Interview with Chef Justin Beam of Craft - Dallas

May, 2007

Antoinette Bruno: What drew you to restaurants and in particular, to mixology?
Justin Beam: I'm one of three boys and our father passed away when I was 12. My mom was suddenly single, and there was some financial hardship running the house. To make some money and save enough for a car, I started doing bussing and expo work at The Original Pancake House.

AB: How were you trained in bartending or mixology?
JB: 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 author?
JB: Craft of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff.

AB: What's your favorite hole-in-the-wall bar?
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 with?
JB: Ernest Hemmingway in Florida or Cuba.

AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for you?
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 intimate place.

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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