Dallas has itself a cocktail festival

The Dallas-Fort Worth drinking scene has come a long way in a short time, still playing catchup with a craft cocktail trend frothing at the nation’s edges for some time. But has it reached a point of critical mass? A group of local enthusiasts hope so.

Here comes Craft Cocktail Week, a four-day drinkstravaganza of cocktail seminars, bartender competitions, tastings, parties and happy hours starting next Thursday at a number of venues anchored by Dallas’ Stoneleigh Hotel and downtown’s Main Street Garden.


Event co-founder Nico Ponce, a longtime area bartender (most recently Standard Pour and The Chesterfield), said he just sensed “a movement — a cocktail movement” inspired by the enthusiasm for the craft he saw in his fellow barmen. “I’m not saying they’re badass national-scale mixologists or that they’re ready to take on the world,” he said, “but … there’s a passion.”

Ponce concocted the event along with Brian McCullough of Standard Pour in Uptown. Both are founding members of the newly formed Dallas chapter of the U.S. Bartenders Guild, which has put its stamp on the event.

Seminars will be led by local luminaries including Private/Social’s Rocco Milano, Lucky Campbell of The Chesterfield and Jason Kosmas of Marquee Grill & Bar.

“Dallas has really started to blossom,” said Kosmas, co-owner of Manhattan’s internationally recognized Employees Only and co-author of “Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined.” So much so, he said, that he and several partners will be launching their new rum and vodka lines at the festival instead of in New York.

Kosmas will give a workshop on cocktail composition, while others will address specific components such as absinthe, gin and bitters. There’s even sessions on throwing your own cocktail party and the link between mixology and astrology. (As an Aquarius, I always appreciate it when a bartender gives me a glass of water along with my drink.)

Saturday’s Main Street Garden Festival will have arts merchants, food trucks, live music and handcrafted drinks as well as a USBG competition with up to 30 geographically far-flung bartenders fashioning cocktails built around one of five spirits.

For tickets or more information, go to http://craftcocktailstx.com/index.php. Part of the proceeds will benefit Young at Heart, a group of young professionals supporting the American Heart Association.

Ponce said he’s hoping to draw anywhere between 500 and 1,000 people each day, but whether the turnout leaves organizers shaken or stirred remains to be seen.

“It’s like opening up a bar,” Ponce says. “You never know what kind of culture you have until you get started…. We’re just seeing what the city takes a hold of.”

— Marc Ramirez

Published 6-8-12

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