Can We Start Drinking Now? Here’s Dean Fearing’s Classic Margarita for Whenever Your 5 O’Clock Is

A margarita at Fearing's, back when we could dine there.
A margarita at Fearing's, back when we could dine there. Philip Kingston
It’s no secret that I think Fearing’s Restaurant is the best place in town.

There’s a bartender at the Rattlesnake Bar who has waited on me since I first moved to Dallas in 1999 and hung out at Beau Nash Lounge trying to be cool (but not understanding why the other patrons went to the bathroom so much).

My grandmother came to Dallas in the 1980s and was so impressed with the Dean Fearing-led Mansion on Turtle Creek restaurant that she bought his signed cookbook, which I now have. The content is beautiful. I really love the soup recipes.

But the best part is Dean’s 1980s hair.

click to enlarge Dean Fearing pictured on the back of The Mansion on Turtle Creek Cookbook. - PHILIP KINGSTON
Dean Fearing pictured on the back of The Mansion on Turtle Creek Cookbook.
Philip Kingston
“I went to this guy that white-walled the sides, left the back long and made it spiky on top. I loved it, and girls loved it,” Fearing says.

His reasons for temporarily closing Fearing’s in the Ritz-Carlton Dallas are similar to what we’ve heard from other chefs amid our current health crisis.

“I didn’t want to go into the to-go business because our food doesn’t travel,” he says. “If you look at these delivery services, there’s like 300 places trying to do the same thing.”

Fearing has his managers on furlough with a small stipend, and he and his business partner are paying for health insurance for all of the other workers, who are Marriott employees.

“I’m the only employee at Fearing’s who’s not a Ritz employee,” Fearing says.

He wants to come back, but he doesn’t see it happening soon.

“Are we going to rip out half the restaurant for spacing and have everyone in a mask and gloves? That’s not the kind of experience we’re selling,” he says.

A hotel restaurant is a different kind of challenge, too. The chef says the hotel, pre-COVID, was normally between 80% and 90% occupied — a number it’s not at now, obviously.

“Until someone can get on a plane, I don’t see that changing,” he says.

And even then, who knows?

“Three weeks is a habit, and we’re all in the habit now,” the chef says.

I asked Fearing, as I have with other chefs from restaurants that have temporarily closed, to make a recipe to remind us of his joint. He agreed, and even made a video:

With his direction, I made Dean’s margarita from the menu, and it’s excellent. He uses Cointreau, which is a must. I have worked in places that made us use Triple Sec, and yuck.

Conversely, Fearing had a bottle of high-end tequila, and while that’s never a bad ingredient, it’s not necessary. Cocktails are and always have been a way to make bad booze drinkable. Cheap tequila makes a great margarita if you use Cointreau and fresh lime juice. And, I think, you have to salt the rim.

But Fearing has made this recipe for presidents and even cool people, so someone is trading on a lot more credibility here.

I can’t wait until restaurant dining is back in a form that’s not 25% capacity and no masks. Fearing’s is the first place I’m going.

Dean’s Margarita

A bit of ice
1 jigger of tequila
1 jigger of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 jigger of Cointreau

Add ingredients to shaker.
Shake 20 times.
Place in a rock glass and garnish with sliced lime.
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