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Bartender of the month: Kyle Hilla of Bolsa

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When superstar bartender Eddie “Lucky” Campbell departed Bolsa awhile back, he left some mighty big shoes to fill; but no worries, Kyle Hilla seems to have settled into them nicely. In fact, his Gingersnap Sazerac made our recent list of Top Holiday Drinks. Not bad for someone who’s only been in the game for a little over three years. Oddly enough, Hilla admits he was reluctant to get behind the bar in the first place. “Lucky tried to get me to work with him before he left, but I said no,” the gregarious 27-year old admits. But Campbell wouldn’t give up. “I started helping out with a few private bartending events, and something strange happened—I started liking it. I guess you could say I got ‘bit by the bug.’” Whatever got ahold of him, it’s obvious Hilla holds a deep reverence for the craft of bartending. Sample one of the drinks from Bolsa’s seasonal menu to see the proof; Hilla created them all.

Tell me about one of your more interesting cocktails.
In my first cocktail competition, I placed with a cocktail that was served in a bong. The event was held at a cigar lounge, so I wanted to create a drink that fit the atmosphere. I made tequila Old Fashioned using my own cigar tincture. There was dry ice in the bottom of the bong, and it would come up so you would smell the aroma of the cocktail prior to tasting it. And since, Bolsa likes for us to push the envelope, the best part of it all was going to Puff N Stuff with the owner to get supplies for the competition. (Laughs.) It was pretty surreal.

Who would play you in a movie of your life?
James Franco. My wife says I look like him. When I smile I get his same squinty eyes.

What spirit are you most into right now?
Gran Classico, which is a Swiss aperitif. To me, it’s similar to Campari, but smoother, with a nice bitter finish. We do a play on a drink called the Boulevardíer that we call the Big Cat. It’s named after the late chef Randall Copeland who was a friend of Bolsa’s. It used to be his favorite drink.

What would you say is your best bartending skill?
Looking good in a hipster hat. Also I pull of a pretty good mustache.

What’s your bartending pet peeve?
I’m obsessive about where everything is in my well. It has to be in the same exact same spot in every day. I like to think I could wear a blindfold and still find stuff. Things out of place really annoy me.

Click here for more conversations with great Dallas bartenders!

For more info: Bolsa is located at 614 W. Davis Street, Dallas, Texas, 75208; (214) 367-9367.

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