With his roguish looks, a guy like Dallas Mattox stands out against the backdrop of chandeliers and cushy pillows at the W Hotel’s Living Room Bar. Guys like this are nothing but trouble, right? Wrong. If anything, his gruff exterior is a smokescreen; underneath, you’ll find a sensitive guy. Take the brightly colored tattoos that cover his forearms. They are tebori, which means they were put on in a traditional Japanese method using bamboo sticks. They depict the most enduring of Japanese archetypes: koi fish, kiku flowers, and a three-eyed dragon. “In that culture, the koi brings luck,” the husky-throated barman says. “The flowers bring love and serenity, the dragon inspires courage, and of course, the third eye is for enlightenment.” But hey, if his tats don’t convince you, check out any of his soulful cocktails on the bar’s seasonal menu, like the James Alexander (an Old Fashioned made with Grand Marnier and topped with zested orange), or The Grinch, a green eggnoggy treat that tickled our taste buds during the holiday season. Mattox also excels with his infusions; a Thai chili and pineapple infused tequila was so perfectly balanced, we had to stop ourselves from ordering a second one. He’s nimble too— both on his feet and in conversation—proving you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
What life lessons have you learned as a bartender?
Money management. Not knowing exactly how much you’re going to make every week means you have to learn how to budget.
Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.
I’m sober. I don’t drink at all.
But you’re a mixologist. How do you know a drink tastes good?
By the smell.
Who would play you in the movie of your life, and why?
Who’s the guy from that movie Training Day? Ethan Hawke. I used to hear that I looked like Vanilla Ice all the time. I’m glad that finally died down.
What bar smell do you enjoy the most?
The smell of fresh fruit. Cutting your garnishes for the day is the best part of the gig. Opposite of that, the smell of Jagermeister will send me to the hills. It still reminds me of a bad experience.
Tell me about your first day bartending?
To sum it up, I felt like a deer in the headlights. I pretty much blanked out on every thing I’d ever learned. All the stuff I’d studied up on? Completely forgotten.
What’s the worst part of the job?
Getting home at four in the morning. Oh, and wet socks and shoes. (But that’s something that only another bartender would understand.)
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For more info: The Living Room Bar is located inside the W Hotel in downtown, 2440 Victory Park Road, Dallas, Texas; (214) 397-4100.
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