These 10 best bartenders in Dallas put the craft in craft cocktails
The 2019 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards is our annual event celebrating the best in local food and drink, where we spotlight chefs, bars, and restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The category of Bartender of the Year honors the stars of Dallas' buzzy mixology scene. They're the ones who put the "craft" in craft cocktails, and Dallas has no shortage of talent behind the bar. Thanks go to our panel of judges, consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts, who narrowed down the list to 10 finalists.
Over the next few weeks, we'll spotlight nominees in every category: from best chefs to the best restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Winners will be announced at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards party on April 25 at Fashion Industry Gallery. We’ll reveal the winners, sip cocktails, and dine on bites provided by the nominees. Tickets are on sale now.
Here are our 10 nominees for the 2019 Tastemaker Awards Best Bartender of the Year:
Chris Unruh - Tiny Victories
There's no tying down this popular man about town. His quest for wisdom and experience is simply too great for one bar. Unruh jokes that he got into bartending by faking knowledge of how to make a margarita, but that says more about his good-natured modesty and witty sense of humor. He's been in Dallas' craft cocktail scene from its early days, working at key spots like People's Last Stand, Henry's Majestic, Midnight Rambler, and Standard Pour. When he talks about what goes into making a daiquiri, it's like watching Picasso paint.
Jesse Powell - Parliament
Jesse Powell is what you might call the total package. There's his finely honed hospitality skills. His thirst for knowledge — he's even staged in kitchens to learn about ingredients. His climb from a humble sports bar in Addison to the heights of mixology at the acclaimed Parliament. His creativity and technical precision, which draws admiration from peers far and wide. His spirit of community, seen in events he's organized, such as bartender bike rides. His sense of fashion, from bolo ties to custom hats. And finally, his personality — the way he simply lights up a room.
Jones Long - Lounge Here
You don't have to watch Jones Long at work for long to catch the quiet determination and intensity with which she approaches her craft. She was part of the team that opened the whiskey-centric Scotch & Sausage, then tended bar at Wolfgang Puck's Five Sixty before diving into the craft cocktail world as a bartender at Bolsa in Oak Cliff and Ruins in Deep Ellum. She joined chic East Dallas bar Lounge Here in 2018, where she's infusing the bar program with creativity and precision.
Jorge Herrera - Up On Knox
After studying at UNT, Herrera began his hospitality career at Gloria's before segueing to Mexican Sugar, the FrontBurner restaurant that has always taken craft cocktails ultra seriously. A quick study, he rose through the ranks, logging tenures at some of Dallas' top drinking spots including Parliament, Bowen House, and The Standard Pour, where he helped turn guest pop-ups at other bars, such as Pacific Cocktail Haven in San Francisco, into charitable endeavors. On the surface, he may seem subdued, but there's a dynamo within.
Justin Payne - Standard Pour
Everyone gives lip service to the fact that hospitality is a large part of what a bartender does, but Justin Payne lives and breathes it. Intuitive and compassionate, he can read people quickly. If you wanna talk, he'll listen. If you're craving something spicy, he's got you. But he can also wax on about the science of removing impurities from ice; he's into the technical side, too. He's worked at some stellar spots including Montlake Cut, Lark on the Park, Sissy's Southern Kitchen & Bar, and Windmill Lounge, and currently splits his time between SP and Parliament.
Kiyoko Kinoshita - Lounge 31
A native of California, Kinoshita came to Texas in pursuit of a better quality of life. She's not shy about pouring it on — at public events, she's been known to pull out extra-long cocktail stirrers to add some showbiz flair — but she's also not afraid of hard work. She's mixed at the Windmill Lounge and CBD Provisions, where she mastered the concept of pairing cocktails with food; and Midnight Rambler, where she was part of an opening team hand-picked by Chad Solomon and Christy Pope.
Rosey Sullivan - Armoury DE
The scooter-riding Sullivan began her journey in Miami, working mostly at hotels such as The Clevelander and The Standard, and loved the lifestyle that comes with hospitality: the hours, variety, and social nature. After moving to Dallas in 2015, she discovered the craft side of bartending, where you are constantly learning and creating new flavors. She's also been a powerful force for networking women in the industry via The Shake Up, an epic bartender competition she organized in which all the players were women.
Sam Gillespie - The Mitchell
With a degree in philosophy, sociology, and economics, and a side gig as a lacrosse coach at Greenhill School, Gillespie's profile is more well-rounded than the typical hospitality pro. He's worked at bars such as Pepper Smash in Plano, The Londoner, and The Mitchell in downtown Dallas, and also runs a consulting company that does training and menu development. Beneath his offhand demeanor, he possesses a wealth of knowledge that he's ever willing to share, and he definitely knows how to make his point.
Scott Jenkins - Hide
Jenkins holds an MFA in drawing and painting from UNT, an MA in drawing and painting from Eastern Illinois University, and a BFA in drawing and painting with a second major in studio art from Illinois State University. Wait, isn't this a bartender list? Jenkins has to be the only bartender in town who quotes Marcel Proust and Bertand Russell. But this is the unique magic going down at Hide, where Jenkins and owner-partner Nick Backlund take an approach that's as intellectual as it is tasty.
Trey Roland - Izkina/Henry's
Roland toiled many years in the hospitality industry before entering the bartending arena three years ago. He helped open Harlowe MXM in 2017, and that was also his entry into the craft scene and his first chance to experiment with flavors. He's seized the opportunity to work at different properties owned by the Bread Winners group, including craft-centric spots such as Henry's Majestic and Atwater, and is also behind the reins at Izkina, the buzzy restaurant at the Deep Ellum Hostel.