Sundown at the Granada is a true revitalization of the once deteriorating Greenville Avenue. Boasting local and seasonal dishes, many vegetarian options and craft beers, it also can be proud of Josh Hendrix. There is something very innocent about Josh Hendrix yet at the same time you feel like you are talking to the reincarnation of Hunter S. Thompson. He has an unyielding child-like passionate for the craft of making great cocktails that makes you feel good about what you are drinking.
This adds up to pride without arrogance and Josh delivers straight-forward well thought out drinks on his menu at Sundown. He is eager to learn and to pass on what he has discovered to others. I shared some drinks with Josh at the Granada and we talked about how he got into the craft of cocktail making. Hopefully this interview will get me a chance to bartend for the band JJ Grey and Mofro who is playing at the Granada on October 26th (yes Josh, I was serious).
How did you get your start in bartending?
The way I started in the hospitality industry was I was a broke kid and needed some money. I chose the most expensive hotel in Atlanta to work for, and that was the InterContinental. Initially I was at the hotel to apply for housekeeping, but that manager was away at lunch. As I was waiting the Food and Beverage manager walked by and asked if I had restaurant experience. I lied and said yes.
They put me on as waiter on the floor and I loved it. From there I wanted to be a bartender. One night they were shorthanded so I was able to get behind the bar, and was taught everything including how to balance flavors.
I later transferred to Baton Rouge, LA, and also worked in New Orleans. Fast forward seven years where I chased my fiancé to Dallas. I worked at the Sheraton and later Eddie V’s in Highland Park. I opened the Sundown, and this is my menu.
Do you think it’s important to have experience when you are hired?
The most important ingredient is personality. Without that you will never make it.
How did you get involved with the Granada?
I was working but needed to pick up more shifts, and I heard about the Granada. I heard they wanted to do a farm-to-table menu, and I have always wanted to create a menu that is a garden in the glass. I like the idea of using fresh herbs and syrups we make right here.
I know you guys are doing a lot of vegetarian on the food menu, how does that play into what you are doing behind the bar?
It plays very well into what we are doing. We source locally starting with our zip code and go from there. A lot of that is us wanting to support the neighborhood and support the city. The way I approach that is I start by using the herbs we grow on site and go from there.
Casey Willis came on a bit after I did and started this great infusion program and has a lot of creative ideas. We challenge other.
In my perspective Greenville Avenue went the way of Deep Ellum, and now is making a major resurgence.
That is right; we are part of that revitalization of Greenville Avenue. The way we become good neighbors is treating people fairly and doing the best job we possibly can do.
You have this great music venue next door. Is there a balance between people that come in regularly and those that are just there for a concert?
From a bartender’s perspective I view it as just another opportunity to educate people as to what we are doing here. Not only is the Granada great, it’s historical and will be there forever. But it is an opportunity. I get to show people what we are doing and why it is great. At the end of the day we want our people to be happy.
There’s been a lot of hype about the cocktail movement, and sort of an elevation of the bar in general. Where are you with all this?
I am grateful for it all. It means that we have better educated guests and I don’t personally have to stick with mainstream ideas. I can get creative behind the bar. So instead of using pre-packaged syrups I can make them in house. There are a lot of bartenders wanting to get inti their chef’s kitchen and play around.
The Dallas restaurant scene is changing and so are its bars, how do you see yourself as part of all this?
Dallas is definitely going in the right direction. I like taking direction from my customers and taking in feedback. I want to give them what they want. I think as long as they are happy I will be relevant.
What are some new cocktails you are doing at Sundown?
One I really like is the Lavender Collins. We grow our own lavender on site,. That along with fresh juices, house-made simple syrup and a premium gin. It’s one of my favorites. We are making some really nice whiskey drinks. The Dallas Formula is one of mine. We use a good Texas bourbon, vermouth, walnut bitters, some Cherry Heering. It’s a good drink.
Name some of your favorite bars in Dallas?
I like going to Standard Pour. Love what Brian McCullough and his crew are doing. If I want a good pint I go to Idle Rich. JW at Tate’s in knocking it out. Of course Lucky at The Chesterfield. There are some great bars in Dallas.
Jason Kosmas has been an influential figure in the crafted cocktail movement over the last decade. He is co-founder of Employees Only in New York City which took the highest honor of “Best Cocktail Bar in the World” in 2011 at Tales of the Cocktail and also co-author of Speakeasy a cocktail book on classic and modern trends. Currently, Kosmas resides in the DFW where has launched his latest venture The 86 Co.which develops bartender driven spirits for the democratization of cocktail making. Traveling the Metroplex, he is constantly meeting talented and charismatic bartenders who’s stories have not been told.