In the Dallas bar community, bartender Trina Nishimura's reputation precedes her. It's how we found her in the first place. At the end of each bartender of the month interview, we ask our mixologists to point out someone who is deserving of a little extra attention. When three bartenders in a row say, 'Trina Nishimura of The Cedars Social,' you listen. We're glad we did. Trina's sparkling personality is a refreshing change of pace in the male-dominated bar industry. Her signature drink at cedar social is called I Do What I Want. "The boys told me I couldn't make a drink with balsamic vinegar, and so I did," the vivacious hellcat says. "It's Ketel One vodka, strawberries, balsamic vinegar, egg white, pepper, lemon and honey. It has little hearts on it and it's delicious."
But creative cocktail-making isn't all she's capable of; Trina is a dynamo in many other ways. She's a part time voice actor for Dallas based FUNimation Entertainment and a "whiskey guardian" for Angel's Envy bourbon, where she conducts seminars and training sessions to get the word out about the brand. Any spare time is spent fund raising; a recent charity event for breast cancer research raised $10,000 in four hours. "I'm good at raising money," Trina says. "Maybe it has something to do with my Napolean complex; being small makes me naturally loud and bossy." Whatever the case, Trina's personality, a blend of quirky fun and uniqueness, is surely one of the reasons why The Cedars Social is known as such a great Dallas cocktail bar.
What's your title at The Cedars Social?
Well, you could call me a bartender. But I prefer the terms ninja assassin, liquid ninja, or cocktologist.
What would you say is your best bartending skill?
My people skills. I'm especially good at disarming people, which sounds manipulative, but I don't mean it to be. In public, people have a pretext about them, it's like a wall, and I try to a knock down it down with a joke or a drink.
What skill still gives you trouble?
I'm not great at holding my tongue and letting bad things happen. Like if there's a couple at the bar and they are not getting along I'll want to step in and intervene. The last bar fight I was in, this dude hit this chick. The only move I know is a chokehold so I jumped on his back and started choking him. It wasn't until the guy was hitting me against the wall to get me off that I thought 'this is a bad idea'. Then the security guy came in and was 'like what are you doing?' I know, it was stupid, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Hmmm. A Muppet, maybe, but not one that already exists. And I wouldn't want it to be a Muppet that looks like a person, either. I would want it to look like an animal— like a dragon, maybe—or some kind of monster. One with spikes, and spots. A spotted, spiky, monster Muppet.
Tell me about your first day bartending?
I got all of the tabs in a party of 20 completely mixed up. It was awful; they were all the boss's friends. When they asked for their tabs, I got them all mixed up, so I just ended up running out of the bar. I was outside crying, when the manager came out with a pack of cigarettes. She gave me some valuable insight. She said, 'No matter what happens in your life, when you're behind the bar it's the best day of your life.' What she meant was: it’s a show, and you get through it the best you can. If you have to, you run outside and have a meltdown for five minutes and then get back to your work.
Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.
I love city life, but I am most calm in West Texas. I'm from Amarillo and that's what I like the most—being surrounded by dirt. Dallas is great, I love the access of the city and being able to get whatever you want at any given moment, but I like being out in the middle of nowhere more, where everything is closed at 9 p.m. and its' just an island of flatness surrounded by miles and miles of dirt.
For more info: The Cedars Social is located at 1326 S. Lamar Street, Dallas, Texas 75215; (214) 928-7700.