Bar Chef Justin Beam
Craft | Dallas
Justin Beam was born in McKinney, Texas to a Southern Baptist
Minister father and a school teacher mother that met while playing
piano at a revival. The mixologist grew up committed to organized
sports like baseball and football - needless to say, without the
pleasures of alcohol. At 15, to save enough money for a car, he
took his first position in the industry bussing and expoing at a
breakfast-only restaurant near his home.
From bussing tables Beam skipped bartending school
and went on to train with some of the mixology world's greats: Dale
DeGroff, Doug Frost and Steven Olson. Beam worked his way up to
a position as Beverage Director at M Crowd Restaurant Group in Dallas
where he was involved in the day-to-day operations of 24 restaurants
throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Kansas City. Beam was
responsible for the development of the entire beverage program and
able to work with two of the most influential men in the Dallas
restaurant scene, and two of his biggest mentors: owner Michael
"Mico" Rodriguez and Executive Chef Chris Ward.
Beam's cocktail program at Craft and The
Living Room at the W Hotel Dallas is sophisticated and playful,
with drinks that tell their own imaginative story with fresh ingredients
and attention to detail. His Grassy Knoll, a balanced mix of tart
house-made lemonade, Pimm's Cup and grassy vodka, evokes an afternoon
on the cricket lawn on a summery afternoon. In The Waterloo, Beam
uses fresh key lime and blood orange juice to layer the flavor of
tequila and sweetens it with agave nectar to create what he affectionately
nicknames Napolean's Margarita. The drink is chilled by one enormous
ice cube, rather than a multitude of small ones (which means no
immediate watering down), and seasoned with a smoky, salty rim of
volcanic salt and agave.
How were you trained in bartending or mixology?
I didn’t have any formal training but I've been in this business
since I was 15, learning from mentors as I worked my way up. George
Delgado, who was the bar manager at Windows on the World,
was especially influential.
AB: What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail
market? How have trends changed?
JB: Muddling is totally back,
fresh fruit is big, and rum is huge now too. A few years ago it
was all vodka but brown spirits are budding! Things tend to start
in New York and Los Angeles and move inward. One year later, the
trends are popular in Dallas.
AB: What goes in to creating a new cocktail? How long does it take
to create a new cocktail?
JB: It takes imagination, research,
and trying something over and over until you get it right. Then
it’s important to look back at old recipes that worked and
figure out why. The key is balance.
AB:What is your favorite cocktail
to drink? To make?
JB: To drink: single malt scotch,
neat. For my guests I like to try innovative stuff like something
cream-based or rum-based.
AB: What is your favorite mixology resource book and who is the
of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff.
AB: What's your favorite hole-in-the-wall
JB: Ships on Greenville
is a fun, smoky, little place with lots of character - a good beer
and peanuts kind of bar.
AB: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
JB: I worked with Mico Rodriguez,
a big player in the Tex-Mex scene, at Mi Cocina for four
and a half years. He's a really creative guy and a brilliant restaurateur
who's always pushing boundaries.
AB: If you weren’t a mixologist, what would you be doing?
JB: I like teaching a lot,
so I might be a teacher or a high school coach.
AB: What person in history would you most like to go for drinks
JB: Ernest Hemmingway in Florida or Cuba.
AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for
JB: The bottom line of success is happiness. I would like to eventually
own my own place. Not a restaurant empire by any means, just a small
AB: What are some of your
pet peeves in the industry?
JB: I can’t stand lazy
bartenders who use powders or skimp on fresh ingredients! And I'm
not a fan of soda guns.
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