Kyle Ford didn’t know what to expect the first time he visited Dallas. The Manhattan-based mixologist is at the forefront of the cocktail revival. Forget your whiskey sour or gin and tonic; we’re talking elaborate creations that emphasize creativity, attention to detail and high quality.
So when he came to Dallas — not particularly known for its, um, innovation — Ford didn’t know if there was anything here worth drinking.
“I came to Dallas the first time a few years ago, and I was really surprised,” he says. “But then I got kind of angry, because it was like ‘Hey, why isn’t this getting talked about more? You should be excited with what’s going on here.’”
“A restaurant can’t be taken seriously anymore if its bar program is subpar,” Ford says.
Currently the mixologist for Cointreau, the French triple sec, Ford makes up one half of Ford Mixology Lab. The other half is his other half, wife Rachel, who is an ambassador for Tanqueray and bartender at New York’s Lani Kai.
Originally from San Francisco, the Fords are doing their part in a cocktail renaissance. Mixology is gaining as much appreciation as the culinary scene.
“We’ve been pushing to have the craft taken seriously,” Ford says. “People are keen on shopping locally and organically, and that’s carrying over to their drinks. A restaurant can’t be taken seriously anymore if its bar program is subpar.”
Part of the bartending revival is coming from the consumer. Drinkers are becoming more educated about what they’re ordering, and they’re not settling for average anymore.
“It keeps bartenders on their toes,” Ford says. “I say bring it on. It’s good because they’re appreciating what they’re consuming and demanding quality drinks.”
Ford aims to educate drinkers in a four-city tour called La Maison Cointreau. Beginning in New York and stopping in Dallas October 22-23 before moving to San Francisco and Los Angeles, La Maison brings with it nearly 160 years of cocktail history.
Ford says Dallas’ overlooked mixology scene deserves some recognition. “Places like the Standard Pour, Village Marquee, Cedars Social and Windmill Lounge are really doing great things.”
Ford and crew are setting up at the Aldredge House in the Swiss Avenue District for a callback to the nascent days of craft cocktails.
“We have these cocktail recipe books with us, some of which are 150 years old,” he says. “We have an original copy of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide which was the original cocktail recipe book. People won’t be able to thumb through it because it’s so old, but we’ve digitized it so people can explore it.”
Beside the ancient tomes, there are books from the ’20s and ’30s, when American bartenders went to Europe during Prohibition.
“In Europe, places like London and Paris, American bartenders started using Cointreau and then brought it back with them,” Ford says. “On this tour, we’re showing people some classic as well as new Cointreau drinks in our ‘cocktail lab.’”
Ford also leads a hands-on, cocktail-making class to teach drinkers how to make certain drinks.
“There are some really complicated drinks you can make with Cointreau,” he says, “but there are also drinks where it’s Cointreau and two other ingredients. It’s a good path to getting into making good drinks.”
A reservation is required, but Cointreau wanted to keep the event free and open to the public so everyone could learn more about cocktail history.
Ford said that after his visits to Dallas, he’s come to appreciate the city’s drinking scene. Besides his appreciation for the margarita (originally made with Cointreau) and its sister, the frozen margarita, which was invented here in Dallas, Ford says Dallas’ overlooked mixology scene deserves some recognition.
“Places like the Standard Pour, Village Marquee, Cedars Social and Windmill Lounge are really doing great things with their drinks,” Ford says. “It’s a pretty young scene, but it’s full of energy, and there’s a spark behind the bar that’s great.”
A reservation is required for La Maison, but Ford says Cointreau wanted to keep the event free and open to the public so that everyone would have the opportunity to learn more about cocktail history.
“I’m excited to come to Dallas,” he says. “The East and West coasts get so much recognition for what’s going with cocktails, but the third coast deserves the spotlight too.”