“Straightforward flavors. Easy. Approachable,” is how Michael Martensen, master barman and co-owner of the newly opened Proof + Pantry in Dallas, Texas, describes the bar’s drink program.
The operation serves classic drinks that are conveniently broken down into no-proof, low-proof and high-proof. “The whole idea was to be simple, straightforward and transparent,” he explains, noting that, surprisingly, these are characteristics that can often get lost in the bar business these days.
The High and Low of It
High-proof drinks include cocktails like Cards on the Table, an agave-based drink, with strawberry, cardamom and black pepper, of which the bar sells 1,300 a week. “High” is right: The cocktail is more than 40-percent alcohol.
Low-proof are drinks that fall between 18 and 25 percent, and showcase liqueurs, fortified wines and the like, including Livin’ in Paradise, made from Rossa fortified wine, dry curaçao and bitter lemon soda. The zero category is just what its name implies: big-flavored, booze-free drinks like the Bermuda, with lime curd, ginger beer and mint.
Singular Vision; Group Effort
The four other bartenders involved in the operation have, with Martensen, an estimated 55 combined years of experience between them, in both local Texas markets and other markets such as Colorado. Martensen himself spent three years as a brand ambassador from Diageo in markets as diverse as Texas and San Francisco, before venturing out on his own.
The united concept behind the bar: “Form a restaurant group that is more bar driven, a focal point being the drinks, but matched with impeccable cuisine,” says Martensen.
Where Look Meets Eats
The décor at Proof + Pantry is industrial rustic, which Martensen adds, the food is supposed to emulate. “Traditional fare, just modernized. Contemporary and clean.” That is fitting for a 1,900-square-foot space that hosts 1980s parties and a Tuesday, Italian grandmother–inspired meatball night.
The unpretentious yet trendy menu is divided into sections: By Land; By Sea; Soil; Sweets & Cheeses; and a section dubbed bulk that offers large-format plates that serve multiple guests. So if you want ribeye for three, you can get meaty. Straight to the point, like so much about Proof + Pantry.
Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about drinks for two decades. She is the principal of the San Francisco–based Liza the Wine Chick consulting firm and regularly contributes to publications such as Wine Business Monthly, DrinkUpNY and the SOMM Journal.