Great bartenders wear many different hats: amateur therapist, drinking buddy, cocktail expert, and so on. While it may be difficult to quantify which local barkeeps have provided the best shoulder to cry on or have partied the hardest, picking out the best and most innovative drink makers in town is a worthy and venerable pursuit. In becoming the best Dallas bartenders of 2016, these ladies and gentlemen have exceeded our criteria for unforgettable drink menus and top-tier technique.
Black Swan SaloonAddress and Info
Gabe Sanchez of Black Swan Saloon probably won’t admit it, but he’s a huge puzzle piece who helped put Deep Ellum back together after the slump of the 1990s. And he did just that with his unique concoctions and one-of-a-kind cocktails made from infused this and essence of that. With all the seasonal science experiments that he is constantly cooking up, there’s really no way to ever tell what kind of new flavor experiments or strange imported liquor Gabe has up his sleeve. That’s why it's probably best to give him a few clues and then sit back and enjoy whatever he whips up for you.
Twilite LoungeAddress and Info
If you’ve wandered down Elm Street in Deep Ellum late at night and been drawn into Twilite Lounge by the jazz band or the twinkling chandeliers, you have most likely been served a drink by Andrew Thompson. Twilite’s resident lumberjack and cocktail master, Thompson is deliberate and precise with his drinks while also making sure that no one is thirsty for too long. In a bar that is famous for its frozen Irish coffees, Thompson takes a slightly different approach to his handmade cocktails. All we know is that whatever he does with warming the drinking glass in his hands and stirring those ingredients works, because his is the finest Old Fashioned in town.
Industry Alley BarAddress and Info
For years, the undisputed elder statesman of the Dallas cocktail scene has been Charlie Pap. He ran the show at the iconic Maple Ave dive bar Windmill Lounge for almost a decade. But Industry Alley has proven to be not only the house that Charlie built but also a proving ground for new, up-and-coming mixologists who train under the watchful eye of the master. There’s a reason that Charlie is considered “the bartender’s bartender.” Who else is planning entire nights around a theme like Japanese sake?
Single WideAddress and Info
The word “evergreen” comes to mind when talking about Del Perez. After holding it down behind the bar of Ten Bells Tavern and Blackfriar Pub, Perez now treats the thirsty denizens of East Dallas at Single Wide. He can whip you up a made-from-scratch margarita or extra-dirty martini to beat the band. But it’s Perez’s genial nature and welcoming warmth that keeps regulars coming back and visitors likely to become regulars. Don’t be surprised if he remembers your drink and exactly how you like it even after only a few visits.
Ten Bells TavernAddress and Info
If you visit Ten Bells Tavern in Bishop Arts District, you’re likely to be served a drink by a man wearing a death metal shirt and a backwards baseball cap. That man is Patrick Tierney, and his metal-loving exterior hides a great secret: He’s secretly a spirits savant, and has created some of the custom cocktails on the Ten Bells cocktail menu. One of his creations, The Hanover, is named in tribute to his Connecticut roots and features such decidedly non-metal ingredients as Saint-Germain elderflower liqueur, hibiscus vodka, and lemon zest.
Midnight RamblerAddress and Info
Midnight Rambler, housed in the basement of the oh-so-fancy Joule hotel, already has a reputation for being a haven for those who enjoy a cocktail experience. So it only makes sense that Drew Garison, formerly of Eddie “Lucky” Campbell’s Parliament, has hopped behind the bar at this fashionable establishment. Let Drew whip you up a Cutlass Supreme with some demerara rum, Drambuie, curacao, oloroso sherry, Angostura, and assorted spices to warm you up this winter.
Shipping and ReceivingAddress and Info
After working the bar at Fort Worth’s Boiled Owl Tavern, Lola’s Saloon, and The Ginger Man, Michelle Hines is a familiar face in the Fort Worth bartending scene. Now you can find her behind the bar at Fort Worth music venue and generally cool hangout spot Shipping and Receiving. She can talk whiskey or beers with you until you’re blue in the face. She has a dedicated following who seek her and her libations out when in the Tarrant County side of the metroplex.
Lakewood LandingAddress and Info
The Lakewood Landing is the dive bar to end all dive bars and the place where you go when you just want a stiff drink and a good conversation on the front porch. And Lakewood Landing’s Brandy Butler serves both of those up with enthusiasm. No infused mixers or essence of flavors here. Just an honest, heavy-handed cocktail that will soothe what ails you poured by Butler, a bartender who probably knows your name already.
The Lounge HereAddress and Info
The most hotly anticipated bar opening of the year, The Lounge Here has provided a stylish yet comfortable place near White Rock Lake for those looking to kick back and tell a few stories over some drinks to call home. And bartender Brad Bowen likely has the drink to suit the mood, especially if it’s rum you crave. The self-professed “rum guy” has a soft spot for Tiki drinks, but ask him about the Hayflinger, the drink that got him his first ever bartending gig and a personal favorite. It’s dry gin, peche de vigne, ginger, lemon, and bitters, and it will change the mind of even the most fervent gin haters.
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1. Black Swan Saloon2708 Elm St, Dallas
2. Twilite Lounge2640 Elm St, Dallas
3. Industry Alley Bar1713 South Lamar, Dallas
4. Single Wide2110 Greenville Ave, Dallas
5. Ten Bells Tavern232 W 7th St, Dallas
6. Midnight Rambler1530 Main St, Dallas
7. Shipping And Receiving Beergarden201 S Calhoun St, Fort Worth
8. Lakewood Landing5818 Live Oak St, Dallas
9. The Lounge here, Dallas
Located on Elm Street in a dimly lit, brick-lined space with no signage, Black Swan Saloon is the type of unsuspecting cocktail bar where you want to become a regular, because the speakeasy feel doesn't lead to pretension: the bartenders, though incredibly skilled at mixing their house-infused ingredients, are friendly and welcoming, as is the local crowd that chills to the sounds of live music. You'll notice that the bar is like a laboratory of liquor bottles, bowls of fresh fruit, and infusion jars -- let the bartenders perform their experiments and whip you up something unique.
With its leather banquettes, twinkling chandeliers, and classic New Orleans-inspired cocktails, you'll feel as though you've stepped back in time at this retro Deep Ellum lounge -- even when there isn't a Neil Young tribute band playing on the cozy outdoor patio. Whether it's live music or jukebox tunes, upbeat melodies waft in the air at rustic-chic Twilite on Elm St, where a loyal fanbase comes night after night for lively performances and old-school libations, like the House Sazerac (Bullet Rye, Herbsaint, bitters) and French 75 (Hendrick’s, lemon, champagne).
Outfitted with pinball machines, pool tables, an old-school jukebox, and an outdoor patio, this divey hangout is the epitome of laid-back -- it doesn't even offer a cocktail menu, allowing you to pull up a bar stool, bob your head to whatever tune is playing, and order to your heart's content. That doesn't mean the bartenders are slackers, though: Industry Alley has become a launching pad for skilled, up-and-coming mixologists who train under beloved owner Charlie Pap, who plans entire nights around certain themes and drinks like Japanese sake.
The smaller sibling of Dallas' Double Wide is covered in kitsch as only the best dive bars are, sporting plenty of taxidermy and using the drinks of your childhood, such as Tang and Yoohoo, as mixers. No, really: order the fan-favorite Yoohoo Yeehaw that's mixed with Yoohoo, vanilla vodka, and coffee liqueur. It's practically a crime to stop in to this grungy spot and not try one. The bartenders here are as friendly as the crowd that packs this slim, wood-laden space until 2am every night of the week.
A small, casual space with dark wood accents, low-key lighting, and the walls covered with eclectic framed images, Ten Bells has all the charm of a traditional English pub with all the southern goodness of a comfort food-centric menu. The locals favor Ten Bells for their hearty brunch menu, but honestly those short rib cheese fries taste exceptional at any meal—especially late night. Try the Duck Confit Hash or the Smoked Salmon Benedict, but don’t worry they have your traditional country breakfast options like sausage and eggs. They keep you guessing with an ever-changing list of craft cocktails, and host pub trivia on Wednesdays.
Just a few steps from the Joule Hotel lobby hangs a bright neon sign that reads, "COCKTAILS". Go there. Two flights of stairs down, and you’re in cocktail heaven. Chad Solomon and Christy Pope of beverage consulting group Cuffs & Buttons are the masterminds behind the cocktail menu, and it’s nothing short of amazing Try the shared Hogo A-Go-Go punch for four, made with Jamaica rum, lime, West Indian bay leaf falernum, hibiscus, and nutmeg.
Shipping and Receiving is the spot to be if you’re looking to get up close and personal with local musicians. The live music venue and bar has stages set up both indoors and outdoors, meaning you’ll choose your own seating assignment from high-tops and picnic tables. With cool craft beer and a chance to try your hand at shuffleboard, the industrial space is friendly, welcoming, and, above all, laidback. Musicians often stick around after their sets, so if you’re trying to rub shoulders with some of Dallas’s killer artists, make Shipping and Receiving your go-to.
Famous in Dallas for its late charitable, coke-bottle-glasses-wearing bartendress, Lakewood Landing is a dive bar that serves up a killer burger and super-strong drinks. Stop by this authentic gem of a neighborhood spot and dance to tunes on the jukebox while you sip down brew and munch on tasty and reliable bar food. Also of note: this Lower Greenville locale's outdoor seating area.
Lounge Here, a swanky neighborhood lounge, focuses on classic cocktails and shareable plates in an atmosphere actually conducive to conversation. The room is undeniably futuristic with its circular ceiling cutouts, multifaceted lamps that resemble molecule models in your high school chemistry class, and powder blue, swiveling barstools. The smooth curves of the smallish room are seductive and will inspire lingering glances, especially as you and your date share delectable small plates of deviled eggs, pimento cheese, and fried chicken confit that falls gracefully off the bone. Cap the night off with cocktails like Lounge Here’s Old Fashioned and the Sage Bramble.