Here’s some Halloween weekend activity that won’t have you saying Boo.
Monday’s event at Victor Tangos is the highlight, and the costume party/cocktail fest doubles as a charity effort, with proceeds benefiting Dallas CASA, an agency that helps abused and neglected children find safe and permanent homes.
The longtime Knox-Henderson craft-cocktail den is teaming up with Brian Floyd of The Barman’s Fund, a national organization of bartenders who hold monthly events to benefit worthwhile causes and donate their night’s tips to the proceeds.
The Victor Tangos party features an all-star cast of Dallas bar industry pioneers, including five members of the original teams at milestone craft-cocktail joints Bar Smyth and/or The Cedars Social, both of which earned national acclaim: Michael Martensen, Mate Hartai, Josh Hendrix, Julian Pagan and Omar YeeFoon.
Joining them will be Victor Tangos vet Emily Arseneau, Brian McCullough of The Standard Pour, Midnight Rambler’s Zach Smigiel and spirits distributor Kristen Holloway.
The fun gets underway at 7 p.m. with drink specials, with tracks spun by DJ Bryan C and prizes to be awarded for the best, most outlandish and most inappropriate costumes.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, the classic Windmill Lounge on Maple Avenue will hold its annual Halloween bash with drink specials, a midnight costume parade and contest ($100 for first place!) and DJs Chris Rose and Genova providing the beats.
DALLAS – Early last summer, in the private parlor at Sissy’s Southern Kitchen, five weathered books spread out on a vintage trunk – among them Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink (1946), Robert H. Loeb Jr.’s Nip Ahoy! (1954) and Obispo y Monserrate’s Bar La Florida Cocktails (1937). “Please be careful,” said Emily Perkins, regional rep for Collectif 1806, a project of Remy Cointreau USA. “They’re very old.”
With the seeming ubiquity of craft cocktails these days, it’s worth remembering that the scene is less revolution than revival: The practice dates back more than a century, and while there’s plenty to appreciate about craft cocktails – the culinary parallels, a culture of hospitality, their ability to take the edge off a day – one of the things I personally love about them is the history that serves as their base. When you make a proper Old Fashioned or Aviation, in other words, you’re building something that someone made pretty much exactly the same way a hundred years or more before. While the tools, technology and the range and quality of ingredients have all since improved, the drinks that have come and gone have left an enduring canon of classics, and the craft at heart is the very one conducted for decades upon decades.
That’s a notion thoughtful bartenders appreciate, and it’s something that Remy Cointreau, the U.S. branch of the French distiller known for its eponymous orange liqueur, has seized upon in a welcome and opportune way. The company has gradually compiled an archive of 250 vintage cocktail volumes, and for the past year, Dallas has been lucky to be among a small circuit of cities in which books are periodically presented for perusal through Cointreau’s bartender education and support arm, Collectif 1806. (Other cities include Miami, San Francisco, Chicago and New York.)
In addition to Sissy’s, Dallas “book club” events have been held at Barter in Uptown, Meddlesome Moth in the Design District and most recently, Abacus in Knox-Henderson.
The evening hours passed at Sissy’s Southern Kitchen as the select group took turns poring through the quaint and dated pages. Smartphones snapped photos of recipes, illustrations or inspiring prose. “I’m such a sucker for vintage illustrations,” Perkins said. “I love the books with the crazy drawings and the old ads.”
Meanwhile, five rounds of cocktails appeared, one from each book – including the sweet, mild Honeysuckle, from Angostura-Wuppermann’s Professional Mixing Guide (1941); the luscious Ian’s Fizz, from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide (1947); from Bar La Florida Cocktails, the lesser-known classic Brandy Daisy.
“I love old books,” said Julie Brown, who tends bar at nearby Hibiscus. “Trader Vic’s is, like, every bartender’s first book.”
Cocktails at these events naturally showcase the Cointreau line of products, which includes The Botanist gin, Bruichladdich Scotch whisky and Mount Gay rum. In general, original recipes are adhered to as faithfully as possible, though they aren’t necessarily what Perkins would serve to modern palates. “You’d have to tinker,” she said. “Most (of the old drinks) are really tart; they’re not using a lot of sugar. Before the 1940s it was rare and expensive. People didn’t have access to a lot of sugar and ice. They were stronger, boozier drinks.”
Despite the light atmosphere, the books are handled with a level of care that sometimes surprises Perkins, who’d initially been reticent to release the rare volumes, some frail and plastic-sleeved, from her protective embrace. “It was hard to let go of that,” she said. But “when it comes to handling the books, there’s a lot of respect and decorum.”
That’s one reason attendance is limited, to weed out looky-loos in favor of more serious practitioners. You wouldn’t want just anyone getting their paws on Harry Johnson’s classic The New and Improved Bartender’s Manual (1900), for example, or V. B. Lewis’ The Complete Buffet Guide (1903). Some of the lucky few even receive access to Cointreau’s online archives. “A lot of these are what people call proprietary secrets,” Perkins says. “It’s supposed to be a tool for bartenders who really care. It’s Holy-Grail-type stuff.”
Those at Sissy’s included Matt Orth of LARK at the Park, Parliament’s Stephen Halpin, Lauren Festa of The Rosewood Mansion at Turtle Creek and High West brand ambassador Chris Furtado. There was also Parliament’s Daniel Charlie Ferrin, who was proud to already be in possession of Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide. “I bought it for $12 on Amazon,” he said. “Except the dust jacket is in pristine condition. It’s literally sitting in my car right now.”
In addition to the recipes, “I love the cartoons,” Ferrin said. He picked up the book and flipped open the cover to show an illustration of a bartender pouring liquid from one mixing glass into another. “In fact,” he said, “my next tattoo is going to be based on this one – except it’ll be a monkey, with a fez and a unicycle.”
The recipes are often preceded by wry insights or anecdotes. Introducing the rum-based Pikaki, the renowned Trader Vic wrote in his Book of Food and Drink (1946): “I’d save this one for my visiting great-aunt who, when approached as to her idea of a little before-dinner stimulant, shakes her finger at you reprovingly, ‘Well, just one.’ She’ll probably weaken and have two and go into dinner with her transformation askew.”
The books also recall a time of unabashedly flowery prose and titles – for instance, Charles H. Baker Jr.’s The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 1 (Being An Exotic Cookery Book, or Around the World with Knife, Fork and Spoon).
So taken was I with the simple but noble sentiments of the finely distilled introduction to the Book of Food and Drink – which in 1946, was priced at $3.95 – that I tracked down my own copy of the book for my home stash. It reads: “Dedicated to those merry souls who make eating and drinking a pleasure; who achieve contentedness long before capacity; and who, whenever they drink, prove able to carry it, enjoy it, and remain gentlemen.”
“It’s dedicated to us,” Perkins said. “People who love to indulge in finer things – but it says never go overboard, treat people with respect. It’s idealistic and sweet.”
For this group, the books are more than novelty: They’re passed-down knowledge and perspective and a reminder that those who practice the craft today are part of something much bigger than themselves.
The mysterious man rode in from the West, and before long the townsfolk would be looking to him to save their wretched lives. But that’s what happens when you’re packing whiskey, and Chris Furtado, Texas state manager for Utah-based High West Distillery, rose to the occasion.
On Monday, Furtado pardnered up with Dallas’ Windmill Lounge to present Spaghetti + Western Night, a “pasta and pistols” event they hope to make a regular occurrence. For $10 – barely a fistful of dollars, let’s face it – you’ll score a plate of pasta and an accompanying High West spirit-based cocktail to go along with the night’s chosen Western flick.
This week’s inaugural outing featured “High Plains Drifter,” the 1973 Clint Eastwood classic with dialogue like the above and a frontierswoman disparaging Eastwood’s character with the line: “From a distance you’d almost pass for a man.” The hearty, homey pasta was bowtie, the cocktail a theme-conscious, bitter and refreshing “Sergio” made with High West’s Double Rye whiskey, Ramazotti amaro and sparkling cider. The Windmill’s Charlie Papaceno even wore an apron. “This is a real Texas pasta because it’s got beans in it,” he said in his best Lee Van Cleef scowl.
If you want to ride in and hitch your horse for the next showing, “The Outlaw Josey Wales (another Eastwood vehicle) will hit the screen at 8 p.m. Monday, May 5. You might even run into a few of your favorite bartenders.
WINDMILL LOUNGE, 5320 Maple Ave., Dallas. 214-443-7818.
So. You’ve been looking to unleash your inner Bonnie or Clyde. Minus the bank robberies, and especially minus the fatal ambush. Really, it’s about the threads. And the giggle juice.
Well, now’s your chance, pal: History With a Twist is returning to Dallas Heritage Village on April 26. Be a wisehead and get over there.
The second annual event celebrates classic American cocktails and the style of the Prohibition Era. Vintage early 20th-century fashion is encouraged, so break out your jazz suits, your cloche hats and your fedoras, and take a stroll down the village’s throwback Main Street while tipping a few fancydranks from big-cheese bartenders Michael Martensen and Brian McCullough.
Hors d’oeuvres will be on hand, as will tunes from the Singapore Slingers, a small orchestra specializing in pre-swing American dance music. I’ve never heard them, but they sound swell. Also expect a silent auction, photo booth and vintage car show.
Tickets – available here – are $75 or $125 a couple, with proceeds benefiting the village’s historical education activities. The event runs from 7 to 11 p.m. It’s going to be hotsy-totsy.
DALLAS HERITAGE VILLAGE, 1515 S. Harwood, Dallas. 214-421-5141.
The craft-cocktail revival is in full swing, with its attention to classic recipes, seasonal ingredients and fresh-squeezed juices. If there’s one man you could credit for relaunching the mixology movement, it’s Dale DeGroff, who presided over New York City’s Rainbow Room starting in the late 1980s.
Tonight, Dallas’ Smyth will honor “King Cocktail” — now author, consultant and founder of New Orleans’ Museum of the American Cocktail — by recreating one of his original Rainbow Room menus for the evening. From the Derby cocktail to the Orange Breeze, you’ll have a chance to be transported back in time, and if Smyth’s Ryan Sumner has his way, 1980s tunes will be on the playlist will help you get there. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean any Huey Lewis and the News.
Don’t forget to make — and keep — your reservations.
Booze news and adventures in cocktailing, based In Dallas, Texas, USA. By Marc Ramirez, your humble scribe and boulevardier. All content and photos mine unless otherwise indicated. http://typewriterninja.com