There’s just no reason to ever sip another mediocre margarita. Or any adult beverage made with icky mixes or artificially flavored ingredients. Not when craft cocktails are coming to the fore, thanks to the likes of bar talents like Eddie “Lucky” Campbell.
Lucky, who made a name by specializing in pre-Prohibition cocktails while at the Mansion on Turtle Creek and then at Bolsa in Dallas, is turning bar patrons at Bailey’s Prime Plus onto the joys of thoughtfully made drinks with artisanal ingredients. With input from creative consultant Mike Martensen, who owns the super cool Cedars Social and will join Lucky in opening a cocktail bar in downtown Dallas very soon, Lucky recently introduced a new brand of cocktail on a smart menu for Baileys in Dallas and at Fort Worths West 7th location.
Trust me, Lucky’s not a bartender like many you’ve met. He’s not texting anyone while on the job, nor looking at a game on TV. He’s way too busy with a list of ingredients that come from the garden, farmers market and another era. He’s what Larousse Gastronomique, considered the world’s leading culinary encyclopedia, describes as an “expert in the art of making cocktails.”
A gang of cocktail fans gathered a few evenings ago to sip what Lucky hatched for the Bailey’s bar. Looking like a dashing gangster (think Guys & Dolls), he chatted with eager tasters as he whipped up 10 new goodies. Sometimes colorful, always garnished with something fresh and more often sweet than not, the drinks are not for the timid – nor those who think a shot of cheap tequila is just fine.
Honestly, when is the last time your bartender made you anything with Flor da Cana, Falernium, Pisco All Spice Dram or St Germaine? And who really knows what those are, anyway? You will, and you’ll appreciate the care with which these elixirs are used, once you’ve tried them.
As someone who loves bourbon, the Buckshot was my personal favorite. Imbued with caramel-colored Makers Mark, this drink took a little tartness from freshly squeezed lime juice and a bit of sweetness from pureed peaches and cane syrup, balanced by Peychaud’s Bitters (one of the way-old-school ingredients) and sizzle from ginger beer.
The ultimate summery drink was the West on 7th, sort of a margarita-mojito hybrid: Muddling cucumber and mint with lime juice, Lucky combined this mixture with Milagro silver tequila, Bitter Truth Celery Bitter and club soda, rimming the glass with black sea salt. Pretty and sweet, the Watermelon Basil Gimlet was a simple mix of vodka with fresh watermelon juice, lime juice and cane syrup with a basil garnish.
Annie Oakley delivered real fruit flavor in the way of white whiskey infused with fresh apricots and mixed with lemon juice, cane syrup, Angostura Bitters and teased with a mint garnish. A bit fussy, the Sloe Gin Fizz combined Bombay gin and Bitter Truth Sloe Gin with frothy egg white, lemon juice, cane syrup and soda.
Crowd pleasers were the Trophy Wife, a mixture of Grey Goose vodka, St. Germaine (a French liqueur made from wild elderflowers from the Alps), white cranberry juice, lime juice and two kinds of bitters – those made with lavender and those with grapefruit; and the Horned Frog, a royal purple grog blending tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, pureed prickly pear and grape soda, with mint sprigs for fragrant decoration.
Sitting in the swanky setting that is Bailey’s bar, the blasted heat of the day seemed like a distant memory. Understanding what a real cocktail should be, I’m pretty sure none of us will like a slushy machine margarita as much in the future.