sweet — limited to only four items — but it deserves a nod nonetheless. Trade traditional the traditional sweet tea for something more potent, a drink called The John Daly made with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and fresh lemon juice. There's also a sangria made with local wine and fruit, and the simple but tasty Smoke & Coke (house-smoked bourbon and cola). And for on-the-rocks or neat drinkers, there's an impressive list of small batch bourbons to sample from.