Category Archives: Bummer

Flaming cocktail at Dallas’ Highland Village gets two people airlifted to a hospital

Armoury DE
Proceed with caution: Fire and alcohol can be dangerous if not handled with care..

Fancy cocktails aren’t for everyone, especially when there’s fire involved: That’s what a couple — and, quite possibly, a bartender — found out Wednesday afternoon after receiving a fiery drink at Shoal Creek Tavern at The Shops at Highland Village.

As The Dallas Morning News reported, emergency crews were called to the shopping center about 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, where they found a man and woman with major burns on their bodies from the waist up.

Sunset Lounge
Pretty to look at, delightful to hold. But if you don’t douse it, don’t say you weren’t told.

The two had apparently gotten a flaming cocktail at the bar, authorities said, when “an additional ignition took place which caused major burns” to the couple.  A medical helicopter was called to take them to Parkland Memorial Hospital; however, their injuries are non-life-threatening.

No telling what cocktail it might have been, since the bar’s online drink menu lists only beer and wine, but suffice it to say things didn’t go as planned.

Blue Blazer
Pioneering bartender Jerry Thomas mixing the Blue Blazer, in an illustration from his classic 1862 tome. (Wikipedia: Jerry Thomas)

Though increasingly popular, cocktails involving fire date back to the grandfather of mixology himself, Jerry Thomas, who included the famous Blue Blazer in his 1862 Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Drinks. But that blend of Scotch, boiling water and sugar, set afire, is all about the show as the (ideally much-practiced) bartender flamboyantly pours the flaming blue mixture from one vessel to another — and then finally into a cup, dousing the flames before serving.

It’s that last part that tends to get people into trouble. Blue flames look cool, especially in low light. But whether atop tiki drinks or bursting out of flaming party shots, the important thing is to put out the fire before drinking them. You don’t want to eat or drink anything that’s on fire, because, you know, it’s on fire.

“There’s absolutely no safe way to consume a flaming food or beverage,” then-Nassau County Fire Marshall Vince McManus told Inside Edition in a program segment on fire-related alcohol mishaps, including a March 2016 incident in which a woman preparing to drink a flaming shot at a Moscow bar instead had her face set afire as the bartender poured from a bottle. Video captured at parties also shows the disastrous results of people attempting to do the same.

In short: Cocktails may be the hot thing to drink these days, but they should never be on fire when you do.

 

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Bolting Bolsa: Stalwart bartender Kyle Hilla departs for parts north

Bolsa
Seven-year itch? The longtime face of Bolsa’s bar program is headed to NorthPark.

Bartenders are a mobile bunch, so it’s rare that a name becomes as synonymous as a place as Kyle Hilla’s did at Bolsa.

Friday was Hilla’s last day at the Oak Cliff restaurant, marking the end of a seven-year run that saw him rise from server to bartender to manager of Bolsa’s vaunted bar program, among the pioneering establishments of DFW’s craft-cocktail scene.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Hilla said at the end of his busy final night, after the place had pretty much emptied out.

The talented barman is on his way to NorthPark Center, where he’ll be heading up the bar at The Theodore, the new venture from the owners of Bolsa, nearby Bolsa Mercado, Chicken Scratch and The Foundry. In his stead, the gifted Spencer Shelton will be assuming Bolsa’s bar reins.

Like many a bartender, Hilla didn’t set out to pour drinks. Instead, he tired of a retail manager position (“To this day, I’m still the youngest store manager in Dollar General history,” he said) and aimed to head back to school. In the meantime, he figured, he’d be a server. That eventually brought him to Bolsa, where then-bar-managers Eddie “Lucky” Campbell and Dub Davis kept prodding the Boy Wonder to get behind the bar. He resisted – until the night Campbell asked him to help make drinks at an art gallery special event.

“I had the time of my life,” he said. Two days later, he was walking the aisles of a Kroger store with now-wife Jessica and realized he’d been transformed. “Everything I saw in the store, I was like, `Hmm, what can I make a cocktail with?’ “

Hilla embraced the jigger and shaker, and in the ensuing years, as the cocktail scene began to grow, both Davis and Campbell (and Jason Kosmas, who had left New York’s Employees Only to raise a family in Texas) departed for other projects. In 2010, Hilla took over the bar.

He further streamlined the program, making his cheerful, quip-smart presence a Bolsa mainstay, along with attentive service and creative mixology. “People before me laid an amazing foundation,” he said. “I just focused it.”

Campbell and Kosmas had created one of the bar’s best-known features, the weekly cocktail challenge on Wednesdays in which two bartenders would face off, creating cocktails based on a pair of customer-chosen ingredients and let the night’s sales dictate a winner. Those ingredients occasionally verged on the ridiculous, stretching bartenders’ talents and imaginations to extremes – for instance, banana ketchup. “Think about that, buddy,” he nodded with a wry smile. (He made a Bloody Mary.) “There was a time when I hated Wednesdays.”

Others included oysters, black garlic or Pop Rocks. “Pop Rocks were terrible,” he said.

Eventually, Hilla rescheduled the challenges to just the first Wednesday of each month, and his final match – against bartender Marcos Hernandez – took place on September 3. Hilla drew saffron and tangerines, Hernandez got plums and blood orange. It was Hernandez who late last year conceived a drink that paired the bitter Italian liqueur Cynar’s artichoke flavor notes with the smokiness of toasted mesquite chips. But it was Hilla who eventually named it, calling it the Imenta.

“When we first came out with it,” Hernandez said, “it was the Oaky Smoky Arthichoke-y.”

“And that’s why we started requiring drug tests at work,” Hilla cracked.

In his seven years at Bolsa, Hilla has gotten to know a few people. “I know 99 percent of the people who come in here,” he said as the minutes ticked down on Friday night’s last shift, and he hopes some of his regulars follow him to The Theodore, set to open late next month at NorthPark. He told one pair of retiree regulars, “Y’all just need to become mall walkers. I’ll tell you what – I’ll invent a drink called the Mall Walker just for you.”

Moving on and up is the next logical step for Hilla, but it’s hard to see familiar traditions end. Bolsa was among my first cocktail finds when I moved to Dallas five years ago, so for my last Hilla-made drink there, I asked for something bitter/sweet to commemorate the moment. He produced a blend of bourbon and Cynar goodness and made clear that in spite of the change, he and Jessica won’t be forgetting Oak Cliff anytime soon.

“We just closed on a house here,” he said. “I’ll always be a part of this community.”

Private/Social closes its doors

 

Cucumber gimlet, by Rocco Milano
Little did I know this cucumber gimlet would be my last drink at Private/Social.

Sad news, homies: There is one less cocktail oasis in Dallas.

Private/Social apparently marked its last night Saturday, and the place where I enjoyed many a first cocktail experience is apparently no more. The news came in a tweet from chef Najat Kaanache Sunday morning: “Last Night At Private/Social Was The Last service We Closed ready for New Adventures within Food Thanks To My Great Team.”

Rocco Milano, among the best barmen in Dallas, confirmed the closure to me later that morning. The restaurant had struggled to reinvent itself after chef Tiffany Derry’s departure early this year, but with Rocco at the helm, P/S remained one of the more adventurous cocktail spots around: He had spirits on tap (including my beloved Hum botanical spirit, to which Rocco introduced me) soon after the restaurant opened in late 2011; his Fall Into A Glass was my favorite cocktail discovery of 2012; and most recently he’d unveiled a lineup of a half-dozen tap cocktails.

Sitting at the bar, I could always depend on a pleasant experience. It was the kind of place you could share secrets, kindle romance, celebrate birthdays and wind down even as you expanded your cocktail horizons. One mark of a great bar is its consistency, and Milano’s staff — including Matt Medling, Creighton Brown, E.J. Wall and Pro Contreras — was always a well-oiled machine. No doubt they’ll find new stages on which to showcase their craft, but it was always fun to be a guinea pig in Rocco’s lab. On Friday — not realizing it was Private/Social’s penultimate day — a friend and I took in one of his most recent and typically improbable off-menu experiments: A riot of rye whiskey, Cointreau, peach and maraschino liqueurs and Hum botanical spirit (swoon) that he called I’ll Have One Of Those.

Here, Rocco makes that cocktail for another patron: http://youtu.be/a–bWcleAuQ

Rocco Milano: I’ll Have One of Those

I’ll update this post as I learn more.

P/S: Thanks for the memories.