Before a Caravan to New Orleans' Tales Of The Cocktail, Some Thoughts on Dallas Bartending

Categories: Food News

Tales of the Cocktail might be four months away, but Dallas-area mixologists are already well into planning for the event. Each year New Orleans hosts the event, which draws from an international base of cocktail enthusiasts who gather to talk booze, cross-pollinate creative ideas and get bombed.

I talked to Chris Furtado, the bartender at Whiskey Cake who's also President of the North Texas chapter of the Bartenders' Guild. He's heading up this year's caravan to the Big Easy. He told me 50 bartenders from Dallas attended last year and he's hoping for even more for this year's event.

To spur attendance, Furtado is inviting 10 DFW mixologists to go to the event and host a special cocktail tasting.

"We're trying to grow the cocktail scene from within Dallas, and also let the rest of the country know what were doing here," Furtado told me. He noted that the majority of the national spotlight shines on coastal cities like San Fransisco and New York City, but he thinks that's changing: "Dallas is a place to go for drinks."

Furtado hopes the tasting event will shine new light on the Dallas cocktail trend and help define the specific qualities that make mixology here unique. "I think on many levels there are similarities like everywhere else," Furtado said. "But there's no history here," he added, describing a cocktail scene that essentially grew up out of nothing. While cultures in other cities have been much more established, Dallas hasn't had an intense mixology scene, so bartenders had to carve out their own path.

That lack of history has made Dallas a bit of a cocktail wild west. The only restriction here has been the customer.

"To be successful here, we have to cater to the palate of the people in Dallas," Furtado said, and there's still a lot of work to be done. Some spirits aren't in the average drinker's vernacular, and Furtado told me he's still still educating people when it comes to Rye and other spirits that have already seen a resurgence in other markets.

Sweetness is another variable that Dallas drinkers seem to be drawn to, according to Furtado, so I asked him name a cocktail that was the absolute antithesis to sweet mixology.

"A good example of that is the Negroni," he told me. "It really takes and educated palate because it's so bitter."

Not sure my booze palate is educated -- it is well exercised -- but I think The Negroni is delicious either way.

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Ahhh... Whiskey Cake, where the hostess was so incredibly rude that we walked out before even sitting at the table. Sipped my way through cocktails in San Francisco last summer. Holy meat straw it was glorious! The whole time I was wishing similar cocktail adventures could be found in Dallas (errrr, Plano). May have to make another trip to Whiskey Cake, just bypassing the hostess.

Chris Furtado
Chris Furtado

It's really a two fold process.  You have to create a drink that people will like while you are expanding their horizons in new directions; trying new spirits, new combinations and new presentations.  As you educate people in this way and as you gain their trust, they will gain an expanded palate and be willing to try more. I regularly offer guest the opportunity for me to create them a new drink and if they don't like it, they don't pay.  In this way, they try new things and we gain a wider audience.


..."To be successful here, we have to cater to the palate of the people in Dallas," Furtado said...

Why does this quote make me think of the Steve Jobs approach to developing products. Do you create what the audience wants or do you develop something that they WILL want? If they cater to what the palate of most people want, don't we really just did get slushy margaritas and lite beer?

Chris Furtado
Chris Furtado

Just walk right up to the bar and we will take care of you...

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