What does Summer taste like? What's a flavor combination no one would expect? How can you innovate classic tiki drinks? In a previous world, Gabe Sanchez would have explored these questions alone. Innovation was more of solo endeavor at Black Swan Saloon, the bar he owned and operated in Deep Ellum for more than a decade. Now, at Midnight Rambler he has a much more collaborative approach, working with his entire team to concept, develop, and test new cocktails.

“Everyone on the team has something to contribute,” he says. “Anyone can come forward with an idea they’d like to try. I’ve been really amazed by what they’ve come up.”

Launching this week, Midnight Rambler’s new High Summer Menu took more than a month of R&D and features highly creative takes on classic cocktails with tiki inspirations. Among the first drinks Gabe and team decided to upend? The banana daiquiri. “No one is going to come up and order a banana daiquiri,” he says. “But if I made this drink for you at my house, we’d drink them all night. You’d love it.” Fredo in Cuba (named after the iconic daiquiri scene in The Godfather) features Martinique rhum, banana liqueurs, demerara syrup, fresh lime, and a monkey delivering a sweet surprise.

Other highlights include New Square (usually requested as “that fig thing” by Gabe’s regulars). A play on the New Orleans Vieux Carré, it’s a little boozier and less sweet than the original. A torched spoonful of fig preserve adds a rich, smoky flavor.

A nod to Texas peach season, the Peach Old Fashioned includes peach-infused bourbon, sugar in the raw, bitters, and a brûléed slice of sous-vide peach.

Though it’s tough to play favorites, Gabe lists the Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler as his current go-to. An old-school sherry cobbler, it's updated with rhubarb amaro, strawberry-rhubarb infused vermouth blanc, and canchancara (a cuban-style honey infused with fresh lime and orange blossom). Topped with dehydrated strawberry powder, it’s a refreshing sip of summer without being too sweet.

Speaking of sweetness, to balance the usually sugar-forward, tropical cocktails, Gabe added one more twist to the menu. “Everyone thinks sweet tiki drinks when they think of island drinks. As part of the AAPI community, I wanted to showcase an entirely different set of island flavors.” Served chilled and taken as a shot, the Pacific Throat Punch marries Oaxacan rum, Cobrafire (an unaged brandy), and Batavia Arrack with Gabe’s homemade chicken adobo broth. It’s a savory, vinegary, salty blend. And “it’s 100% good for you,” he says. Laughing.

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The Details: Midnight Rambler, 1530 Main Street. Valet at The Joule. Open Wednesday 5pm–midnight; Thursday–Saturday 5pm–2am.