As you walk in to Ampersand, described in press materials as “a coffee shop by day, caffeine-fueled bar by night,” you might find yourself wondering where the “bar” part is.
There’s a smallish space, with a coffee counter, some windowside seating and some patio seating, all on the western edge of the West 7th corridor. It looks good for a latte, but tight for a cocktail bar.
Reham Chodhury, Ampersand’s co-owner, emerges and then shows the way to the “bar” part — by opening what at first appears to be a wall but is actually a jagged-edge door, designed by Fort Worth carpentry studio Brothersisterdesign. It’s daytime, but as the door opens onto the bar part, you enter a cool, large and somewhat minimalist space dominated by an extensive bar.
The bar, which opens Friday, is the most unusual part of Ampersand: While you might find a coffee-liqueur-based drink or two on the cocktail menus of some local restaurants, this is the first cocktail bar in North Texas that is dominated by coffee-infused cocktails, which are usually absent from the menus of cocktail-dedicated bars.
“Since we are a coffee shop, our partners mainly focus on coffee,” says Chodhury, who has a family history in the coffee business. “So they’re able to make the perfect coffee drink, where they mix the bar side and the coffee side. A lot of [cocktail] places, their expertise is not in coffee, so they don’t really make [drinks] as a coffee drinker.
“I’ve always been a fan of coffee,” he continues. “So I know exactly how I want it to taste. I don’t want the coffee side too strong, or the liquor side. I want a good balance. It took us a bunch of trials to figure out the perfect amount of coffee.”
It took a couple of months for Chodhury and his partners to come up with a cocktail menu, where the coffee drinks go way beyond White Russians and Colorado Bulldogs. The cocktail menu was curated by head bartender Michael Ferrari Lee (he was born with that middle name; his sister’s middle name is Porsche).
Drinks include the Vanilla Sky ($11; Stoli vanilla vodka, Kahlua, creme de cocoa, almond orgeat and Ampersand Cold Brew), a sweet cocktail aimed right at the heart (and taste buds) of any coffee-liqueur lover, and the Teatox ($11), feautring Avion Silver Tequila, fresh cucumber juice, mint syrup, fresh lime juice and matcha green tea. The latter is served in a juice bottle, tastes like something healthy you’d get at a juice bar, gets just a touch of sweetness from the mint and lime — and isn’t for people under 21. During pre-opening “friends and family” services, the Teatox has been one of the most popular drinks.
Ampersand’s bar side also will include coffee-infused takes on classics, including the Ampersand Mule ($10; Stoli vanilla, Ampersand Cold Brew, simple syrup, lime juice and Stoli ginger beer), which the owners believe is the first drink of its kind; and the Cold-Fashioned, a take on an Old Fashioned featuring Maker’s Mark bourbon, simple syrup, Yama Glass drip coffee, orange bitters and an Ampersand Cold Brew “ice sphere.”
If you want a traditional Old Fashioned, you can get that, too, and not all of the specialty cocktails are coffee- or tea-driven. An impressive-sounding one that isn’t: Red Smoke ($11), featuring Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Sombra Mezcal, lemon juice, agave nectar, fresh strawberries and jalapeño, and egg white.
Menus will change seasonally: The bar side’s hours are limited: 10 p.m-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, although Chodhury says he plans happy hours when people can come to the coffee-bar side around 5 p.m. and order a cocktail.
If you’re a fan of coffee cocktails, it’s pretty easy to get seduced by the bar side. But what about the coffee-bar side, which will officially open Monday?
“We’ll have a full menu, all the latte, tea, espresso, chai,” Chodhury says. “We’ll have an extensive menu, but also, our barista partners will be able to curate according to what you want. A lot of people will ask, ‘What should I order?’ We’ll be able to curate exactly what they want. Which is a concept that I got from bartending cocktails. Because a lot of people will ask, ‘What should I get? I like this ...’ and the bartenders would be able to whip up something for you.”
Ampersand air-roasts its own coffee, which also will be available at such places as the new Hopdoddy Burger Bar on West Seventh Street, and Stir Crazy Baked Goods on Magnolia Avenue, which in turn will provide pastries for Ampersand’s coffee bar.
Chodhury says he knows of no concepts like Ampersand in North Texas — and of few in the country. “I went to New York last year for a coffee convention,” he says. “There are a couple of bars there that have coffee menus, but they’re breakfast spots that serve alcohol. But I haven’t seen [any] like this where it’s a bar and a coffee shop, and at certain hours we mix both.”
Ampersand’s coffee side will open at 7 a.m. daily at 3009 Bledsoe St. in Fort Worth. Parking is available in the front and rear of the bar. For more information, visit ampersandfw.com and follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.