Jorge Herrera, Up On Knox, Georgie
Porfirio "Pro" Contreras, Tate's Dallas
This is the only way to stock the tremendous wall of whiskey at Tate's. Pro is an OG in every sense of the phrase. I can still clearly remember the first time I met him. I was new to the area and really into Japanese whiskey. It was whiskey Wednesday and there were just a few too many guests at the bar top for him to chat with everyone. The guy next to me, reading his Kindle, lived at the apartments across the road and Pro introduced us. We quickly struck up a conversation and since the guy was there first, our drinking speed was off by half a drink, causing both of us to stay for "just one more" about 2 extra times!
Where are you from?
But really, where are you from?
I grew up in Oak Cliff until middle school and then I finished high school in The Colony... Culture shock! I went from being in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood to a white neighborhood. This was probably in the early 90's.
What cocktail are you making today?
I can make anything? *eyes wide open* *eyebrows arched with excitement* Sidecar! *dramatic pause* *proceeds to walk the bar like he's producing an infomercial* We're going to use Remy Martin 1738, Cointreau, fresh lime juice - that's what makes it different. And we're going to use a brown sugar and cinnamon on the rim. That's going to give it something special.
Who is the non-bartender rendition of you?
I'm daddy. Family man. That's it. Everything I do is for my kids and my family. They really changed my life around. If I didn't have them I don't know where I would be.
Can you make me laugh?
Me?? *makes a ridiculous face* I just did!!
Can we do this again?
Pro is a guy that will have regulars until the day he hangs up his bar key. He's never met a stranger and he finds a way to connect with people with astonishing ease. Don't be fooled by his tough, tatted image. He's got a tremendous heart and would do anything to help a friend, even a friend that's just a cocktail waitress.
Joe Shirghio, Bowen House Dallas
Who makes the best bar guest?
Their name? Or what kind of person? Um…. Wow… *blinks* *blinks again* *looks up at the sky* This is a really hard question. I would say the perfect bar guest is someone who knows and is confident in what they want but also willing to engage and discuss their beverage. I don’t’ really need someone that talks a lot. Just have a good time.
….and talk to your neighbors.
….and stay off the phone.
Why does everybody love Joe? To be honest, it's impossible to not love Joe. He's honest and hard-working. He's a master of hospitality, probably improving to a dangerously fierce degree after working with one of the most hospitable bar owners in Dallas, Pasha Heidari, for half a decade. He's a cocktail genius with an affinity for vermouth and botanically based flavors. And he's never met a stranger.
Rosey Sullivan, Armoury D.E.
Rosey gives us purposeful answers that are thoughtfully articulated and paint a picture about her past and present. But, if you're ever in a one on one conversation with Rosey you will totally adore her sensitive gazes, hilarious pauses, and ability to quickly smile when she's entertained by something. If you're fortunate enough to visit Armoury when she's behind the bar and the crowd isn't three deep be sure to ask for one of her bespoke cocktails.
Stephanie Kennedy, Oak Cliff Social Club
Tiffany Powell, Boulevardier
Tiffany is probably one of the most straight-forward and earnestly chatty bartenders we know. She's quick to laugh, easy to engage, and constantly has her head on a swivel. And, who doesn't love someone who sees their job as a bartender as an opportunity to help get someone laid!
I approached six Dallas bartenders with the intention of finding out what makes them tick, learning more about who they are when we're not bellied up to their bars, basically getting them to spill the tea, in our world, a martini. The criteria was not complicated. They needed to have a real life (some were not certain they did), bartend at their current location at least one year, make me a martini, give up the recipe, and allow me to take two photos of them - one as they work in their current establishment, and one as they do anything but work in their current establishment.
The questions are simple, painfully simple, and even redundant. But, if you've ever worked a day behind the bar, you know that the questions of patrons are painfully simple and redundant. That's why these interviews give us such a cool insight into the hearts and souls of some of Dallas' best bartenders.
So what happens if we ignore their words, and start listening to their face, their gestures, their words in between their words? We can all agree that the majority of communication is non-verbal, with some experts attributing as much as 93% of communication to body language and tone of voice, leaving only 7% to actual words. And this makes a lot of sense if you think about the success of a bartender in an often loud and fast paced environment.
The results are fantastic. As I re-read each interview, I smile, thinking about the interaction with each bartender. And I know that guests at their bar will get that same kind of interaction. It's why these bartenders have been at their current location for over a year, some of them close to a decade!
My challenge to you: look for the meta-communication!
And I didn't think about it this way in the beginning. But, as I look over these words and these exchanges, I suddenly realize something! Each of these bartenders is a Betty! A Betty (by a broad definition) is honest and brave, loyal and nurturing, witty and fun. She's balanced, quirky, open-minded, complex, and flawed. She's soulful and driven. And I think there's a little Betty in all of us.
Stay tuned for the conclusion where I'll include out-takes and feedback from blog-readers, bar patrons, and fellow bartenders!
...Emergency Ice is becoming a regular stop for me. And frankly, it's a welcome break from my hectic day. The front desk lady is always super nice (although she's often crazy busy). The guys in the back are extra helpful, and I'm even to the point where I can just walk into the back with my coolers and chat with the staff while I wait for my order.
Contributions totaled $837 as of 9.8.19; that is ONE day after the original post, FOUR days after my interaction with this man.
I'd hoped that I could ask a few friends for $12 and impact TEN, maybe even TWENTY people. SEVENTY people will walk into Emergency Ice, with their very large, very clean coolers. And they will walk out knowing one more person is in their corner.
JUST ONE MORE RESPONSE: I spoke to the co-owner, Donnell Toler with the request to start a fund with this money. And she asked me if I'd rather donate to a charity. I explained I specifically wanted the funds to be used here. She quizzically probed "Do you have cancer? Do you know someone with cancer?" to which I just shook my head no. And though the staff had told her bits of information here and there it was clear she needed to hear the whole story. And as I recited that story one more time both our eyes filled with tears. Then she revealed to me that she and her husband, Earl, lost a son to cancer years ago which is why they offer the ice at a discount. We are so, so lucky.
Read the complete narrative and responses here.
If you've ever worked near me, you know I highly encourage/value flirting. I'd argue any day that flirting is just as important as ambiance, polished glassware, and possibly even proper garnish (but that's a different blog about foreplay).
When I bring this up I inevitably get an upturned eyebrow from at least one rigid, rule-bound person.
And I say: "You can flirt with anyone."
I contend: "It doesn't have to be sexual."
I persist: "Last week I flirted with a baby at Target."
More eyebrows do eyebrow acrobatics.
"But what does this have to do with cocktails, Betty?" Not much as a whole, but, if you think of your favorite bartenders, you will notice they are always flirting; not just with guests, but with the other bartenders, the barback, the servers, and anyone they can get their eyes on. Skilled flirting is drop. dead. intelligent.
I am implore you, Universe; play coy already! Drop your shoulder into a conversation at the barstool next to you. Wink from the corner of your eye when your friend asks if you should have one more happy hour cocktail. Twirl your hair when your cute bartender asks if he can buy you a shot. It'll do wonders for your blood pressure, and hopefully, wreak havoc on the blood pressure of those around you (in a good way).
Incorporate seasonal fruits and herbs into your cocktail repertoire with a smash. The most basic smash consists of herbs, citrus, and whiskey. And when most people think of a Whiskey Smash; mint, lemon, and bourbon come to mind. As long as you work with classic ratios, a delicious smash should be a breeze.
A Simple Smash
A Custom Smash
The process stays the same here and the fun starts when you vary the ingredients. Look into seasonal herbs. Remember with herbs, the more hearty they are, the more you need to manipulate them to release their flavor. The opposite is true for more delicate plants. Take rosemary and basil for example. Rosemary may be best incorporated through initial muddling with the recipe's simple syrup before adding citrus, or added as a garnish and exposed to heat (yes! that means torch it!!). Basil may require no muddling at all - a simple shake with the other ingredients will adequately release it's aroma.
A Complicated Smash
Continue with the same process and allow seasonal berries or spices to influence you. A smidge of orange juice (added to the lemon) will change the viscosity and alter the flavor depth of your whiskey. Consider using a flavored simple syrup such as cinnamon or ginger to add spice to your smash. No matter what you choose to add, balance ought to be your primary goal. The Flavor Bible is a great source of information if you don't have a natural predilection for finding such matches.
Smash It Up a Notch
A Betty (by a broad definition) is honest and brave, loyal and nurturing, witty and fun. She's balanced, quirky, open-minded, complex, and flawed. She's soulful and driven. And I think there's a little Betty in all of us.