Before I tell you about the Fried Elvis cocktail, you have to know that for Marty Reyes and his wife Jen, the State Fair of Texas is an annual rite of passage. Or maybe bite of passage is the way to put it, since the two regularly take in the event’s over-the-top creamy and battered delights.
“I love me some Fried Elvis,” admits Reyes, managing partner of Dallas’ Industry Alley, whose in-laws regularly come from San Francisco to enjoy the yearly Big Tex bonanza at Fair Park.
But at the same time, the Fair’s three-week run also takes a regular chomp out of bar revenues – an effect Reyes and his crew say stretches as far as the Cedars, where their low-key cocktail hang is located.
“We thought, ‘How can we combat this?’” says Industry Alley bartender Tommy Fogle. “And it was, like, ‘Well – why don’t we embrace it?’”
Get ready, then, for Industry Alley’s lineup of State Fair of Texas cocktails, with everything from the Candied Apple and Lemon Chiller to the Fried Elvis and a Cotton Candy Old Fashioned. There’ll even be a Corn Dog cocktail for the courageous, and the special menu will run the length of the fair, which starts Friday through October 22.
“I mean, who doesn’t love the State Fair?” says Jen, who goes by the moniker Jen Ann Tonic. “Why not drink the experience?”
The group got to work designing cocktails that would echo some of the event’s iconic treats, and they realized already had a head start: Fogle’s Elote En Vaso (Elote in a Glass), an elotes-inspired drink he’d created for a recent whiskey competition.
Others followed, like the Candied Apple cocktail – a mix of apple-infused port, apple brandy and cinnamon syrup, with a trio of apple slices to sop up the rock-candy syrup around the glass – and the El Churro cocktail, which enriches pisco with butter, pecan, cinnamon and cream, with a churro garnish to boot.
The Fried Elvis cocktail fancies up Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey with banana liqueur, peanut butter powder, cream and egg white, with a strafing of currant liqueur filling in the jelly part of the equation.
“People like that one,” Fogle says, who’s been testing out the drinks on some of his customers. “I think it really works.”
The list will also feature a smattering of saltwater taffy shots, and Fogle’s corn-whiskey-based Elote en Vaso is buttery and salty, with a dash of sour cream and Mexican cotija cheese to complete the effect.
Devising drinks that would evoke the State Fair-style delicacies in liquid form wasn’t exactly a walk down the midway.
“The corn dog one was the most challenging,” Reyes says. “I was almost ready to knock it off the list. Then along comes my mad scientist, Johnny.”
That would be bartender Johnny Maslyk, who Reyes says was able to replicate the taste of corn dog batter without over-thickening the texture of the drink.
The finished product incorporates pork-infused Scotch, corn meal and honey.
“It’s just a matter of whether anyone’s brave enough to order it,” Fogle says.
For all of this, Jen Ann Tonic has designed a menu she describes as “Texas Fair cute,” and in a way, Industry Alley is the perfect canvas for such an experiment, with a laid-back, dive-bar atmosphere untethered to any particular audience.
“I’ve always liked the approachability of this place,” Fogle says. “And I think that gives us the leeway to do something like this.”
For the most part, the bar’s State Fair cocktails are over-the-top and rich – but then again, so are the treats they mimic.
“These are novelties,” Fogle says. “But it’s nice to have the freedom to be weird.”
Industry Alley, 1711 S. Lamar St., Dallas. 214-238-3111