I have a special connection to this week’s post, in that I worked briefly at the Mansion Restaurant – before I realized that there are only 168 hours in a week, only so many careers I can reasonably pursue, and only so much coffee I can drink before going into shock. When I thought about who I wanted for my next Distinguished Drinkers post, I knew I wanted an individual or individuals that added variety. We’ve got to keep things fresh, right? Last week I had fun interviewing husband-and-wife team Brian and Courtney Luscher. So this week I was looking for another type of team, and that’s when I remembered Luke Mathot and Daniel Rivera from the Mansion. These buds, who moved from Miami a year ago after working at bars and restaurants in The Raleigh Hotel and SLS Hotel, have worked in the food and beverage industry a while, yet they are new to Dallas. So, I wanted to get their personal take on Dallas’ bar scene. What did I learn? The Standard Pour is their modern day Cheers and give yourself extra time when traveling to Love Field Airport.
RH: I think I already know the answer to the first question, but coffee or cocktail for both of you?
RH: Easy enough. So, what was your first impression of Dallas’ nightlife and bar scene coming from Miami?
LM: Well, it’s very different from Miami. Dallas is its own entity. It’s a great scene here. When I got here it was nice because I met people in the industry really quickly. It’s all one big unit here, which is great because in other cities, it is all competition. Here it is a brotherhood or sisterhood.
DR: It’s a great community. Everyone mingles with one another. They visit each other’s bars. It’s great to see the camaraderie.
LM: And from what we’ve heard, it has really grown over the last five years. Whether it is specialty ice or bottled cocktails or using amaro or using bitters, there is a lot of new stuff going on. The scene here is great. It really is. The Tales of the Cocktail just happened down in New Orleans, and there was a crew of bartenders from Dallas down there together.
RH: So, when you came to Dallas where was the first place that really blew your mind?
LM: Two places. The Standard Pour and Smyth. Brian McCullough’s program at The Standard Pour is amazing. They are very inviting and they have a great team! Brian is a great leader, but he has an amazing team there. It’s extremely approachable environment. You can be in a suit or shorts and flip flops. They have a ton of space, both indoors and outdoors. Unfortunately the team at Smyth is broken up, but those guys are all off doing some great stuff.
RH: What was your favorite drink at The Standard Pour?
LM: Well, they are famous for their Moscow Mule, but I love mezcal and amaro. So they made a drink for me with Del Maguey mezcal and amaro. It’s not on the menu, but wow, it was just, “That, I want that all night!” It was a bespoke cocktail. I just said, “So, here is what I like,” and they made it. But their Old Fashioned and Moscow Mule are some of the best.
RH: So, Daniel, where was the first place that stood out to you?
DR: The Standard Pour was definitely the one that stood out to me the most when I first got here. We did a quick tour, but The Standard Pour was one of those locations that just seemed super neat. It was low-key and had a really welcoming feel to it. It reminded me so much of the scene you get in LA, which was awesome. When you come from LA, or anywhere, you miss a little bit of home at points in time. So, it’s very refreshing to go into a place that is so welcoming. It’s a place where you feel like you are at home.
LM: It’s the modern day Cheers!
DR: Yes! That’s exactly what it is. You walk in there and everyone knows each other. The Moscow Mule was my first drink, but I usually like to have my drinks neat. I like Whiskey and Bourbon, of which they have a great selection.
RH: Ok. So what is the most recent place you went to that you liked?
DR: It’s a place I like not as much for the cocktail scene as for the environment. I would say Windmill Lounge. It’s a location where all the bartenders love to gather. It’s a very fun place to go. They generally do everything from neat drinks to beer.
LM: It’s so unassuming. Inside, there are no windows. The only daylight that shines through is a cutout of a windmill, which is on the door, but they also have a patio.
RH: Wait, where is this?
LM: Ok, so next time you have to pick someone up from Love Field don’t wait in that little cell-phone area. Go half and hour early, stop at Windmill Lounge, get a drink and wait there.
DR: Charlie is the owner there and he is usually behind the bar, and he’s awesome. He’s one of those guys that everyone knows. You’ll see Matt McCallister, Michael Martensen, and sometimes Emily Perkins. You can catch everyone there hanging out past midnight. It’s the after-hours spot.
RH: Cool! Next question, favorite drink at the Mansion Bar?
DR: G&T hands down.
RH: I’ve heard it’s great. What makes it so good?
LM: Many components. So, we make our own tonic. We order our own cinchona bark. We make the tonic here with different spices and the cinchona. It’s this cloudy brown, sweet bitter syrup that, when mixed with club soda, becomes this tonic water. We also use an amazing gin, Fords Gin, from the 86 Co. So you’ve got great gin, our house made tonic, and we put a little grapefruit zest and a kaffir lime leaf. We use special glassware for it, and we use our own ice diamond, the Mansion diamond, which you can only get here. It is a very unique drink. It was developed by Danny Caffall. It has been evolving and is now in its final stage. So when it gets sent out, it looks like a beautiful G&T because it’s clear, and then we have our tonic in a little bottle and we transform it in front of you.
DR: It’s definitely one of those drinks that will turn you into a fan of gin, if you aren’t already.
RH: Huh. That’s so interesting because I never would have picked a Gin & Tonic as the drink to revolutionize. I really wouldn’t.
DR: It’s because our tonic is so citrusy and the kaffir lime leaf balances it out really well.
RH: Ok. I haven’t asked this question yet, but what is a drink you would never order, ever?
LM: I am not a snob. I will enjoy anything as long as it is well-balanced and executed perfectly. If you only have a one track palate, where is the spice in life?
DR: I would not do a Long Island Iced Tea or a Sex on the Beach. Just never. They aren’t good drinks. They are like those starter drinks that are too fruity and sugary. There is no quality to them. But Michael Martensen, over at Knife, did a twist on his Long Island Ice Tea that was very interesting and will probably make it cool.
(Insiders Tip: Lauren Festa, previously at FT33, began working at the Mansion Bar last week)