The North Texas bar scene is expanding at an exponential rate, and with that comes the inevitable “training period” (as we’ll call it for the moment), the time when the number of bartending positions vastly exceeds the number of qualified bartenders to efficiently provide the level of service that patrons demand. Lucky for you, our team has your back. Herein lies a fresh list of bartenders around town that you should know–the first volume, to whet your palates.
A veritable consortium of badass drink makers that are equal parts speed and craft, these bartenders ensure that not only do you receive a well-concocted and thoughtful tipple, but you get it in a timely manner. On top of that, for those who are interested in delving a little deeper into the cocktail scene, these bartenders also give some insight and share of their experience in the world of Dallas bartending.
Angela Montesclaros (Henry’s Majestic/Atwater Alley)
Angela started as a server at Henry’s Majestic before Alex Fletcher tapped her to get into bartending. She was hesitant about making the jump, so it took almost six months before she agreed to do it. She saw the caliber of bartenders that have historically worked at Henry’s and had some reservations about stepping into those shoes: “I remember when Omar [Yeefoon] and Julian [Pagan] were behind the bar here … all these big bartenders, how do I perform on that level? The extent of my drink knowledge at that time didn’t go beyond discerning red from white wine.”
Fast forward a year later, and Angela is holding it down and kicking ass at Atwater Alley, frequently working the downstairs bar on her own. Over the past six months, more and more people have told me that she’s their favorite bartender, and given that most of those voices belong to veteran bartenders and seasoned bar patrons, that’s quite the compliment.
She gives due credit to her teammates who have helped mentor her in her craft cocktail journey so far: Hector Zavala, Ricky Cleva, and Tim Newtown; and when asked about her bartending philosophy, Angela simply stated, “The guest is always first, but I will always be in control. Craft cocktails take a little longer to make, but guests expect their drinks to get pushed out, so [I had to] learn to make quality drinks quickly.”
The fall and winter seasons are around the corner, and Angela has some drinks and ideas about what she’ll be slinging this season. Currently, she enjoys making the Ford’s Cooler on the current menu along with proper Negronis. As far as favorite ingredients to experiment with lately, Angela’s into sage and amaros. For colder weather drinks, she thinks there’ll be a renewed proliferation of hot offerings like creams and toddies.
Allison Sigler (Paschall Bar)
Allison’s journey to bartending started at a popular chain restaurant, and after moving up the ranks from hostess to server, she eventually had the top alcohol sales in the district which earned her a bartending position at the age of 20. Two and half years later, Allison landed a job at Paschall Bar in Denton’s historic town square.
It’s been a pretty good year for her in the cocktail scene. Allison recently won the Pisco Final Competition and earned herself a trip to Peru–not bad for someone who knew nothing about craft cocktails when she started at Paschall. She credits Matthew Long and Jeremy Dean with supporting her ongoing cocktail education. “With Matthew, I observed his work and listened to whatever he’d say to customers and other bartenders; I absorbed as much as I could. And with Jeremy, he has really opened a lot of doors for me and believed in me the whole way.”
When I asked her about her bartending philosophy, Allison shot me a smile and responded, “Everybody who comes into the bar is different and going through something different. My job is to find out why they’re there and accommodate them specifically for that reason … a tailored experience for each person.”
Her favorite menu cocktail to make is the Fleur de Mal, one of her own creations. (I’ve had it – it’s a floral masterpiece.) As for off-menu drinks, she’s a big fan of making the St. Vincent (whiskey, St. Germain, yellow Chartreuse, and Angostura bitters). Allison loves making cocktails with St. Germain, as it’s her perennial favorite ingredient. As for upcoming trends, she predicts a lot more cocktails coming out with stories about people in history, places and regions.
Reid Lewis (Bowen House)
Reid has been in the service industry since the age of 14, starting off as a dishwasher and working through practically every position until she reached bartender. Her first gig was at Anvil Pub in Deep Ellum in 2011, and now you can find her at Bowen House as the establishment’s bar manager. She’s come a long way since working with her mentor, Jason Kosmas, at The Porch and Neighborhood Services where he taught her how to make her first Old Fashioned.
Reid’s bartending philosophy is straightforward: “Make sure everyone’s having a good time. People go out looking for an experience, and it’s different from person to person. Cocktails tell the story of how their day is going. I want everyone to be happier when they leave the bar than when they arrived.” The most important lesson she’s learned from her profession is patience. “Patience is the biggest thing. Slowing down for people; you catch yourself when you find someone trying to talk to you, so you stop to listen. Some people just want to talk with you.”
Now Reid is curating Bowen House’s drink menu and creating bespoke cocktails for her guests. She’s going through an olive oil phase at the moment and informed me that it can be used in place of egg white for froth. It creates a unique mouthfeel and can be experienced in her Lucille Bluth cocktail which features a rosemary-infused olive oil floater.
As for upcoming trends, Reid foresees absinthe coming back with a vengeance and vodka repackaging itself as “artisanal” and trying to be more than what it is. She hopes to see more olive oil being used as well as black volcanic salt with egg white cocktails. “The color streaks when it moves through the froth.”
Mandy Meggs (Smoke Dallas/Bar Belmont)
Mandy already has a decade of service industry experience under her belt and shows no signs of slowing down. She started bartending at Whiskey Cake Plano and believes it’s a great outlet for creativity. Her philosophy is rooted in making people happy. “I really enjoy interacting with people all day long and making guests into regulars; leaving my mark on people, making their day. Then again, it’s only half of the job.” The other half, of course, is making the cocktails.
Mandy’s favorite menu cocktail is her own creation called Firing Squad, a cilantro-infused mezcal Paloma. I had the pleasure of trying it a few weeks ago, and it’s light, herbaceous, and just the right amount of citrus and sweetness. Mandy’s mentor, Kyle Hilla, is also a big fan of the new menu item and touts it as one of his all-time favorite cocktails.
Mandy emphasizes the importance of patience and pacing yourself when it comes to bartending. She notes, “That carries over into life, too. When it’s slow, do more. When it’s busy, take a moment to step back and evaluate what you’re doing. That’s when you need to take more care. There’s always room to learn. It’s about working everyday to be better at what you’re doing. Take pride in your work.”
As for what Mandy thinks will trend in the next year, she thinks gin and tonics are making a comeback. Ice will also be a big focus as well, especially cubes with unexpected and interesting ingredients frozen inside them. The bartending industry itself is in transition, and there’s a new generation of bartenders coming up and learning from veterans who seem to also be in transition themselves, whether it be into management positions, brand ambassadorships, etc.
There’s a changing of the guard, and that’ll be important for us to watch.