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.
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"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.