Whatever you were up to Sunday night, it was likely nowhere near as fun as the scene that blazed through The Standard Pour in Uptown, where Santa came early in the form of 50-plus bartenders who rained cocktails upon their imbibing elf minions. Beneath the rapids of glittering tinsel, a DJ dropped beats for the wall-to-wall crowd there to support Cocktails For A Cause, the second annual event benefiting Trigger’s Toys, a Dallas charity serving hospitalized children.
In the wake of The Great Unpleasantness that in recent weeks has thrown two of Dallas’ nationally recognized establishments into uncertainty, this was a much-needed breath of fresh air: The mood was frothier than a Ramos Gin Fizz, and aside from holiday cheer it came from, more than anything, the palpable sense of community that often goes unnoticed beyond the confines of DFW’s mixology circles. Bartenders who’d missed out on last year’s event had clamored to volunteer at this year’s, and the end result was a Holly-Jolly-palooza of rotating craft-cocktail talent. These were the men and women who, as Abacus’ Eddie “Lucky” Campbell would later put it, have changed the way that DFW drinks – among them Campbell himself in his signature fedora; Windmill Lounge’s Charlie Papaceno in a gold smoking jacket; Jason Kosmas of The 86 Co.; and several Santa-fied shakers including Barter’s Rocco Milano and Michael Martensen, formerly of Smyth and The Cedars Social.
Combined with what sponsoring spirit makers had contributed, a whopping $45,000 was raised for the cause. “It’s still overwhelming to me,” said Standard Pour’s Brian McCullough, who co-coordinated the event along with Whiskey Cake’s Sean Conner and Trigger’s Toys founder Bryan Townsend.
Actually, make that causes, plural: During the event, bartender Milano was informed that some of the proceeds would help defray expenses he and his girlfriend have accumulated in care of their months-old baby boy, who has been dealing with medical complications.
“Am I surprised? Yes,” Milano said. “Am I shocked? No. The greatest strength I always felt Dallas’ cocktail community has is a sense of family and unity.”
He was touched to receive such support, he said, despite his absence from the scene in recent months: Even as he made preparations to run the bar program at the just-opened Barter, he and his girlfriend were spending weeks upon weeks living in Ronald McDonald Houses in Fort Worth and Houston, where their son was receiving medical care.
“It’s a tremendous blessing, to be sure,” he said.
Hugs abounded, and then so did drinks and camaraderie; afterward, even as the post-club buzz fluffed up your senses and echoed in your ears, it was clear that something special had gone down.
“Last night might have been one of the best nights of my life,” wrote Townsend of Trigger’s Toys on his Facebook page. “… The overpowering support was just so profound I don’t know if it could ever be measured or explained unless you were there to see it for yourself…. We as a group and as a community did something bigger than ourselves, and it feels amazing.”