While mezcal's been hailed as the "next big thing," it hasn't yet caught on in Dallas. But Jason Kosmas yesterday advised the city's leading bartenders not to shy away from creating drinks made with the agave spirit and its more dapper cousin, tequila.
"I think what's important is where we are," Kosmas, the bartender at Bolsa and author of Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined told about 40 cocktail practitioners gathered for an afternoon seminar on culinary approaches to classic mixology. "Dallas has a big flavor profile. We should definitely be including tequila and mescal in our drinks."
Kosmas cited the tequila drinks infused with smoked cedarwood at Smoke as an example of cocktails that "get into what we do well here."
As seminar leaders stressed repeatedly, the local cocktail scene has flourished since last year, when a similar class at Victor Tango's drew "about 10 people," in Kosmas' estimation. "And most of them were Victor Tango's staff," he added.
But Kosmas ventured national attention might hinge partly on Dallas developing a unique cocktail identity and its bartenders harnessing quintessentially Southwestern ingredients. He served a drink made with Don Julio Reposado, St. Germain, yellow chartreuse and orange bitters to demonstrate what he meant.
Victor Tango's managing partner Greg Katz says tequila- and mescal-driven cocktails are consistent with the city's recent embrace of drinks that emphasize spirits over muddled fruit. Still, he doesn't foresee mezcal becoming a local favorite any time soon.
"Mezcal is by no means blowing up in Dallas," he says. "There's definitely a core following. Maybe someone's been to a really nice dinner in Mexico and they'll order shots after dinner, whether that's the right way to use it or not."
Victor Tango's has also mixed mescal with fresh pineapple juice.
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"It's not for everyone," Katz says. "For example, we have bone marrow on the menu. We're not going to sell 50 of those like we do tuna nachos. I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we sell 20 mezcal drinks a night...We sell a ton of vodka."
That doesn't mean Victor Tango's plans to stop serving mezcal to connoisseurs. Having both cult choices and crowd pleasers available was a recurrent theme of Kosmas' talk, intended partly as a pep rally for the bartenders charged with elevating Dallas' cocktail culture.
"I think what's really important is we get to know each other," said Kosmas, who touched on the characteristics of great bartenders, screened two short videos illustrating the perils of ignorance and arrogance and conducted an experiment to prove the impossibility of sniffing out sweetness.
"I know in Dallas we definitely have a competitive nature, but learning from another bartender is going to help you improve your craft," he cajoled the crowd.