Of all the categories that earn recognition in CultureMap's annual Tastemaker Awards, bartenders are among the most dynamic. Dallas' mixology scene continues to grow not only in the quality of what we're drinking, but also the sheer numbers: Every restaurant that opens these days includes "craft cocktails" on its must-have list, and the pool of talent has expanded accordingly.
Tending bar is a complex task, requiring a wide range of skills including the ability to perform under pressure. It's also a creative job that allows room for personal expression and a large degree of autonomy. As this list of 10 nominees proves, no two bartenders approach their mission in exactly the same way.
We'll toast the nominees and announce the winners at the Tastemaker Awards party on April 19 from 7-10 pm at Sixty Five Hundred, with tastings of food and drink, amusements, and more. Tickets are on sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Bonton Farms.
Here are our 10 nominees for the 2018 Tastemaker Awards Best Bartender of the Year:
William Broome, Dolce Riviera
Broome joined Dolce Riviera in 2016 as part of the opening team for this Italian restaurant from the Harwood Group. Appropriately, he's delving into classic Italian cocktails like the negroni. Prior to that, he was at Three Sheets Dallas, where he was manager as well as tender of the bar. He also helped open the British Beverage Co. in Uptown Dallas, where he immersed himself in the craft beer movement.
Julie Campbell, Barcadia
Campbell is a veteran bartender who preceded the current bartender revolution and was also a trailblazer at the time as one of the few women in the field. She began her career at 8.0 in the Quadrangle in 1997, then moved to Greenville Avenue, where she was bar manager at cool hipster bars The Cavern and Soul II Soul. She was co-owner of Minc Lounge, in Exposition Park, then opened the phenomenally successful Barcadia with Brooke Humphries. She took a break from Dallas and moved to Austin, where she managed a couple of downtown bars before returning to help expand Barcadia.
Jonathan Michael Garcia, Parliament
A former DJ, Garcia began his bar career at People's Last Stand, the Mockingbird Station lounge that has offered a platform to many bartenders on the rise. In short order, he was participating in competitions and simultaneously creating a beverage catering service. He worked for a few other bars including Independent Bar & Kitchen, before he was hired as beverage director at Jose, the Mexican restaurant hot spot for the Park Cities/Preston Hollow crowd, where he created his first total drinks menu. In January, he joined Parliament, where he's bartender and general manager, and enjoying the privilege of working with Eddie Cambell, the legendary bartender who bought Parliament in 2017.
Trevor Landry, Jalisco Norte
Beverage director for the NL Group, Landry is responsible for all bar operations and for developing and implementing all cocktail menus. He was groomed for high-volume bartending and bar management, has worked at many establishments around Dallas, and won numerous awards. In 2015, he helped build, design, and launch the bar and beverage program at Dish Preston Hollow, and also oversaw the launch of the bar at One Dallas Center in downtown Dallas, specifically for the residents of the building. He created cocktail menus for the Front Room at the Lumen Hotel, and Dakota's Steakhouse.
Izack Lara, Mexican Sugar
Lara is a young phenom who's worked in operations in the front and back of the house. A graduate of the Art Institute of Dallas culinary program, he began working with the Frontburner restaurant group (Whiskey Cake, The Ranch, Ida Claire), where he's worked his way up to the lead bartender position at Mexican Sugar, where he's creating seasonal cocktail menus utilizing refreshing ingredients such as the margarita with smoked pineapple.
Austin Millspaugh, Standard Pour
Millspaugh started his bar career after going to college for architecture, and he still retains an academic zeal for the field, be it books on the art of cocktails or the cookbook from famed restaurant Noma. His entry point was craft beer, which he learned thoroughly while working at Old Monk, the Henderson Avenue pub which was a precursor to the craft beer movement. He transitioned into cocktails while working at Meddlesome Moth, learned technique while consulting at Boulevardier, and became fluent in the relationship between kitchen and bar while beverage director at Smoke, at the Belmont Hotel. He's seen through the transition in ownership at Standard Pour, where he works on making drinks that are classic but memorable.
Angela Montesclaros, Henry's Majestic
In two years, Montesclaros made a meteoric climb from server at Henry's Majestic to tending bar at Atwater Alley and Henry's Majestic. Part of her strength is in her generous crediting of her mentors and her sense of collaboration with coworkers. She's a big fan of fruits and herbs, especially sage, and has hosted cocktail-themed dinners with companies such as Avión Distillery.
Ryan Payne, Tiny Victories
For more than 15 years, Payne has worked the bar at a variety of establishments — from clubby party spots like the Dram and Candleroom, to foodie restaurants like Americano at the Joule Dallas Hotel, and The Porch on Henderson Avenue, where he was on the opening team. He's worked at two significant craft-cocktail bars — Victor Tangos, and Midnight Rambler at the Joule. At Tiny Victories, the new Oak Cliff bar, they aspire to educate by listing the date their cocktails were invented, IE the 1927 boulevardier. There's also an homage called the Victor Tango with tequila, cucumber, and mint.
Fernanda "Cubby" Rossano, High & Tight
Rossano has broad experience at cocktail bars The Standard Pour and HG Sply Co., where she was lead bartender for more than two years, following her early days as a hard-working barback at the resuscitation of Sfuzzi. She also worked at Henry's Majestic, and the Glass Lounge, before gravitating to Deep Ellum, where she worked at Filament, the now-closed restaurant from Matt McCallister. She's found a comfortable home at High & Tight, the quirky Deep Ellum bar, working with 2017 nominee Austin Gurley.
Spencer Shelton, Oddfellows
Shelton stands out in the way he bridges the worlds of food and alcohol, due in no small part to the fact that he's worked almost primarily at small chef-driven restaurants, where he had unfettered access to fresh ingredients and worked directly with chefs on drink menus and flavor profiles. He got his start as bar manager at Restaurant Ava, the Rockwall restaurant owned by chefs Randall Copeland and Nathan Tate, then worked at cocktail havens Standard Pour and Bolsa, where he was submerged into the world of esoteric drink-making. He won the Pisco Sour duel in 2016, and joined Oddfellows in 2017, where he balances creativity with approachability.