Neptune's Grill+Bar

Blackberry lemonade from Neptune’s Grille+Bar at the Tempest Golf Club in Gladewater on Tuesday September 25, 2018. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

Nestled away between Longview and Tyler sits the Tempest Golf Club, a multimillion dollar project carved out of the overgrown, former Southern Hills golf course outside of Gladewater. Course designers hoped to build a property that offers amenities to more than just the golfing aficionado. Tempest also offers a banquet hall that seats more than 200 people, private meeting space and Neptune’s, a well-crafted restaurant that is sure to be a standalone destination for the epicurious.

The dining room and bar look exactly like what you’d expect from a high-end golf course: A grand fireplace; intimate seating and crisp linen tablecloths; a chef’s menu, both sophisticated and inventive, alludes to the attention to detail at Neptune’s; and then, at the heart of the dining space, a grand and beautiful bar. The tall, stained wooden shelves and rich, marble countertop might mislead your expectations to a spirits menu heavy on smoky scotches and tannin-laden wines. While Neptune’s boasts a fine selection of both, the thing worth writing about here is the cocktails.

Quality bars are hard to find in these parts, despite the many places you can get a drink. Neptune’s has a few tricks up its sleeve to make sure it makes the list of the qualified. The menu is categorized by spirits, but that is as much help as you’re going to get. Neptune’s wants to push you a little bit and encourage you to try new things. No matter your experience or expectation for a well-made drink, there is sure to be something just for you.

Maybe you’re someone who has always loved the sound of a fancy drink, but you just can’t adventure outside of your tried and true favorites like 7&7? The Ginger might be a good place for you start. It’s a playful name for a facelift on a favored drink of my youth — Jameson Irish whiskey mixed with a hand-crafted ginger ale, and made to order with fizzy tonic water, sugar cane and ginger syrup.

Perhaps you’re a straight-shooting, spirit-forward drinker well-versed in the recipes of Prohibition’s past? Well, that’s the birthplace of the cocktail, so it is fairly represented as well. Speak-easy bartenders were forced to create some of the most iconic drinks we still enjoy today, often out of a necessity to up the lack-luster or sometimes just plain awful bathtub stilling processes of their liquor providers. Today, we get to enjoy the artisanship of those flavor profiles, but with the silver lining of living in the golden-age of craft distilling. Here you’ll find perfectly punctuated classics such as the Bee’s Knees or a Sidecar, as well as some upgrades to those old fashioned favorites….

Speaking of Old Fashioned drinks, and as an ardent fan of whiskey, I’d be remiss to not mention how excited I am about the secret menu of different Old Fashioned choices, including the Southern Drawl, made with Texas whiskey and subtly sweetened with Pecan liqueur, or other quick favorites such as the Roasted Peach or Baconator. The lesson here is always ask your bartender if there is something off the menu you might like.

The drinks sound good, but, as I have often been reminded, a good personality only gets you so far, so dress up every once in a while. The garnishes on these cocktails are both eye-catching and functional. The ethos behind their embellishments is not form over function — a garnish cannot simply inspire an Instagram post. It has to enhance the complexity of the drink. While I am not ashamed to admit that the small clothespin holding the fresh sage to the rim of my Honey & Smoke was pretty cute, the real reason it’s there is so that every time I take a sip I get a subtle waft of sage. That sage is the perfect fresh herbal component to cut through the smoked salt and mezcal in the drink. Here is a place that knows we enjoy a drink first with our eyes, secondly with our nose, and only finally with our palate.

Aside from the perfectly manicured putting greens, there is a different reason to make the drive out to Tempest that has nothing to do with playing golf — and that’s for Neptune’s Grille and Bar, where you’ll find well-crafted drinks and an exceptional experience. Cheers!