It's Drinking Week at City of Ate, which means even more stories than usual about our favorite pastime. Check back for more stories about craft beer, killer bartenders and more.
Mustachioed, bowtie-and-fedora-wearing Newsies extras shaking out cocktails is so last year: This is the year of the "ladytender."
Much more than just a pretty face, these badass chicks who don't need to wear a costume to craft a cocktail you'll come back for. They know their shit, they're good at what they do, and, bonus: They do it all with a smile. We scouted out some of the city's best and asked them a few questions.
First, a little about each:
Haydee Hernandez, CBD Provisions: My first job in the industry was at Billy Blues in Houston. I then came back to Dallas and worked at Dakotas's downtown. It was in 1999 when I joined the newly opened Samba Room. The four years I spent there would map out the rest of my career. I met many of the Dallas restaurateurs that we love, including David Pedack (my husband), Royce Ring, Chris Jeffers, Eric Justis... to name a few. A friend I met there led me to Local restaurant. I tended bar for Tracy Miller for 10 years! It wasn't until I helped her open Rosemont that I realized it was time for me to move on. A good friend of mine that worked at the Joule told me they were hiring due to a major renovation. Got the job and began my first training with Cuff's and Buttons from New York for the renovated bar at the Joule's pool. I then also went with them to the new Lobby Bar and then on to CBD. I am currently in the process of training for the new bar downstairs...Midnight Rambler.
Ivory Pope, CBD Provisions: I started bartending at various Brinker Intl. concepts (e.g. Chili's, Maggiano's, etc.) in Dallas, moved to San Francisco and transitioned into the nightlife/club bartending scene. San Francisco was my first introduction to pre-Prohibition style craft cocktails; it's definitely a lifestyle out there. After a few years out there, I moved back to Dallas and began working at the Joule hotel during a time when they began to revamp the entire hotel's cocktail program. After rigorous trainings from Cuffs and Buttons' Christy Pope and Chad Solomon, a core group of bartenders, me included, began opening various cocktail outlets in the hotel (pool bar, lobby bar) before ultimately, opening CBD Provisions in October 2013.
Crystal Vickous, Oak: I grew up in Kentucky, but after college, I wanted to live in a bigger city. I hate cold weather, so Dallas was the perfect fit. I've been here for seven years and have worked in the restaurant industry the entire time. I've worked at The Mansion, helped open Dish, tended bar at the Gin Mill, and was at 560 before coming to Oak on a friend's recommendation. Oak was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Louise Owens, Windmill Lounge: Started out to be a movie star, fell into the food and wine business in the 1980's in NYC, moved home to Dallas, worked as a Marketing Manager for a wine importing company for 5 years. After that, I spent 10 years writing about food, wine and spirits for The Dallas Morning News.
My ex-husband, and business partner, Charlie Papaceno, had been laid off by Comcast in 2004. About a month later he came home and asked me if I wanted to open a bar. I said "Hell no." He said "The building with the neon windmill is empty." I said, "That's different." Craft cocktails were blowing up on the East and West Coasts and we thought Dallas was ready for a cocktail bar. We were wrong; it took five years for the Windmill to really catch on, but hey we are still here and business is booming.
Julie Campbell, Barcadia: I started bartending at 8.0 in the Quadrangle in 1997. Then moved over to Greenville Ave. and became the bar manager of both The Cavern and Soul II Soul. In 2001 I became partners and opened Minc Lounge. We were open until 2008. That is where I met Brooke Humphries and together we opened Barcadia in May of 2008. That next year I moved to Austin, managed Speakeasy on Congress and then became the bar manager at Icenhauers on Rainey Street. I decided to move back home, and now I'm back here running Barcadia with Brooke.
Leann Berry, Komali: I have been in the restaurant and bar industry for over twenty years. Abraham Salum found me at a little known spot, Ciudad, about 12 years ago. We built a friendship and always knew we would make a great team. When Abraham came to me about Komali I was completely on board! He gave me the freedom to create my "bar island" as well as a unique line of fresh cocktails that I regularly update with the seasons.
Juli Naida, Barter: I started bartending at Hooters and eventually I realized, it was either move up or move out. From there, I developed a thick skin and went on to a few other places like Humperdinks and Dave and Busters. That helped me in finagling my way into Barter. I convinced Rocco that I knew alcohol, but I think he could tell I just wanted to know alcohol. But that want was enough for him to give me a chance. I went from making vodka Redbull and Vegas bombs to making aviations and old fashioneds.
Tyler Lott, Asador: I am originally from San Angelo, TX; basically boredom brought me to Dallas. I had a friend that worked for Marriott Sales in Plano and she constantly spoke of how wonderful the company is so this ultimately led me to the Renaissance Hotel.
Next up: What they drink at home, and the customers they love.
Let's talk about customers. What type of customer challenges you in a good way? Ivory: The "eager-to-learn" customer is my favorite type of customer by far. I am a teacher by nature, so when someone comes in with a million questions about what we do and how we do it I'm definitely up for the challenge. I could talk for hours about spirits and cocktail history, so when I get someone that's not just looking to drink but willing to learn 'how' to drink, it's my time to shine.
Crystal: I love a customer who has strong preconceived notions but is willing to experiment. They challenge me in a really fun way. For example, they might say "I don't like gin," but with a little discussion and the right cocktail ingredients, I can give them a new experience and turn gin into a spirit they realize they can enjoy.
Louise: The ones who honestly want to collaborate with you on creating the right cocktail for them -- and understand that when we are slammed there are not 10 or 15 minutes to go into a lengthy discussion.
Julie: The ones who really know their stuff. Knows the difference between ryes, bourbons, single malts and blends. Those guys are fun to bartend for.
Juli: People who ask for "the bartender" or "the mixologist." In my mind, I always think, "Challenge Accepted."
Tyler: The Indecisive Customer
On the other side of that customer coin, what type of customer challenges you in a bad way?
Haydee: Being a woman tender there's always that "guy" who prefers a male tender to make his drink. It's a challenge to get past that but I can usually win them over with a good Old Fashioned.
Ivory: The customer who thinks you are beneath them because you are serving them can get quite annoying, but I also take that as a personal challenge to show off not only my crafting skills but also my knowledge. When the well-traveled, affluent business man is impressed by my knowledge of fine single malts, microbrews, and the various typicities of his favorite wine varietal, I've done my job.
Crystal: Fortunately my customers at Oak are very, very rarely in this category, but my most challenging customer is someone who is extremely intoxicated and getting obnoxious about being cut off. It's the hardest thing for any bartender to deal with, lady or not.
Julie: The ones screaming for 10 fireballs on a busy Saturday night.
Tyler: The "Have you heard of that one drink? I don't know what's in it or what it's called but I think it's blue" customer.
What's the oddest request you've received at the bar?
Haydee: To debone their pig head carcass... I'm a vegetarian!!
Ivory: I work in a hotel, so we go above and beyond for our guests. On many occasions, I've gone to the drugstore for sunscreen, cigarettes, energy drinks, etc. However, I had a lady break her heel at the bar and asked if I had a pair she could borrow.
Crystal: I've been asked to serve guests Chula Ritas, the Thai frozen margarita drink from the restaurant next door, Pakpao. It's a really tasty cocktail, but I can't go next door and grab one for you.
Louise: Hmm, that is not fit to print.
Leann: I've had a guest request Casa Dragones Tequila, an incredible top shelf spirit, with Dr. Pepper. Blasphemy!
Tyler: A gentleman came to the bar and asked for a Johnny Walker Black neat...I obliged. He then asked for a stick of butter; now I don't know if this is customary because I don't drink a lot of Johnny Black but I was telling my staff this story about a week ago and we decided that we absolutely have to try it. It is not good...at all.
Let's say we sauntered up to your bar and asked you to make me your favorite drink on the current menu here. What would you choose?
Haydee: That would have to be the Sweet Gardenzio... after all it's my recipe. It's an Amaro cocktail, great for a night cap or digestif:
2 mint sprigs ¾oz lemon juice ½oz simple 1oz Camparo Sweet Vermouth 1oz Luxardo Amaro
Ivory: The Sweet Gardenzio.
Crystal: I'm partial to The Mighty Oak. It's kind of our classic at the bar and is made with bourbon, ginger puree, and mint. I have so many women ordering it right now -- I think it has come back in fashion for women to drink whiskey again.
Louise: Our Spring Bee with Esprit de Jeune, honey, lemon and grapefruit bitters.
Leann: I love making the Caliente Clementine. It is a beautiful cocktail in which we get to showcase Komali's Double Barrel Herradura. It is extra special to me knowing I had a hand in the tequila making process. To top it off it recently won Top 10 ten Margaritas in Texas from Texas Monthly. I am always excited to introduce it to new customers as well as satisfy the cravings of our regulars.
Juli: The Bartenders Choice. Basically, I get to ask four questions and from there, create a drink for each guest. Something new, something different, and I rarely make the same drink twice.
Tyler: We have a cocktail right now for Restaurant Week called "Melon Daisy" and it is definitely my favorite at the moment. We infuse fresh dill with Siembra Azul Tequila (I can't say enough good things about this tequila brand), Lemon Juice, honey syrup, honeydew melon juice and fresh dill. The flavors complement each other perfectly and I really feel like it showcases the tequila.
But what if we asked you to make me your favorite drink OF ALL TIME?!? What would you shake up for us?
Haydee: Would have to be a Vieux Carre. Served up instead of down. It's a super sexy cocktail!
1oz Sweet Vermouth 1tsp Benedictine 1oz Rye Whiskey 1oz VSOP Cognac 2 dashes Angostura 2 Dashes Peychauds
Ivory: White Negroni... it's bitterly delicious.
Crystal: A mint julep. I'm a Kentucky girl! It always reminds me of derby parties and big hats. Find me on Derby Day, and I'll make you one.
Juli: Shots. I love the look on my coworkers' faces when I make them try the type of shots I started with in the beginning of my bar career. Make note of that last word, too. Career. I love what I do; I have passion for it. This is my career.
Tyler: Aviation! But only if I get to drink it myself.
What are you doing later? And by that, I mean what do you drink at home when you get off work?
Haydee: Well that would depend on what mood I'm in or what I'm doing at the time. I love to entertain and cook, I make sure my bar is well stocked for all the favorite cocktails. And sometimes a girl just needs a great glass of wine (or beer).
Crystal: Maybe this is a case of the plumber's sink leaking, but I go for vodka on the rocks at home... Monopolowa, specifically. When I'm home, I'm usually too tired to spend a lot of time on a drink. I don't get home from work and start muddling things! When I'm out on the town, I'm usually ordering bubbles.
Leann: I normally sip on a fabulous tequila or a new favorite of mine, Mestizo Mescal. If you want my address, come on by; just be sure to bring a bottle with you!
Tyler: Tequila and wine...but not together. That would be gross.
Of all the joints in all the towns in all the world... where do you like to drink in town?
Haydee: Some of my favorites include Strangeways, Old Monk, Windmill Lounge and Tate's.
Ivory: The Windmill is hands down my favorite bar in Dallas, it's perfectly divey with amazing cocktails. The Woolworth is also one of my faves, and I live downtown so it's definitely my go-to neighborhood bar. They have some awesome bartenders, and the atmosphere is cool.
Crystal: I don't go out much, but if I do, I like to have a drink at Grapevine.
Louise: Mostly The Windmill, but Tate's, Lark, CBD, and Standard Pour are always on the list when I head out.
Juli: Quarter bar and So and So's. I go to see my buddy Julio, and the other friendly faces. Sometimes I go to Standard Pour and Tate's. Its all about family in the industry. Ohana; family sticks together. I can't even begin to list all the people who have made me feel welcome, and I am so thankful for that. My industry family really makes Dallas feel like home for me and I love them for it.
Tyler: For a great cocktail either Standard Pour, CBD, Victor Tangos or Black Swan. I am a big fan of "hole in the wall" bars.
Let's talk tougher stuff. What's it like being a "ladytender" in Dallas and in general?
Haydee: I have to say I have so much fun when I'm behind the bar. I don't think of the sexual differences that I have with my comrades. If anything it makes for better conversation.
Ivory: Women are often underestimated when we are behind the bar, but I can definitely sling 'em with the best of them. I'm super competitive with the guys because I'm usually the only girl and you definitely have to earn the respect. I want to be the fastest in the service well, most informative and knowledgeable at point (front of the bar), and have a good time doing it. Once you prove that you are not just here for your looks, it's strangely like being part of a brotherhood. Everyone has to go through the "initiation process", but when you're in, you're in.
Crystal: In general, everything is out of reach! I feel like bars are designed for giants sometimes, so stepstools are my friends. In the hospitality industry, there are still more men than women, so you do end up working just a little bit harder to get equal respect. I am seeing the landscape change, particularly in fine dining, where there are starting to be more women in the industry. It's a great trend to watch.
Louise: Much better than being a guy! Being an owner and having a fairly big personality, my experience may be far different than chicks working for someone else.
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Julie: Back when I started there were very few "ladytenders" in Dallas. You really had to work to prove yourself and be faster than the guys. Now its cool seeing all the badass chick bartenders everywhere.
Leann: Although I was one of the few ladies creating recipes when the handcrafted cocktail took off, I always considered myself an equal and was treated as such. I don't think my gender mattered, but from the beginning I have been proud to make this my career.
Tyler: I honestly don't think it is much different than being a man in this industry, maybe even a little easier. It's a lot of fun mixed with a lot of hard work but I really do enjoy it.