Neighborhood Services Tavern's Jason Kosmas, who's today celebrating the release of his book Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined, says Dallas' cocktail scene isn't as stunted as some naysayers fear.
"I keep hearing about more people opening places," Kosmas says. "Dallas is going to have its own style, its own drinks."
According to Kosmas, Dallasites know as much about mixology as New Yorkers did before a wave of spirits seriousness swept through the city, instigated partly by the 2004 opening of Kosmas' Employees Only. Kosmas and his partner Dushan Zaric -- who co-authored the book being feted tonight at Employees Only -- patiently taught their customers the art of bitters appreciation and showed them what Prohibition-era drinkers knew about gin.
Having already weaned one city's drinkers off vodka, Kosmas says he's now "reliving it all over again." He insists the experience is more refreshing than frustrating.
"My personal experience of bringing cocktails to people's attention is it's a matter of trust," Kosmas says. "It's about accessibility."
Accessibility is a critical element of Speakeasy, which coaches home bartenders through the sometimes tricky process of contemporizing vintage cocktail recipes.
"There's a lot of geekery out there that's trying to stay true to original recipes," Kosmas says. "The first thing you have to understand is ingredients are different today."
Kosmas, who says he tries to take his work seriously without taking himself too seriously, is wary of geekery on both sides of the bar.
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"When people are overeducated, it can be a negative thing as well," Kosmas says, contrasting the drinking crowds in New York and Dallas.
Twenty-five years after Dale "King Cocktail" DeGroff first started squeezing fresh juices at the Rainbow Room, New York and San Francisco remain the only American cities with fully-matured cocktail cultures, in Kosmas' opinion. Chicago and Boston are close behind, he says, but he worries about bartenders in other cities rushing to replicate what's working in the nation's cocktailing capitals.
"People are like 'I'm going to grab green Chartreuse and Campari'," Kosmas says. "I'm like 'OK, one step at a time'."
Kosmas has taken the same approach to book party planning: He's been too busy "trying to get through" tonight's shindig to schedule anything in Dallas, but hopes to eventually organize a local event.