There are worse ways to spend a Tuesday afternoon than hanging with the best bartenders in Dallas. With help from Tequila Herradura, we wrangled our 2016 Tastemaker Award Bartender of the Year nominees for a celebratory cocktail lunch at Madrina, itself a nominee for Best New Restaurant and Chef of the Year (Julio Peraza).
Host was Madrina co-owner and 2014 Bartender of the Year Michael Martensen, who asked 2015 winner Eddie “Lucky” Campbell to help with those duties. Both mixed up cocktails — Martensen’s was called The Drifter, with Herradura Silver, apple cider, blanc vermouth, lime juice, and ginger beer, while Campbell’s contained Herradura Reposado, orgeat syrup, Byrrh quinquina, Angostura bitters, and lime peel — to sip before a seated meal. On the menu was butter lettuce salad, crispy wild mushrooms with poblano cream and housemade tortillas, lechon (pork barbecue) with seasonal vegetables, whole red snapper with Lyonnaise potatoes and beurre blanc, and churros with vanilla cream and spiced chocolate.
In attendance were Christian Armando of the Standard Pour, Danny Caffall of the Mansion Bar, Alex Fletcher of Henry’s Majestic, Drew Garison of Parliament, and Ravinder Singh of Rapscallion. There in spirit were Kyle Hilla of The Theodore, Zach Potts of Remedy, and Benj Pocta of Small Brewpub. In a way, this lunch served as a passing of the torch from Martensen and Campbell to the new guard of standout bartenders, and we heard more than once how much they appreciate the support of their peers.
If you’ve never hung out with seven bartenders at once, let us share a little of the conversation. Campbell loves talking about signs of the Zodiac (he’s a Scorpio) and thinks Fletcher has beautiful eyes (he does). Singh doesn’t mind the commute to Greenville Avenue from his home in Sunnyvale, where he’s lived for about a decade. Peru-born Armando once accepted a $300 dare to eat six wings doused in ghost pepper sauce and was sick for about two weeks after that, despite his tolerance for spicy foods.
Caffall talked about how he started bartending as a way to make money while he was ramping up a real estate career and decided to stick with it. Garison reminisced about his days as a barista, before he transferred his obsession from coffee to cocktails.
Collectively they were impressed by Herradura’s Directo, a small-batch, non-barrel-aged, 110-proof tequila, which the brand recently reintroduced. High proof gives it a more intense flavor of herbs, yet it still drinks smooth.
These Bartender of the Year nominees will concoct tequila cocktails at the upcoming Tastemaker Awards celebration on May 19 at Hall of State. You can buy tickets online and learn more about the program here.