We're rolling in with the return of Tastemaker Awards, our annual celebration of the top talent in the Dallas food and drink community. We've culled our nominees, vetted by our expert panel of judges, and we are ready to begin sharing our results.
For our first reveal, we bring you the bartenders — the people who shake things up, literally and figuratively. They're the ones who greet us, size up our beverage desires and then pour us a little dose of fizzy magic.
These are the eight bar wizards who made our list of finalists; from these, one will emerge supreme. We'll announce the winner at our grand tasting event on May 14, 7-10 pm, at the Empire Room in the Dallas Design District.
Eddie "Lucky" Campbell, Parliament
Campbell is the godfather of Dallas' cocktail scene, and we couldn't find a better fellow. A consummate mixologist, he's always the master of his craft and yet always learning new things. He's an enthusiast in his field, generous of spirit, a friend to everyone. And wherever he goes — which right now is Parliament, his cozy bar in the State Thomas area — the best drinks will happen.
Kendyll Clark, Standard Pour
Clark previously worked at Casa Rubia and, before that, Hannah's on the Square, Denton's finest fine-dining restaurant. It's a sign of her chops that she landed at Standard Pour, one of Dallas' most cocktail-savvy spots, co-owned by Brian McCullough, who was a finalist in last year's Tastemaker Awards.
Eddie Eakin, Boulevardier
Eakin has a wide range of restaurant experience, but he became inspired by the beverage aspect after he joined the team at Veritas Wine Room, owned by the same folks who own Boulevardier. He's serious about his studies, including taking the introductory sommelier exam and becoming a beer "cicerone." He also will oversee the program at Rapscallion, the new sibling concept opening on Greenville Avenue.
Mate Hartai, Remedy
Cocktail genius is known not only for his innovative approach to spirits and comprehensive knowledge of craft beer, but also for his obsession with ice: He has started his own ice-making enterprise, called the Cold Standard. Previously at Libertine, Hartai has made waves at Remedy, the Greenville Avenue restaurant whose drink lineup extends from cocktails to house-made carbonated concoctions.
Kyle Hilla, Bolsa
Ruling the bar at Bishop Arts' ultimate restaurant, Hilla is the quintessential hipster bartender, but in all the right ways. He's friendly and approachable. He makes cool and intriguing cocktails. And he's known for his signature hats. But he also follows the restaurant's seasonal mantra with a drinks program that follows the seasons too.
Josh McEachern, Proof + Pantry
Co-founded by famed bar man Michael Martensen, One Arts Plaza restaurant Proof + Pantry already had big cocktail credentials. But McEachern, whose background includes stints at renowned cocktail dens such as Smyth and Cedars Social, has successfully grabbed the baton.
Gabe Sanchez, Black Swan Saloon
Sanchez, who has a degree in food and beverage management from the University of Las Vegas, came to Dallas to open Ghostbar at the W Dallas-Victory Hotel. By 2010, he'd opened Black Swan Saloon, thereby helping to bring cool back to Deep Ellum again. For someone whose drinks are so transformative, his approach is humble, making him one of the most beloved bartenders in Dallas.
Bonnie Wilson, Whiskey Cake
Wilson serves as director of the independent bar program for Front Burner Restaurants, and has been head bartender at Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar for three years. She oversees creative direction for all of Front Burner’s craft bartending programs, including Whiskey Cake, Mexican Sugar, The Ranch at Las Colinas, and Ida Claire, opening in summer 2015.
Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on May 14.