The Cedars Social bartender Trina Nishimura knows an awful pickup line when she hears one. With almost a decade slinging drinks in Dallas, she's had a front row seat to our fabulous booze-fueled etiquette. Splitting her time doing voice-overs for Japanese animated films, Nishimura has helped develop the Dallas craft cocktail movement. I recently caught up with her to chat about favorite drinks, worst pickup lines and what makes a bar special.
Is it OK to order by saying, "Just make me something?" Do you get that a lot? More and more people are asking me to 'Just make them something.' It's totally fine to request, but it denotes a kind of fear and intimidation towards cocktails that worries me. We are after all just making drinks. I would prefer if people would give me clues as to what they are looking for, like "I like gin or spicy or herbaceous or citrus forward."
I would rather make a person one cocktail that is specifically tailored to what they are looking for than make them something that would consider lackluster because it isn't a flavor profile or spirit that they like.
Is chivalry still alive at bars? Do you get many drinks bought for the "girl at the end of the bar" and such? I think that chivalry has a kind of transient and multifaceted quality in most places in society, including bars. I think it can be as simple as allowing a lady a seat. I have seen the same guy offer one lady a seat and within the same evening refuse to budge for another. Personally, I don't care if a bar is full of chivalrous individuals. I prefer that it be full of considerate and polite people that simply say "please" and "thank you" and maintain a sense of decorum.
What's the best way to cut someone off after they've had a few too many? Ask their friends to take care of it. No one wants to be cut off, but I find it's easier if your pals suggest a swift departure. The last thing a huge professional athlete wants to hear when surrounded by a group is, "You're done, bro." Much less from a 5-foot-5-inche, 115 pound girl.
What makes a bar a special place? The people, from the bartenders to the regulars and everyone in between. Any bar can have a great concept, location, menu or pricing, but if the people in the building are jerks or pretentious or mean then everything else that could be considered "special' about a place gets thrown out the window.
What's the coolest bar you've ever been to? The coolest bar I have ever been to is the Windmill Lounge. Not only because of the amazing talent behind their stick (Charlie and Louise -- the Don and Donna) but also because of the people that frequent there. It is one of the places in this city that bartenders gravitate to like giraffes are drawn to neckties. At any given moment a bartender in this city might send out the call via text or social media and the place will fill with all of us within a matter of hours.
What's the absolute worst thing you've ever had to drink at a bar? I want to be clear and preface with, I did not drink it! I was out in West Texas, in the grand ol' town of Barnhart, with my family, and I had to run into town to pick up some things for my grandmother that she needed for dinner. I took the opportunity to find a dive-y watering hole in the hopes of a beer and a shot. The bottle was popped without incident, but as I was watching the sweet older woman behind the bar pour whiskey into a shot glass a small gooey brown amoebae poured out of the pour spout and into the glass. I drank the beer and accidentally spilled the shot before returning traumatized to the ranch house.
Have you ever created any disasters? Usually.
But, I try to avoid them when I'm behind the stick.
Worst pick up line you've ever heard? "Hey, where do you dance?"
That did not end well.
What's your favorite drink right now? My favorite drinks right now are creations from my Cedars brothers that have left town. I love and miss them both dearly and depending on the day I drink their cocktails when I miss them.
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When I miss Julian Pagan I drink his "Bridge to Nowhere." He created it when I became the Whiskey Guardian for the bourbon Angel's Envy, a time that just happened to coincide with the construction of a particular structure in Dallas. It's a light and approachable cocktail that is great for the spring for bourbon drinkers that want to imbibe in a heavier spirit as the weather heats up.
Bridge To Nowhere By Julian Pagan 1.5 oz.Angel's Envy Bourbon .5 Honey syrup .5 Fresh lemon juice .75 Dolin Rouge 2 Dashes peach bitters Shake all, pour over ice in old fashioned glass. Garnish with orange wheel in the glass.
When I miss Mike Steele I drink his "Tiny's Farewell." Steele is one of those contrary kinda guys that has a dream of opening a Tiki bar one day that will have a huge Hawaiian guy beating on giant blocks of ice in the middle of the room. In order to keep Tiny (the giant guy with the arms that beats ice all night long) in his place, Mike created a stirred Tiki drink that requires no crushed ice, a practice rarely if ever used in the genre.
Tiny's Farewell By Mike Steele 1.5 oz Cana Brava Rum .75 Dolin Dry .5 Domaine de Canton .5 Kronan Sweedish Punsch .5 Pineapple syrup 3 dashes of Bitterman's Tiki Bitters Stir with ice, pour into coupe and garnish with strip of grapefruit peel