10 best bartenders in Dallas really know how to shake things up
Shake it up for the 2022 CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards, our annual celebration shining a light on the city's top culinary talent.
More than 100 food & beverage professionals and institutions have been nominated for an award, voted on by a panel of judges consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts, in categories such as Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year, Bar of the Year, Best New Pizza, Brewery of the Year, Pastry Chef, and Rising Star Chef.
This entry pays tribute to Dallas' top 10 bartenders for 2022, a varied crew who mix drinks and hold court at some of the most popular bars in town.
One will be pronounced the winner at our Tastemaker Awards party on May 12 at Fashion Industry Gallery, emceed by comedian CJ Starr. Attendees get to dine on bites from nominated restaurants and find out who the winners are in all the categories. (Tickets are on sale here.)
Here are our nominees for 2022 Bartender of the Year:
Jessica Brodsky, Will Call
Brodsky learned the ropes of cocktail-making with the legendary Charlie Papaceno at Windmill Lounge, before craft cocktails became a thing. She's been a big presence in the Deep Ellum bar scene, the proverbial girl with the heart of gold, helping to open and manage the short-lived Chicago-themed bar RoPo & Logan and over the years working at institutions such as July Alley, Reno's, the Green Room, and Three Links, where she still makes occasional appearances.
James Slater, Chimichurri Bishop Arts
Slater has worked at some high-profile bars as well as restaurants including IdleRye, Oak, Knife, Spoon, Five Sixty, the Joule, and the Network Bar in Trinity Groves. He has a chill demeanor, but a restless drive lurks within. He's a guy with lots of ideas and has created many noteworthy cocktail menus, including the one at Chimichurri where he also serves as the bar manager.
Kyle Buckelew, The Mitchell
Buckalew boasts a well-rounded perspective thanks to a wide variety of work experiences, from craft cocktail bars to fine-dining restaurants. He's worked at craft cocktail temples such as The Cedars Social back in the early days of cocktail, and also at Las Almas Rotas Mezcaleria, the hipster bar in Expo Park. But he's also worked for chef-driven establishments such as Proof + Pantry, Shinsei, and Montlake Cut — giving him an appreciation and genuine passion for the art of hospitality.
Rocio Ildemaro, Strangeways
Bartenders are a creative bunch and no one exemplifies that better than Ildemaro, the cheerful face behind the bar at Strangeways, which she owns with her brother and mother, where you can find cocktails, good food, and cutting-edge craft beer. Her past lives and side ventures have included shoe designer (she founded an acclaimed line of hand-crafted shoes) and artist, her most recent work being the saucy vegetable-themed wallpaper lining the rest rooms at Encina in Oak Cliff.
Reid Lewis, Atlas
Lewis has worked at big local cocktail destinations such as Standard Pour and Las Almas Rotas, where she helped guide the bar during tough pandemic times. Other notable names on her resume include Billy Can Can, Reveler's Hall, Tower Club, and she's also partnered with Mijenta Tequila, a maker from Jalisco. She's a "get things done" kind of gal and is putting it all to good use at Atlas, the cocktail den with globally inspired food and drink.
Jason Preston Roach, Royal 38
Roach entered the local cocktail scene after relocating to Dallas nearly two years ago, starting out as bar manager at Shoals Sound & Service, before he segued to creative director at the legendary Parliament. He's also worked in Puerto Rico and at bars on Martha's Vineyard. He's currently running the show at Royal 38, and bonus points, he's super stylish, too.
Charlene Bailey, Mike's Gemini Twin
Bailey has toiled for an impressive list of dive bars and Deep Ellum haunts including Single Wide, Double Wide, City Tavern, Club Dada, and Three Links which was nominated for a Tastemaker Award in 2020. She's also worked in Chicago and opened Prime 115, an Americana steakhouse in Waxahachie, in 2020.
Chris Henley, Betty Cocktail
Henley paid her dues working the bar at places such as Bowen House before cocktails became craft, but felt an entrepreneurial tug. For many bartenders, the next step is to work for a liquor company, but instead Henley founded a consulting firm called Betty Cocktail, where she dabbles in everything from corporate events to creating a cocktail menu to executing an entire bar revamp, for clients such as the The Balcones Speakeasy at the new Rangers ballpark and Dahlia on Ross.
Hugo Osorio, La Viuda Negra
Osorio worked for many years for Turn the Tables Hospitality restaurants, starting at Bolsa during its early cocktail heyday, then Theodore at NorthPark Center. He ran Bourbon & Banter, the speakeasy at the Statler Dallas hotel, for a couple years, and also worked at Boulevardier in Oak Cliff. He has a modest, quiet demeanor — until he gets behind the bar and lets his artistry flow.
Libby Flood, Ruins
Flood began her food & beverage career on the food side, working at Italian restaurant Covino's and moonshine palace Mash'd, but using every stop as an opportunity to grow and ascend. As general manager at Ruins, that means not just pouring cocktails, but delving into the history and culture of spirits such as tequila, mezcal, and rum, as well as establishing a sense of community and pride among the staff.