Wisdom from the Windmill's Charlie Papaceno
Charlie Papaceno, originally from Warwick, New York, opened the Windmill Lounge with his partner Louise six years ago. In that time, they've both garnered reputations for making honest, strong drinks.
At their little dive bar on Maple, DART trains speed over the bridge just outside, the deer above the bar has red lights tangled around its antlers and the jukebox in the corner carries everything from jazz to the Beastie Boys. On Thursdays, karaoke night, amateur singers pick a lot of Billy Joel and Elton John. It's a good place to hide or to make new friends. Here's Charlie:
"I grew up working in working-class bars and I learned how to make all the 'old man' drinks for the guys down at the end of the bar. And previously, Louise wrote about spirits and wine, so she brought a lot of that knowledge into it also.
"Dallas has definitely changed in the past few years. It's grown up a little. The fact that Jason Kosmas and Mike Martensen are here says a lot about the local drinking scene. Andrew at Marquee, Dub at the Dram -- those guys take time to teach themselves. Brad from The Usual in Fort Worth is also a huge factor.
"The whole branding thing makes me crazy. People will hire a consultant from a liquor company to come up with a whole new menu of drinks. They'll take a classic drink, put a little spin on it, rename it and so now it's not a Manhattan anymore, it's a "Mulligan's Island" or whatever. That's crazy. They don't call the rib eye the 'Al Biernat's Chop,' it's just a rib eye.
"The other day a guy came in and asked me for a horses tail. I was like, 'What?' He described it and I said, 'Yeah, that's a horses neck.'
"We don't have a full kitchen, but there's no excuse not to do some things. Like making your own grenadine is easy and it's so much better than that chemical. We're a simple little bar, but we've always made our stuff, like maraschino cherries.
"I think people should drink more rums. You can get some really good ones for a bargain. Anything by Ron Zacapa from Guatemala. Flor de Caña is another good one. You can make an Old Fashioned with barrel-aged rums. Zacapa's 23- year-old rum is like cognac. So, you can treat it like a whiskey and make a Manhattan.
"You should drink what you want. But, I hate to see people drink just what they're driven to by media or advertising. Just recently a guy asked if we had Malibu Black. 'No.' So, instead he asked for a Smirnoff Ice. I asked for his man card.
"Drinks have to be focused. If there are too many ingredients you lose the flavor just like with food. It would like a plate of truffles, hard boiled eggs, crème fraiche with brown gravy. Is it good? Maybe. I don't know.
"I like to going to Marquee, Strangeways and Cedars Social. I also really like Lakewood Landing. It's dark, the kind of bar I'm used to. I can hide."