Bar Exam: Speaking of the speakeasy cocktail era at Bar-X

Bar exam • Bar-X's recent remodel adds a bit of lounge flair to SLC nightlife.

By Autumn Thatcher Special To The Tribune

Published September 17th 2012 9:07 am



Two years ago, Bar-X reopened as a cocktail lounge, quickly becoming a local hot spot drawing big crowds on Friday and Saturday nights. That means you may have to wait a little while for your drinks.

"We're just not set up to accommodate a fast-paced bar," said Duncan Burrell, one of Bar-X's five owners. "Most people understand that our cocktails take some time, and we love to hear that appreciation as bartenders."

If waiting for a cocktail is a problem, co-owner Richard Noel suggests dropping by on a weeknight. "You will have the opportunity to sit down and actually talk to the bartender about what you like to drink and what new cocktails [you'd like] to try," Noel said.

The remodeled Bar-X was designed to remind customers of speakeasy days, when cocktails were regularly made and served with tender loving care. The bar itself dates to 1933, the year Prohibition was repealed and the original Bar-X was established.

The bar is lined with bowls of fruit, olives, eggs and other dressings, glistening under dim lights. Liquor bottles front the lighted shelves that line the walls, while the menu lists classic liquid concoctions with the year of their creation.

"We eliminated the soda gun and other modern bar accessories and make cocktails like they did during the American cocktail heyday, from pre-Prohibition to the '70s," Noel said.

Patron Lauren Udwari brought her parents to the bar when they recently visited town. She said she considers Bar-X a must-try place for visitors.

"It has a lot of personality," Udwari said. "I like the old-school vintagey feel. I also like how the bartenders are super friendly and engaging. They actually care about the quality of the drink and interacting with each customer. You feel like you're special."

Bar-X regular Pedro Gomez frequents the bar with friends, often enjoying a Moscow Mule on the front patio. He describes the crowd as "that in-between of young professionals and people out to have a good time."

Beyond cocktails, Bar-X hosted a series of summer concerts and plans to host more live music this fall. In the meantime, Noel and Burrell encourage visiting Bar-X on Sunday nights to enjoy the sweet jazz sounds of the Joshua Payne Orchestra.

The owners are working to vary the menu seasonally. "We are trying (not always successfully) to do a new menu quarterly," Burrell said. "Utah has such distinct seasons, and everyone's moods and enthusiasms for each season [are] equally distinct. We do what we can to try to accommodate."

Up next, Bar-X plans to unveil new drinks co-created with baristas from the Rose Tea Establishment (235 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 801-990-6270).

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Two years ago, Bar-X reopened as a cocktail lounge, quickly becoming a local hot spot drawing big crowds on Friday and Saturday nights. That means you may have to wait a little while for your drinks.

"We're just not set up to accommodate a fast-paced bar," said Duncan Burrell, one of Bar-X's five owners. "Most people understand that our cocktails take some time, and we love to hear that appreciation as bartenders."

If waiting for a cocktail is a problem, co-owner Richard Noel suggests dropping by on a weeknight. "You will have the opportunity to sit down and actually talk to the bartender about what you like to drink and what new cocktails [you'd like] to try," Noel said.

The remodeled Bar-X was designed to remind customers of speakeasy days, when cocktails were regularly made and served with tender loving care. The bar itself dates to 1933, the year Prohibition was repealed and the original Bar-X was established.

The bar is lined with bowls of fruit, olives, eggs and other dressings, glistening under dim lights. Liquor bottles front the lighted shelves that line the walls, while the menu lists classic liquid concoctions with the year of their creation.

"We eliminated the soda gun and other modern bar accessories and make cocktails like they did during the American cocktail heyday, from pre-Prohibition to the '70s," Noel said.

Patron Lauren Udwari brought her parents to the bar when they recently visited town. She said she considers Bar-X a must-try place for visitors.

"It has a lot of personality," Udwari said. "I like the old-school vintagey feel. I also like how the bartenders are super friendly and engaging. They actually care about the quality of the drink and interacting with each customer. You feel like you're special."

Bar-X regular Pedro Gomez frequents the bar with friends, often enjoying a Moscow Mule on the front patio. He describes the crowd as "that in-between of young professionals and people out to have a good time."

Beyond cocktails, Bar-X hosted a series of summer concerts and plans to host more live music this fall. In the meantime, Noel and Burrell encourage visiting Bar-X on Sunday nights to enjoy the sweet jazz sounds of the Joshua Payne Orchestra.

The owners are working to vary the menu seasonally. "We are trying (not always successfully) to do a new menu quarterly," Burrell said. "Utah has such distinct seasons, and everyone's moods and enthusiasms for each season [are] equally distinct. We do what we can to try to accommodate."

Up next, Bar-X plans to unveil new drinks co-created with baristas from the Rose Tea Establishment (235 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 801-990-6270). [2] =>

"They are very selective about the roast that they chose (using direct trade, and roasted not burnt); their baristas know the proper grind for the different brews," Noel said. "Once you try a pour-over or French press from them, you learn a lot about what coffee can taste like."

If you're a newcomer to Bar-X, Burrell and Noel say you can make yourself at home by ordering the Edison Street bourbon cocktail, which was named for the local street but is on its way to earning a national reputation.

Got suggestions for future Bar Exam columns? Send venue names to features@sltrib.com, with a short note about what sets the bar apart.

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X marks the spot

Where • Bar X, 155 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City; 801-355-2287

Hours • Monday-Friday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m.-2 a.m.