Category Archives: Tiffany

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.

Absolut Elyx Gibson Tour

Hi, my name is Tiffany, and I’m a cocktail onion addict.

Whew! There, I said it. It was love at first sight – I remember that night so clearly: My friends and I were sitting in a dimly-lit corner of a New Orleans restaurant during Tales of the Cocktail and were primed to order our first round of drinks. Our local Absolut Elyx brand ambassador, Kyle Paris, was with us and suggested that I try the Gibson martini, and I’M SO GLAD I LISTENED TO HIM. (He knows things sometimes.) I love me a well-made dry martini, but when you garnish it with a crunchy, briny, house made cocktail onion? Game over. Take me away.

What I couldn’t believe was how long it took me to eat my first ever cocktail onion. In all honesty, I vaguely remember seeing the little pearls on various bar tops, but it never occurred to me that they were briny. I always thought they were raw, and I’m definitely not a fan of eating raw onions. Yuck. However, now that Kyle had set me straight, I had so many questions. Why have my bartender buddies been withholding this pickled treasure from me? Do all of my favorite bars back home have cocktail onions? If so, do they make the cocktail onions in-house? Am I the only one with whom Kyle shared this brilliance?

I needed answers.

My Dallas Gibson cocktail discovery mission had a rough start.  I had the unfortunate incident of receiving a Gibson that was garnished with cocktail onions from the bottom of a very large, very old-looking jar. (The bar name will be withheld to protect the not at all innocent.) To say the least, it was an unpleasant experience – the onions lacked the freshness and crunch that I enjoyed so much with my first Gibson. I learned a paramount lesson that night: Store-bought jarred cocktail onions be gone. Say it with me: House made garnishes only!

That’s when I partnered up with Kyle to organize the first ever (as far as I know anyway) Absolut Elyx Gibson Tour. We reached out to some of our favorite bartenders around the city to see if any would be interested in coming up with their own cocktail onion recipes. As it turns out, many of them were.

Five bars.
One night.
Six friends on average at each boozy stop.
Who knows how many Gibsons to consume.

The Absolut Elyx Tour was officially on.

STOP #1: VICINI

Our first stop was in the ‘burbs at Vicini Frisco. Barman Brian McCullough served up some delightful Elyx cocktails with his variation of the cocktail onion – pickled spring onion bow ties. I really enjoyed Brian’s version; it had welcome, grassy notes, the familiar brininess, and a touch of whimsy. What’ s not to love?

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STOP #2: BOULEVARDIER

From Frisco, the Tour braved Friday rush hour traffic all the way down to Bishop Arts District to pay Boulevardier a visit. This popular restaurant/bar is one of the few spots that already make their own cocktail onions. Ashley Williams made an excellent classic onion garnish; so excellent, in fact, that I enjoyed six of them. (Two onions per cocktail, carry the three … you do the math.)

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STOP #3: THE MITCHELL

After two delightful stops, the Tour was starting to hit its stride. From Boulevardier, we Uber’d our way downtown to The Mitchell where they offered not one but two cocktail onions to sample that night, one in a “garden brine” and one made with hatch chilis. I’m a bit of a spice wimp so I steered clear of anything marinating in a hatch chili situation, so I opted for the garden variety. Without hesitation, I popped the onion in my mouth, anticipating a deliciously briny vegetable medley. What I got instead was a mouthful of sharp, raw onion. Oh boy, that was surprising. No kissing for me that night for sure. I downed the rest of my Gibson to alleviate the biting flavor.

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STOP #4: MIDNIGHT RAMBLER

Without hesitation, the Elyx Gibson Tour soldiered on to a tried and true spot down the street, Midnight Rambler. They garnish their Gibson, The Silvertone, with a mighty fine and smoky chipotle onion, to which I was no stranger. The Elyx was flowing and skewers of golden brown onions perched on about half of the cocktails on the bar top for a solid hour. This was the 4th stop on the tour and the group was feeling gooooooood — and Susie had finally joined us. (A little tardy to the party.)

By the time we made it to the fifth and last stop of the night, most of our friends had already bid us farewell. So then there were the final four.

STOP #5: HIGH & TIGHT

We approached the bar at High & Tight, excited to see what our favorite bar-behind-a-barbershop’s man behind the stick, Austin Gurley, had in store for us, and I am so happy that we made it to the last stop. The cocktail onion was so surprisingly flavorful, with citrusy notes of grapefruit and a spicy, peppery kick. It was by far our favorite of the night!

The Elyx Gibson Tour proved a success, and what kind of cocktail onion addict would I be if I didn’t try to cover more ground? A few days after the tour, I visited Hugo Osorio at The Theodore to sample the onion batch he prepared. The onions were wonderfully balanced with crunchiness, brininess, and jalapeño spiciness … so yeah, pretty much cocktail onion heaven.

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This last Gibson falls outside of the Dallas area … like, really far outside. But, due to its Absolut awesomeness, it had to be included. A few weekends ago, I went to Chicago and had the pleasure of ordering the Elyx Gibson off of Vol. 39‘s brand spanking new cocktail menu at The Kimpton Gray Hotel. As far as I was concerned, it was kismet. The cocktail onion had bursts of Chinese five-spice and red wine vinegar. It sparkled atop my glass like a garnet jewel. If you ever find yourself in downtown Chicago, don’t think twice before visiting this bar. Thank me later.

I write this in hopes of drawing out existing Gibson lovers and converting the Gibson-ly ignorant into cocktail onion enthusiasts. And then, maybe one day, this particular tipple will experience a comeback of Old Fashioned’s proportions. A girl like me can dream, right? In the meantime, if you’re curious about trying out the Gibson for yourself, give me a call. I’m always down.

SPECIAL THANKS TO ABSOLUT ELYX FOR HELPING US MAKE THIS NIGHT HAPPEN!


Vicini: 7777 Warren Parkway #104 (Frisco)
Boulevardier: 408 N Bishop Avenue #108 (Bishop Arts District)
The Mitchell: 1404 Main Street (Downtown)
Midnight Rambler: 1530 Main Street, inside The Joule Hotel (Downtown)
High & Tight: 2701 Main Street #180 (Deep Ellum)
The Theodore: 8687 North Central Expressway #1804, inside NorthPark Center (North Dallas)
Vol. 39: 39 S. La Salle Street, inside the Kimpton The Gray Hotel (Chicago, Illinois)

An Evening of Agave at Stock & Barrel

A few weeks ago, Stock & Barrel Kitchen Americana in Bishop Arts District hosted its first spirited dinner with Don Julio, aptly named An Evening of Agave. I happily attended, albeit slightly worse for the wear since I had just returned from my first ever Tales of the Cocktail experience a few days prior, but hey … tequila. ‘Nuff said. The dinner was an intimate affair offering only 15 seats, at the bar and involved not only a four-course dinner paired with cocktails highlighting the Don Julio line of tequilas, but also an interactive educational experience led by none other than Senior Don Julio brand ambassador, the ever delightful and engaging Jorge Raptis.

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The dinner experience opened with introductions from Stock & Barrel Chef/owner Jon Stevens and Bar Manager Jeremy Koeninger before they gave Jorge the floor to tell us more about the history behind Don Julio as well as the thoughtful process that turned agave into the tequila that was before us. He spoke about the philosophy behind Don Julio that drives the manner in which they cultivate, harvest, and cook the agave, as well as distill, bottle, and age the tequila, and why production volume should never compromise the level of product quality.

The ambiance of the event was very casual and interactive, so the guests were encouraged to ask questions and have an open dialogue about the food and cocktail courses, as well as the Don Julio tequila itself. There were tasters of different tequilas for each guest, in addition to the cocktail pairings, so needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), our intimate group of bar guests became very fast friends.

 

Now of course, while the tequila was very smooth and enjoyable, Chef Jon Stevens was not about to let it overshadow the food courses. He made this clear by simply bringing out the first course: Wild Salmon Tartare with avocado cream, grapefruit segments, Yukon potato crisp, and lemon verbena. It was a bright flavor punch to my palate, tempered very well by the subtle fattiness of the salmon. The course was complemented by Jeremy’s cocktail creation dubbed Electric Love, which featured Don Julio Blanco, verbena, and Cocchi Americano, an Italian aperitif wine. The Blanco’s crisp, citrusy flavor paired with the tartare dish and its accouterments beautifully.

Chef Stevens’ second course (my favorite of the meal, without a doubt) was Mediterranean Octopus Carpaccio with tangerine, radish, and honey pimento. The thinly sliced octopus had hints of smoky char that I loved, but by its very nature of being carpaccio, it was an ethereal deliciousness that I kept chasing. The next thing I knew, I had devoured my second course, wishing I could have a second helping, maybe even a third. My friend Paige expressed a similar sentiment, with a wistful face when she found her plate empty as well.

Mediterranean Octopus Carpaccio

The cocktail pairing for the octopus course was an Ancho Bravo, made with Don Julio Reposado, demerara syrup, and Ancho Reyes. The Reposado coupled with the demerara brought a slightly cinnamon-y warmth that lent itself well with the smoky, meaty octopus, and the Ancho Reyes provided a welcome spicy kick. It was pretty boozy, so I took my time to sip and savor it.

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We bounced back pretty well though when the third course arrived: Braised Berkshire Pork Belly with creamy Brussels sprouts and preserved cherries. Chef Stevens had prepared us well by having the first two courses whet our palates, leading us to this wholly satisfying and deliciously unctuous pork belly dish. The creamy Brussels and dark berry tartness of the cherries ensured that the dish would satiate our taste buds without being too heavy.

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The third course paired with The Oleroso Agave, a cocktail with Don Julio Añejo, Oleroso sherry, and Luxardo syrup served up in a coupe glass. It was a spirit-forward concoction that accentuated the savory notes of the pork belly, and the sherry played well with the preserved cherry sauce. I especially enjoyed this pairing as Añejo is typically my favorite tequila expression, with the extra time the tequila spends aging in barrels.  The flavor comes out with honey and caramel notes that I just love.

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Our fourth and final course was the Butterscotch Pot de Creme, served with vanilla cream, sourdough crisp, and sea salt. This dreamy and delectable dish was served with a taster of Don Julio 1942. The butterscotch pot de creme was silky and light, and the sprinkle of sea salt elevated the dessert to another level of deliciousness. The sourdough crisp offered a welcome crunchy texture to the dinner’s velvety finale, and the deeply caramel and chocolate notes of the Don Julio 1942 brought this particular Night of Agave to a definitively beautiful conclusion.

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Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from guests after the Don Julio dinner, Stock & Barrel hopes to keep the spirited dinner series going every other month, with each one featuring a unique spirit.  For more information, check out stockandbarreldallas.com or follow Chef Stevens (@stockbarreltx) and Jeremy Koeninger (@jeremykoeninger) on Instagram for any event announcements and updates.

STOCK & BARREL
stockandbarreldallas.com
316 W. Davis St. (Dallas)
(214)888-0150

National Daiquiri Day

Tuesday is a glorious day, my friends … a glorious day indeed. July 19th is National Daiquiri Day. Personally, I think it may as well be called Tiffany Tran Day given how much I love this cocktail. I’m very fortunate that my experience with the daiquiri on the whole has been delightful, but not without encountering a few landmines along the way. (And I mean truly odd and off-putting interpretations.) However, none were consumed in vain since I can now provide you with a list of some of the best places in D/FW to enjoy my favorite cocktail.

By no means is this compilation comprehensive since I’m still discovering new bars and hidden gems every week, but for the casual drinker who just needs a nudge in the right direction, here are several of my recommendations. Oh, and if you hit up every spot tomorrow to celebrate, I applaud you. God speed, and Happy National Daiquiri Day!

Midnight Rambler (Downtown)

My friends often ask me where they should go for a daiquiri, and without hesitation, my first answer is always, “Midnight Rambler. Ask for Zach Smigiel.” I credit Zach for converting me from a staunch whiskey neat drinker to the daiquiri devotee I am today. His version sticks to the classic recipe, but the magic is in the ice and the shake. Zach makes the cocktail using a large format cube which produces a much tighter foam bubble structure and thus, a creamier texture.

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Black Swan (Deep Ellum)

The first time I went to this watering hole, I walked right past the door because there’s no sign over the unassuming façade. What I discovered once I stepped inside is that bar owner Gabe Sanchez makes freakin’ awesome daiquiris. Wait until Wednesday if you want to order from him though since he’s off on Tuesdays. (Womp womp.) They’re also closed on Mondays.

Parliament (Uptown)

Known to many as my home bar, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this cocktail den is on the list. The best part about ordering a daiquiri here is you can have confidence in ordering it from any of the guys behind the bar; each one will make you an excellent one. The fun of it is trying out each bartender’s version and deciding which one is your favorite. I’ve played this game before and it’s a really good time because 1) it proves how versatile the daiquiri is, and 2) you get to drink a lot of them. Start with one by Drew Garison or Colin Phillips and go from there … just not on Sundays (they’re closed).

Photo credit: Kara Edwards

The Standard Pour (Uptown/State & Allen)

A sub-two-minute stroll from Parliament, this spacious cocktail spot proves to be high quality even though they are high volume. They excel at classic daiquiris as well as funkier versions to keep your palate excited. If you want a tried-and-true version, you can’t go wrong by asking for Sean Taylor, and if you want something funky, go to Tristan Price. Neither of these guys will steer you wrong.

Citizen (Uptown)

Ah … the Jekyll & Hyde of Uptown. It’s a beautiful space that’s open Wednesday to Saturday, and by no means a hidden gem. The spot blows up every night around 10pm going from a chill cocktail spot to an unce unce club illuminated by red lights and crowded with bandage dresses and bottle service enthusiasts. My tip: Go between 5-10pm, grab a seat at the bar, and order a daiquiri from Jermey Elliott. He’ll make you top notch drinks and honestly, he’s just fun to hang with. Then hit up the photo booth … it’s good times.

Atwater Alley (Highland Park)

If it’s Thursday-Saturday night after 8pm, head straight up to the dark wood-paneled speakeasy down the alley by Henry’s Majestic (also an excellent bar) and let Ricky Cleva, Angela Montesclaros, and Ryan Frederick mix up their classic daiquiris for you. The atmosphere is dark and sexy with cozy and quiet booths, but if you can snag a seat at the six-seat bar upstairs, I highly suggest you do so. (BONUS: check out the unique daiquiri Alex Fletcher just developed, the Cubano Daiquiri. Pictured in header)

Photo credit: Tiffany Tran
Photo credit: Tiffany Tran

Vicini (Frisco)

I can’t forget my suburbanites’ drinking needs. This restaurant and bar is one of the only places in town that you’ll catch Dallas barman extraordinaire Brian McCullough behind the stick. He prides himself on his daiquiri-making abilities, and it’s not without merit. The kicker: the Vicini daiquiri is just $5 on the happy hour menu (every day, 11am-7pm).

The Theodore (NorthPark Center)

Some have an issue with this bar being in a mall, but trust me, once you try a daiquiri made by Kyle Hilla’s team here, you’ll find that being at the mall isn’t all that bad. (I mean … shopping after two cocktails is kind of the best thing … ever.) It helps that The Theodore itself was built to be an oasis from the typical mall hustle and bustle anyway, and the bar is manned by creative and able cocktail makers who make you feel welcome as soon as you arrive, one of whom is Hugo Osorio. Just a heads up: his garnish game is strong. Tell him I said so and see what he comes up with for your daiquiri.

Picture courtesy of The Theodore
Picture courtesy of The Theodore

Stock & Barrel (Bishop Arts District)

I’ll be the first to admit that I have yet to really tap into the food and cocktail scene down in the Bishop Arts District, and a part of the “problem” is that once I find a place I like, I quickly become a repeat customer (thus delaying my discovery of other places in the area). S&B is one such bar that I enjoy frequenting. Bar manager Jeremy Koeninger makes one hell of a daiquiri, and the food menu is excellent, too. Order the crispy okra as a bar snack to share with friends … and it goes really well with daiquiris, as most things do.

Proper on Magnolia (Fort Worth)

This cocktail den on West Magnolia is one of the standouts in Fort Worth.  They offer classic cocktails (including a traditional daiquiri), but also have seasonal and weekly specials.  Grab a seat on their patio and order food from one of their neighbors, Fixture or Spice.

Picture courtesy of Proper
Picture courtesy of Proper