Category Archives: Tiffany

Victorious Cocktail Class

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon as I entered through the front door of Tiny Victories in Oak Cliff. I made myself comfortable in a seat at the bar of this cozy bar, flooded with daylight.

My professor for the day: Ryan Payne, veteran Dallas cocktail bartender
Today’s subject: How to make a wide selection of different cocktails
The Assignment: Make and subsequently sample said boozy creations

If my classes were more like this one, I would’ve had a perfect attendance record in college. (I mean … I was close already, but it would have been easier to get to perfect.)

For anyone not yet familiar with the cocktail bar off Davis and Tyler in Oak Cliff, the establishment opened back in February of this year and was warmly welcomed by OC locals and travelers alike. The vibe is intimate, warm, and a touch irreverent. At any given time, you may catch an episode of “Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere” or movies like “Cruel Intentions” or “Caddyshack” playing on flatscreens mounted on the backbar.

The bar boasts an awesome happy hour from 4-7PM every weekday when you can get cocktails for 50% off as well as other daily specials. In the mood for Trivia Night? That’s Tuesday.  Oak Cliff Network Night? Oh, that’s the first Wednesday of every month. Craving a complimentary hotdog on Football Sundays? They’ve got you covered.

If all of that weren’t enough, Tiny Victories also hosts cocktail classes for larger groups and special events, and I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to get a sneak peek into what a class like that entails. Turns out, it entails a lot of interacting with a charismatic and knowledgeable bartender while he makes delicious drinks for me to enjoy.

I was made for this class.

From Daiquiris to Aviations, Sbagliatos and Americanos to Old Fashioneds and Queens Park Swizzles, Whiskey Sours to Miami Vices, Ryan walked us through each step of creating each kind of cocktail. The informal nature of the class made it easy to enjoy the education along with the cocktail consumption.

For any inquiries about attending your own cocktail class, contact Ryan Payne, Managing Partner at Tiny Victories.


TINY VICTORIES
tinyvictoriesoc.com
604 N. Tyler St., Dallas (Oak Cliff)
(972)685-7055

Get Ready to Rumble with Balcones

Balcones, Texas’s original whisky*, and Dude, Sweet Chocolate, Dallas’s signature chocolates, are teaming up. Starting in September, you can now find whisky-infused chocolates at DSC. Our team was invited to be some of the first to check out the partnership … and this was what Tiffany found …

I knew it would be a good time when I was greeted at the door of Dude, Sweet Chocolate with a cocktail. Considering that the late summer Texas humidity was particularly heavy and thick that evening, the refreshing Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky concoction was more than welcome.

Toné Castillo, Balcones brand ambassador extraordinaire, was present to tell us more about the Original Texas Whisky from Waco, Texas. Balcones takes great pride in being the first whisky to be legally produced and legally sold in Texas since Prohibition. The distillery has become quite the destination, and tours are constantly at capacity during tasting room hours. I’ve personally never visited the distillery, but after sampling the welcome cocktail and eyeing the whisky pairings that I had yet to try, I felt compelled to plan a trip.
*Note from Susie: I’ve visited. It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. Go. Taste all the things.*

As far as events go, anything that involves pairing Katherine Clapner’s chocolates with the Balcones portfolio you KNOW it’s going to be good. This is especially true when Katherine refers to one of Balcones’ spirits as “the magical unicorn”—not surprisingly, the eponymous Rumble, which is intriguingly made out of fermented Texas wildflower honey, Mission figs, and turbinado sugar. I had never heard of such a creation! And true to the name of the event, the Rumble didn’t just get one pairing this evening; it got TWO: DSC’s Flower Child truffle featuring Earl Grey tea flavors, and the FDA Salami, a playful chocolate comprised of California marizpan, dried figs, dates, cocoa nibs, and chocolate rolled to resemble a savory salami.

Katherine paired the Texas Rye 100 Proof whisky with her Vietnamese coffee house-style Hanoi fudge. I am a sucker for Vietnamese coffee, so this was an easy favorite. The TX Single Malt paired exceptionally well with Dude, Sweet’s Rooibus Chai chocolates with its toasted malt and honey notes and hints of cinnamon and cloves.

However, the showstopper was the last tasting pair: Balcones Brimstone, which tastes of campfire, brûléed sugar, and pepper, paired with BACON. FAT. CARAMEL. SKULLS.


Take a moment to let that sink in.


Brimstone’s intensity was tempered beautifully by the bacon fat and caramel, which coated the tongue like velvet.

The crowd got to walk around from station to station and taste the pairings at their leisure while Katherine and Toné walked around to answer any questions we had. The vibe was super casual and fun, with music, conversation, and laughter punctuating the subsequent hours.

I left with a warm belly, a happy spirit, and of course, a Dude, Sweet bag of goodies that I just couldn’t leave without purchasing. Sweet, indeed.


DUDE SWEET CHOCOLATE
dudesweetchocolate.com
multiple locations

BALCONES DISTILLING
balconesdistilling.com
225 South 11th Street (Waco)
(254)755-6003

ORNO—No Ordinary Wine Bar

I promise you, I had every intention of ordering wine when I arrived at ORNO last night. It is a wine bar, after all. As I walked through the front door, I saw the matte black wall of wine—individual bottles stood on floating shelves with their respective names and origins neatly written out in white chalk. Beneath this display sits a long, cushy leather banquette, the majority of which was already occupied by what I observed to be a big, happy group of friends who were enjoying the company and their meal.

Courtesy of Orno


The restaurant has a cozy, neighborhood vibe with good music, perfectly low lighting, and a quirky live aquarium display on a large flat-screen TV set right in the middle of the back bar.


… now we come to one of the reasons why I never ordered the wine. I perused the cocktail list that the server presented, and quickly spotted a spirit that I didn’t even know I was craving: mezcal. As if on cue, the bartender walked over from behind the bar to say hello and ask if we wanted to order some drinks. My date ordered a sangria while I ordered an El Viejo.


Once I tasted the mezcal, I never turned back. Every cocktail I subsequently ordered centered around the smoky, agave spirit, and I only requested that each new mezcal drink be different from the last.

Turns out, the friendly bartender was Nael Rodriguez, the owner of this fine establishment. He was also a food runner, server, greeter, gracious host, and seeming jack of all trades. During the meal, he informed me that, during ORNO’s design phase, he made sure that everything in the build-out facilitated the ability to jump from one position to the other with as much ease as possible. From the bar, he could still an eye on the food coming out of the kitchen as well as on the front door to welcome guests. It’s actually brilliant.

Speaking of food coming out of the kitchen … ORNO’s cuisine offerings are top notch New American bites, and by “New American”, I mean it highlights aspects of many cultures that make up the fabric of our wonderful country. For example, I requested that he surprise my date and me with a three-course dinner of his choosing, no dietary restrictions or food allergies to worry about. Nael smiled and disappeared, promising that our first course would arrive within an hour (he’s a funny guy, that Nael!).

Within a few minutes, a dish of  sweet and spice lacquered pork belly bites arrived at our table, with earthy and sweet aromas wafted my way and made my mouth water. The meat melted in my mouth, and the fresh slaw of julienne veggies in the center offered an appropriate balance to the depth and unctuousness of the fatty pork.


Not a bad start, Mr. Rodriguez.

Nael then took us from Asian-inspired fare to more Italian flavor with the Pig & Fig flatbread.  The crispy, thin crust held a light layer of Alouette Brie cheese that was topped with delicate slices of prosciutto, dollops of fig preserves, and bits of candied cayenne walnuts. Simple. Delicious. No one item overpowering the rest, each playing off one another so well that before I knew it, the whole flatbread disappeared. Oops!


So far, Nael is two for two. Where was he going to take us next?
To the Caribbean!

For our last course, Nael presented us with the Voodoo Shrimp—a half pound of jumbo (and I mean JUMBO) shrimp dressed in a Caribbean-inspired BBQ sauce that intrigued us to the point that we tried to identify as many spices in the sauce as we could. There was such complexity and depth of flavor that eventually Nael had to come by and reveal that there were no less than 18 spices that make up the sauce and that the sauce had to be made a few days prior to serving so all of the flavors could deepen.

It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? As consumers, we go eat out at restaurants and the dishes we enjoy take mere minutes for us to consume and enjoy. We usually don’t think about the time and work that goes into composing our meals, but in the moments when we do stop to really consider it, it’s usually when some part of us recognizes that the food was made with thought, care, and love.

… and that’s ORNO.

I truly love it when a meal inspires me to wax romantic about the dining experience, and the best part about this meal is just how comfortable the setting was. The space housed around 24 seats in the dining room, and no more than maybe 8 seats at the bar. If I lived in the Cedar Springs area, I could see myself stopping in there at least once a day, even if just to say hi to the staff or to grab a cocktail.

ORNO is a neighborhood gem that’s bursting at the seams with soul. And, in a tricky restaurant city like Dallas where every week is a laundry list of flashy openings and abrupt closings, I hope that ORNO’s quiet charm and culinary approachability ensure that it’s here to stay a while.


ORNO Restaurant
facebook.com/ornodallas
3908 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas (Cedar Springs)
(469) 726-2004

Closed Mondays, Open Tues/Wed: 11AM-10PM, Thurs-Sat: 11AM-11PM, Sun: 11AM-4PM

A Four Seasons Las Colinas Staycation

Sometimes a girl just needs to get away. But with all the (shudder) responsibilities, it’s nice that you don’t have to go  TOO far. For me, the perfect answer to scratch the staycation itch last week was a one-night villa stay at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas. The drive from my Oak Cliff apartment to the resort was less than twenty minutes, but it felt like a world away. A world where I could just sit back in my plush terry robe and let the relaxation wash over me while I starfish the coziest, most comfortable king size bed.

 

Now, I had more reason to want a luxe getaway than just my own Calgon Take Me Away moment. It was also my boyfriend’s birthday weekend, so I wanted to make it special for him. Jackie, Samantha, and the room reservations team were so amazing and helpful with making sure our villa room was decorated and even had a birthday dessert surprise for him when we arrived.

The villa room we stayed in is separate from the main building, so once we unpacked and got situated, I used the Four Seasons app (more on this marvel later) to request golf-cart service to transport us back to the lobby so we could go to OUTLAW Taproom for a late lunch. Our driver was ready for us by the time we walked to the front courtyard. The drive was short and gave us a nice tour of the golf course and the main pool.

Lunch at OUTLAW was quick with friendly service. We were famished so we both ordered burgers to satisfy our hunger and then moved outside to enjoy drinks on the covered patio overlooking the resort pool.

After our lunch and cocktails, we returned to our room, and no shame, we got in bed and started watching “Fixer Upper” on TV. Before we knew it, it was four hours later and we hadn’t moved an inch, but it felt so good to relax in the room! So instead of heading back out to LAW, the steakhouse on property, we opted for room service. Using the Four Seasons app again, we ordered our hearts out like it was UberEATS, and within an hour, two attendants rolled in our feast on a mobile table.

I didn’t remember to take a photo of the room service table because we attacked it so quickly, but rest assured, it was delicious and very fulfilling! We ordered a tequila-poached shrimp cocktail appetizer, salmon, chicken, AND steak entrees (good grief!), as well as a New York cheesecake dessert that had a sweet happy birthday message scrawled around the plate.

That meal effectively put me to bed, and the next morning I enjoyed a nice cup of Nespresso coffee on the balcony … still in my robe of course.

Also, I mentioned the Four Seasons smartphone app earlier and said I’d say more about it: The app’s interface was so convenient to use, I have to make a point to sing its praises. I used it to check in a day early, and because of that, my room was prioritized on my day of check-in, and I was alerted that it was ready for me before noon, when standard check-in time is 3PM! I also used the app’s chat feature to request the birthday welcome amenity and every time I needed transportation from room to lobby (and vice versa). When it was time to check out, I used the app as well, and my folio was promptly ready for me to review. Everything was so easy to use, and I always received a prompt response. The app gets fives stars from me!

We didn’t rush to leave since we had a late check-out time and had the room until 3PM. So after a shower in the roomy marble bathroom, we made our way to LAW for its decadent mimosa brunch. One word: SEAFOOD. I’m talking shrimp, oysters, crab claws, mussels, ahi poke, smoked salmon, THE WORKS. For $59/person (which includes two mimosas), the price is so worth it on the seafood alone! But for those who aren’t as crazy about seafood as I am, there’s bountiful other options which include omelet and carving stations, pastas, salads, breakfast staples, pastries, sushi, and an entire room dedicated solely to sweets (which includes a station making fresh donuts).

Somehow, we didn’t eat ourselves into food comas at brunch and actually made it back home. It was a perfectly relaxing and quick getaway. I really felt like I was out of town for the weekend and came back rejuvenated. Thanks to the Four Seasons for providing a wonderful weekend experience! I’ll find another excuse to stay there again one day.


Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas
4150 N MacArthur Blvd, Irving, TX 75038
(972)717-0700
Four Seasons Dallas

OUTLAW Taproom
Off the Main Lobby
Mon-Fri: 3PM-1AM
Sat-Sun: 12PM-1AM
OUTLAW Taproom

LAW Restaurant
Sunday Brunch: 11AM-2PM, $59/adult, $24/child
Check website for complete service hours information.
LAW Restaurant

A First-Timer’s Guide to SACC

by Tiffany Tran

Guys, I finally did it – I made it to San Antonio Cocktail Conference, more familiarly known as SACC. Held every January in the heart of San Antonio, bartenders, brand ambassadors, bar owners, and service industry enthusiasts alike gather in the city to attend classes led by influential industry leaders, and you know, PARTY.

However, since the event is five days with pairing dinners up to a week ahead of it, it may prove rather daunting to an unprepared SACC rookie. So, I’m here to help! Armed with my first full SACC experience, I’ve distilled it down to what I hope is a helpful guide  to navigate and fully enjoy the spirited waters of everything ext year’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference has to offer.

STAY CLOSE TO THE ACTION
One of the best things about SACC is that almost all of the events take place in the same five or six blocks next to the famed Riverwalk. So, it’s in your best interest to book a room close to the action. I had the pleasure of staying at the St. Anthony Hotel with Ms. Susie Drinks herself, and we found that we never had to walk very far for classes, bar takeovers, or event-hosted parties, mostly because many of them took place inside our hotel. Yes, Uber and Lyft are easy options for quick rides to events, but if you’re there for the full five days, those rides add up. And whatever you saved by booking that AirBnB 15 minutes outside of the city quickly disappears when you add up the ride receipts. (And who wants to have to take an Uber at 2:30am?) There are plenty of hotel options along the Riverwalk such as the Hotel Valencia, Sheraton Gunter, and Hotel Havana that make excellent locations for home base.

PACE YOURSELF
Repeat after me: “I don’t have to finish every drink. I don’t have to finish every drink. I don’t have to finish every drink.” It’s your new mantra. Why? Because YOU DON’T HAVE TO FINISH EVERY DRINK. Friends. this is a COCKTAIL conference. As you can surmise, there’s no shortage of alcohol flowing during any of the five days you may be there, so take care of yourself. One glass of water for one alcoholic beverage. Remember to eat. Sure, chances are you’ll slam some snaiquiris with your people, but you don’t have to slam ALL of your drinks, right? Right. Also, get plenty of sleep. It’s a very full five days, so conserve your energy in order to ensure that you make it to the end.

LEARN
There’s no shortage of educational opportunities. Peruse the schedule and find one or four that speak to you. They offer classes for the cocktail enthusiast and the experienced industry members alike.

Speaking of pacing yourself, know that even in the seminars you’ll be served some tasty cocktails. Talk about incentivized education! I wish college was more like SACC classes; I would’ve learned so much more.

Yes, there’s plenty to do in San Antonio Cocktail Conference even if you don’t attend a single class, but you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice if you don’t take advantage of what the classes have to offer. I had the opportunity to meet Ezra Star from Boston’s Drink in her class, “Building Culture of Hospitality”. It was amazing to hear her philosophy on the culture that drives her bar: “We serve people, not drinks.” And in more depth, how that philosophy drives how she hires people for her team, how they create rituals that drive their culture and inspires her team to take initiative to further their own education. The class ran for an hour, and there was plenty of time dedicated to a Q&A, a rare opportunity for class attendees to pick Ezra’s brain and learn from her expertise.

Classes cost ~$45 each and  run all day on the Friday and Saturday of the conference.

GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Not everything you do during the conference will have anything to do with the conference itself. While there are plenty of hosted dinners and grand parties to attend at night, like Waldorf on the Prairie, there’s still plenty of time to explore the city’s other offerings. Do me a service and check out a couple of spots that I discovered on my trip and totally fell in love with. Like …

I keep telling myself that I’ll go back to San Antonio just to stay at the charming and historical Hotel Havana. But, with so few rooms, availability is rare. I understand since there’s a wonderful restaurant and bar there that keeps people coming by to discover the hotel. During my stay, I met up with some friends at Ocho at the Hotel Havana for lunch, and upon first glance, I was hooked. The space is encased in a glass observatory and offers pan-Latin food and Cuban-inspired cocktails. Personally, I recommend the Cuban sandwich and the coffee. Take some time to recharge for a day of SACC here. It’s a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle, and the decor is both warm and whimsical.

Another San Antonio gem I had the pleasure of enjoying is the new bar Downstairs at the Esquire Tavern. Located beneath the historic Esquire Tavern downtown bar, Downstairs is directly on the Riverwalk, and boasts a well-curated back bar as well as dark wood and intimate lighting details. The drinks are expertly executed by friendly and knowledgeable staff, and the walls are adorned with a bit of Esquire’s trademark taxidermy touch. This is my favorite San Antonio bar for sure.

So there we have it, my First-Timer’s Guide to SACC.
You’ll bump into friends everywhere you go.
You’ll get to know the city’s bartenders really quickly.
You’ll make friends with people from all over the country.
You’ll eat amazing food and drink delicious drinks.
You’ll avoid all hangovers while you’re there. (God willing.)
And you’ll learn so much from people who’ve been in the industry for years.

You’ll have an amazing time! See you next year at SACC 2018!


See also:
SACC 2015 Recap
SACC 2016
San Antonio Travel Guide
Saint Anthony Hotel Review

Bartenders You Should Know: Volume 1

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.

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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 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.”

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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.

Jettison at Houndstooth Coffee

There’s a new cocktail den in town, and it quietly opened on October 21st in the burgeoning Sylvan Thirty community in West Dallas. I paid the beautiful and intimate bar a visit last week to check out what magic bar manager George Kaiho (formerly of Tei-An and Parliament) conjured up with his sherry- and mezcal-centric drink menu.

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The space itself is intimate, dimly-lit and real damn sexy, with a sleek, dark wood bar top that seats ten people max. The bar stools are the most comfortable I’ve sat on in recent memory, and there’s something about the ceiling that, for whatever reason, is reminiscent of a well-crafted guitar to me.

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It’s definitely a good date spot, perfect for pre-dinner cocktails or a tasty nightcap. (I suggest the Manhattan, TX for that – it features four different spirits in one glass, so hold on to your seat.)

Since Jettison’s opening, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a variety of the cocktails that George created. Here are some of my recommendations beyond the aforementioned Manhattan, TX:

The Flip Side, which features East India Solera sherry, Cardamaro, egg (yes, a whole egg, which is what makes the drink a flip), bitters, and a brûlée garnish, freshly torched in front of your very eyes. The egg adds a silky creaminess which is aptly juxtaposed with the crunchy caramel topping.

The ‘Spro Fizzo, with rum, cream, espresso syrup, soda, egg white, and freshly grated nutmeg. The drink is light, deceptively easy to drink, and pleasantly whimsical. I’d refer to it as a perfect sunny afternoon cocktail. It makes me think that I’m at boozy soda fountain shop.

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The One of Those Nights, with Cognac, Amaro, lemon, Curacao, orgeat, cold brew, and star anise garnish. This is one of the few cocktails I’ve had that feature coffee without being cloying. The cold brew highlighted the other flavors in the drink rather than overpowering them.

Jettison_One of Those Nights_Tiffany Tran
Picture by Tiffany Tran

Jettison is a welcome addition to Sylvan Thirty and the Dallas cocktail landscape. With many different bar concepts opening around town in the next six months, it’s refreshing to have a new cocktail den in the midst that’s not afraid to be a quiet voice amongst the noise and pageantry.

Works for me. Let the guests do the talking. We’ll keep coming back.

Jettison at Houndstooth Coffee
1878 Sylvan Ave., Suite E150 (Sylvan Thirty)
Tues-Thurs, 4-11PM, Fri & Sat, 4-12AM

Courtesy of Jettison
Courtesy of Jettison

Amaro Montenegro Cocktail Competition

Five of Dallas’s most promising bartenders assembled at High & Tight Barbershop last Wednesday to duke it out over cocktails of their own creation, all of which featured Amaro Montenegro.

Amaro Montenegro is a sweeter amaro with floral, warm spice, and candied orange peel notes that finishes with an ethereal bitterness. It’s what I’d call a gateway amaro for uninitiated tastebuds. The sweetness to bitterness ratio is heavily skewed in the former’s favor, making it much easier for those who’ve never had much amaro experience to acclimate to the world of bitter liqueurs.

The event itself was a fun and casual neighborhood affair, one not tainted by pomp and circumstance. The crowd was mostly industry friends, and each of the competitors were hand-selected and invited to participate in the event, which brought some fresh faces to the Dallas booze competition scene. The featured players were Andrew Stofko (Victor Tango’s), Noah Partridge (Osteria Pane Vino & Crudo Wood Fired Taverna), Austin Gurley (High & Tight Barbershop), Rogher Jeri (Renfield’s Corner), and Ricky Cleva (Henry’s Majestic & Atwater Alley). The judging panel featured Omar Yeefoon from The 86 Company, Matt Orth from Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, and Matt Brown from Total Beverage Solution.  Not too shabby of a lineup.

The order of cocktail presentations was determined by drawing names out of a hat, and with the judges in position at the bar and the spectators all with Montenegro cocktails in hand, the competition was officially underway.

andrewFirst up was Andrew Stofko with his Japansese-inspired cocktail, Seppuku Realé, which featured squid ink, seaweed, nori, and sesame. When asked about what place Montenegro holds at his bar, Andrew responded, “I’ve found Montenegro to be a great introductory amaro–less bitter than many of its counterparts, but a start in that direction to the unfamiliar palate. I use it mostly as a modifier in drinks at the bar, but for the competition I wanted to try using it as a base spirit. Other industry folk will order it as shots, too, occasionally.”

The finished cocktail was stunning in its simplicity with a mysterious black hue and nori and sesame seed garnish. Despite its potentially intimidating color, the drink was pleasant and easy (read: too easy) to drink, with an umami taste throughout that just made me want sushi real bad.

This competition was off to a good start.

noahThe next player up was Noah Partridge with his cocktail, the Montenegroni, which I must tell you was my favorite moniker of the night. Montenegroni? This is genius-level pun game. Respect. Noah’s cocktail was a play on the classic cocktail and consisted of Aperol, Horizon Gin, and Montenegro served up in a coupe glass with a lemon garnish. It was balanced, well-rounded, and boozy–all of the things you want from a Negroni. At this point, I was already starting to sense that the judges were going to struggle to pick a winner; these guys were bringing their A-game.

Enter Austin Gurley. I didn’t know it yet, but he was about to take this competition in a new direction. The barman has no lack of veneration for the event’s star ingredient. When asked about his view on the liqueur, he replied, “Amaro Montenegro is fantastic juice! austinBright rose on the nose with a nice caramel sweetness and an herbal bitter finish. It’s absolutely fantastic at balancing cocktails since it adds a nice viscosity and sweetness to offset more tart and dry components, then provides a bitter finish for complexity.”

His cocktail, Elinas Sonnet, featured a whole egg (he’s favoring flips this fall), strawberry orgeat, hibiscus syrup, caramel cordial, lime, Redemption Rye, and Montenegro with Angostura bitters for garnish. Did you get all of that? What he did with that laundry list of ingredients is nothing short of sorcery. I expected a cocktail that would break under the weight of its components, and what I experienced was a light and airy beverage that was reminiscent of strawberry milks from my childhood … except boozier and so much better.

The penultimate competitor was Rogher Jeri with a riff on an Italian soda, La Dolce Elena. Another Montenegro enthusiast, Rogher had this to say about it: “I enjoy Montenegro for its beautiful balance between the sweet and herbaceous bitterness that give Italian amari their unique qualities. I drink it on its own, neat. Sometimes mixing it 2 parts with 1 part Grand Marnier. I’ve also been playing with aging it in American Oak barrels, which adds a beautiful vanilla and oaky sweetness that balances beautifully with the original recipe. Because of the limited quantities we can age at a time, it isn’t on our menu, but if you ask, we might just have some you can sip on.”

rogherI knew the man was serious when he presented his homemade soda with yerba mate and chamomile tea. Another player who came to win! Along with the soda, his cocktail included ice made of Crazy Water 3 for its minerality, Hoodoo chicory liqueur, orange zest, and rose water. The aromatics of his cocktail highlighted the floral characteristics of the Montenegro and the presentation emphasized it as well with an elaborate rose garnish.

The final competitor of the night was Ricky Cleva with this cocktail, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. He’s no stranger to Montenegro, that’s for sure. In his words, “I have two cocktails on the menu in Atwater showcasing the versatility of the spirit. Montenegro is my favorite amaro at the moment. I imagine you’ll continue to see its presence on the menu in Atwater through the fall and winter menus.”

rickyBefore the Devil Knows You’re Dead featured kiwi cordial, orange bitters, El Dorado 5 year rum, lime, Amaro Montenegro, and finished with a hibiscus Aperol floater and honeysuckle garnish. The cocktail resembled an end-of-summer sunset (how apropos) and possessed a slight funkiness and depth of flavor that I really enjoy. It was a welcome punch to my palate with its layers of flavor.

I did not envy the judges’ job that night. They had some serious deliberation to do, so they went to a dark corner to hash it out. All five cocktails were thoughtful, well-constructed, and impressively executed and vastly different from each other. If there were a Montenegro cocktail spectrum, the competitors covered a significantly wide range–from sweet, nostalgic flips to savory, opaque black concoctions.

And the winner is…

Andrew Stofko with his Seppuku Realé! Andrew’s win earns him a trip to the 2017 San Antonio Cocktail Conference that takes place in January where his cocktail will be featured. Second place distinction went to Austin Gurley with his Elinas Sonnet cocktail.