If thirst were geographical, mine would be the Sahara desert. And water is the last thing that will quench my sand dune of a mouth. Even though it is the middle of the work week, all I can think about is alcohol: martinis to be specific. But not just run-of-the-mill, as-seen-on-Mad Men, what’s-hiding-in-your-Grandfather’s-liquor-cabinet martinis. Keith Thomas LaBonte, Molecular Mixologist, is the creator of the most innovative and delectable martinis. And they can be found at Four Lounge in Uptown.
Chances are you’ve walked by Four Lounge and had no idea. You’ve also probably Googled it, thought it sounded really cool, attempted to check it out, couldn’t find it, and ended up walking one block to TABC. I know this because I have encountered all of the above in my hunt for an alternative to my usual watering holes.
Even though I’ve been here before, I almost walk by the IV sign denoting the whereabouts of the elusive martini bar. It’s seems like a quiet nook until you walk through the door and hear one of Keith’s personal playlists bumping. “Knock On Wood” plays overhead and excited patrons clap out the beat.
Upon my arrival to the Uptown location, complete with a cozy atmosphere, and plush couches, owner Keith talks to me about the group of people who are chatting away, each holding a different signature martini. “People come in with a checklist of drinks they’ve had and those they’ve been meaning to try,” he says. The group first came in two weeks ago and is already back, and they have brought friends to share their secret with.
Keith is solo behind the bar, preparing cotton candy martini creations for his customers currently enjoying sprinkle-rimmed drinks. We’re talking about Good Guys and his impressive clientele, featuring names of Dallas Cowboys players showcased enough times on ESPN to make this baseball fan want to camp outside the bar and wait for their arrival. Only two seats are available at the bar; but if you can manage a spot, settle in for the evening and ask Keith about his story. “[Four Lounge is] like Austin, like Cheers, but with great drinks,” he describes his lounge, and a customer adds, “Four Lounge is Keith Lounge”.
Basically he’s a genius. Only instead of demonstrating perfect pitch at the age of one, or being quad lingual before his fifth birthday, Keith was mastering food. “My Grandfather started a grocery store in 1905. I grew up with my Mom, learning how to cook, watching her in the kitchen, and it caught my interest.” He was in the kitchen in diapers, barely able to hold a whisk, fully comprehending his surroundings and subconsciously preparing to take Uptown drinkers by storm. He hails from Boston, so Yankee fans are strongly advised to permanently vacate the premises. Especially if you’re wearing any navy and white fan paraphernalia.
Keith excitedly tells me about the handpicked ingredients in his signature Popcorn Martini, drizzling with his pronunciation of each syllable in the word “caramel”, while I pronounce it like the city in northern Indiana. “Molecular Mixology is a form of fusion. You’re taking a scientific look at how you’re changing the chemistry of whatever you’re creating.” Man, he’s good. “Everybody grew up in college mixing watermelon and Everclear. There is so much more you can do off of that.” This is good news for me, as if one more of my friends suggests a pull of McCormick’s down my graduate gullet, or a rousing game of “slap the bag”, I will forcibly instruct them across the street to Keith’s to buy me a fancy-tini.
The menu at Four Lounge has over 40 unique items to choose from; except a Keith cocktail, which would undoubtedly be composed of equal parts passion, creativity, and experience. But since that is not available, I recommend the red velvet. Uptowners, cheers to the ultimate alternative to poorly proportioned pub drinks.