It’s time to toast the people behind the bar, as part of CultureMap Creators of Taste Award, our annual celebration of Dallas’ best food and drink.
This is the final chapter in our editorial series, where we highlight nominees in categories such as the best bars, the best neighborhood restaurants, the best starred chefs, the best wine programs and the best ghost kitchens.
We’re here now to take our hat off to the 10 best bartenders in town.
The 2021 nominees are a spectacularly diverse group, ranging from newcomers to veterans, plying their trade everywhere from downtown hotel bars to cozy neighborhood lounges.
A panel of judges made up of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local restaurant experts have narrowed the list to 10. A winner will be announced at the Tastemaker Awards night on August 19 at the Fashion Industry Gallery, where we will dine on bites of nominated restaurants while the master of ceremonies CJ Starr reveals the winners. (Buy your tickets here.)
Here are the 10 best bartenders in Dallas:
Ricky Cleva – Alice
The veteran bar player has worked in many famous places in the city including Parliament, Gung Ho, Harlowe MXM, Henry’s Majestic, Trick Pony and Atwater, where he first made his name, winning nod for its creative drinks. He was at the forefront of some creative adventures such as the Defense of Bitter Spirits, which he did in 2018 with the creation from a mini bar to an amari-focused bar. You can now find Aperol Spritz on menus across town.
Jacob Crews – Small victories
Jake is a bit of a prodigy who held all of the front-of-house positions at Ferris Wheeler’s in the Design District and the Uptown Dallas Standard For cocktails temple before heading behind the bar. This versatility is put to good use at Tiny Victories, Oak Cliff’s neighborhood lounge, which operates in a collaborative style, with all the staff doing a little bit of everything: the bar staff not only prepare you a fancy drink, but the delivers to your table, and Crews does so with sympathetic charm.
Maylee Gray – Sky Creek Kitchen and Bar
Gray started young, working at the Saltgrass Steakhouse bar at the age of 18, where she learned how things work in a corporate style environment. She was recruited by the Worthington Renaissance in 2019 to help open Toro Toro, the hotel’s Latin steakhouse and lounge, and began to develop her passion for craftsmanship. In 2020, she joined the team at Sky Creek, the restaurant and bar at the recently opened Delta hotel, where she puts her multitasking skills to good use, balancing mixology and hospitality for hotel guests and locals alike.
George Kaiho – To give up
Kaiho is a returning candidate (he was nominated in 2017), and it’s not much of a surprise. Widely regarded as one of Dallas’ top bartenders, he exhibits discreet diligence and attention to detail evident in practices such as hand-cutting his own ice cubes as he prefers results. ” handmade “. He’s presided over the Jettison Bar, the intimate bar at the Sylvan Thirty Resort in Oak Cliff, since it opened in 2016, where cutting-edge events such as the Omakase Cocktail, featuring seasonal cocktails, are part of the course.
Perla Lozano – Barcadie
Like many bartenders, Lozano was thrown somewhat into the world of mixology, but enjoyed a happy series of steps that gave her a well-rounded outlook. Working at Seasons 52 offered exposure to wine programs. Public 972 was a crash course in craft beer. And she embraced craft cocktails while working at Ida Claire. In her ordinary life, Lozano admits to being an introvert, so being a bartender gives her some freedom to operate outside of her usual comfort zone.
Adam Mercado – Billy can can
Mercado is part of an excellent team of bartenders at Billy Can Can, the chic and trendy bar and restaurant in Victory Park, with Mario Huerta and Jimmy Yee. He also runs the bar at Hudson House and previously worked at Del Frisco’s Grille.
Liz Mitchell – Thunderbird Station
Mitchell started at the Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House in East Dallas, where she worked for five years before joining the Double Wide family, the collection of cool bars owned by hospitality genius Kim Finch that also includes Single Wide on Greenville Avenue. Mitchell currently chairs Thunderbird Station, the groovy retro bar and restaurant on the edge of Deep Ellum, where all the food and cocktails are super fun. Mitchell’s approach is to always try to make a personal connection before you pour yourself a drink.
Heather Poile – Salon here
Poile is multi-faceted, with a variety of backgrounds including working at BBBop Seoul Kitchen as well as overseeing the bar at East Dallas’ favorite cocktail bar, Lounge Here.
Hector Santana – Yellow rose
A common stereotype of a bartender is that of the king of cocktails, the flamboyant hero who rules the bar. Santana is the opposite of that. Modest and level-headed, he gets the job done with understated, almost humble precision, even though he has reached such heights as competing in the Margarita Challenge where he came third. Previously he worked for the SBBC Hospitium which has nifty bars such as Tipsy Alchemist.