From December 2022
James Slater wants to impress you. Inside The Branca Room, his secluded speak-easy located in the back of Chimichurri Argentinian Bistro & Bar in Oak Cliff, he does just that.
To get there, you’ll have to walk through the dining room and wine cellar, and then pass through another door. Or, after 10:30 pm, customers can enter directly through the alley between West Seventh and Eighth streets. When you see a glowing red light above a door, you’ve found it. (If you take the alley route, use your phone as a flashlight; it gets dark.)
Inside, the space is small, cozy, and inviting. The walls are covered with framed Argentinian art, posters, and photographs, and the music is upbeat but not overwhelming. Slater says he wants good energy to flow.
You’re welcome to come in for a glass of wine or to sip on some bourbon, but the move here is to dive straight into The Branca Room’s 12-cocktail menu. Nearly every option stuns. The Seven Society ($16), made of Bacardi rum, amaro, orange bitters, muddled blueberries, and sage, comes poured in a delicate rose-shaped glass. The Amaro Transfusion ($24) is earthy and unexpectedly floral. Featuring house-made vermouth, port, jasmine liqueur, and rye, it is served in an IV bag that hovers over a glass with a single cube of ice. If you aren’t sure how to drip an IV, Slater will gladly show you.
The Rosae Crucis ($16), a cocktail made of mezcal, amaro, turbinado sugar, lemon, and a sprig of lavender, is served in a dainty bird-shaped vessel that you’ll want to take home with you (resist the urge). Sugary Tajín rims the neck of the bird, but you will sip from the straw on the other end. Slater’s favorite, the Knights of Pythias ($16), is a mix of French vodka, amaro, sake, lemon, yuzu, and marmalade. It comes with a tiny wooden spoon filled with house-made boba.
While he serves as founder and general manager, Slater credits cocktail waitress Itzel Madrigal, and two of his bartenders, Geovanni Alafita and Lauren Wahlstrom—whom he calls “a gift from God”—with helping him come up with the stellar cocktail menu. And he thanks Jesús Carmona, the owner of Chimichurri, Milagro, and the late Tacos Mariachi, for giving him the space for the bar to come to fruition.
“Like all of us, we had our ups and downs,” Slater says. “But this place—The Branca Room—we have faith that it will take Dallas, Texas, very far.”
This story originally appeared in the December issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Dallas’ First Vermouth Bar.” Write to [email protected].