Summer Cocktail Camp Q&A: Dustin Bolin of Texaz Grill

Madison RutherfordSeptember 8, 2023
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Texaz Grill’s lead bartender Dustin Bolin uses the deft drink-making skills he acquired under local mixology luminaries like Richie Moe to concoct creative riffs on classic cocktails. We sat down with the veteran Valley mixologist to discuss sweet and savory cocktails, the subtle greatness of agave spirits and tiki drinks, and what attendees can expect at the final installment of Summer Cocktail Camp at Texaz Grill in North Central Phoenix from 1 to 3 p.m. this Sunday, September 10.

How did you get your start in the beverage industry?
I opened up The Gladly with Richie Moe and Jason Asher. Those guys showed me the ropes. I kind of started backwards. Most people start in a dive bar. I started by making really great cocktails under a really great restaurateur, and kind of just forged my path from there and went wherever opportunity came. I worked with Kevin Binkley, Gio [Osso] and Bernie Kantak. I created Melindas Alley for the Renaissance Hotel [in Downtown Phoenix].

Tell me about the cocktail program at Texaz Grill.
It’s an institution… mainly margaritas. I think my role was just to update a classic, so moving from Cuervo mix margaritas to fresh juices and natural sugar. I’ve been running features from time to time and doing Southern classics like a bramble Sazerac and riffs on margaritas. We also feature sotol cocktails from a Texas distillery called Desert Door. We do a house-infused poblano Bloody Mary. like to take things from my childhood and make them adult-like. I like to take things that are less favorable and make them nice.

What do you have planned for Cocktail Camp this Sunday?
We’re going to be featuring our new fall margarita, which is a riff on street corn: tequila, lime juice, agave and a Tajín rim. We’re going to be using an elote liqueur from Mexico called Mixta and that’s going to replace the triple sec, and it’s going to have a little bit of orange bitters. We’re also going to feature two cocktails that we currently run to show people that you can come get your chicken-fried steak with mounds of gravy, but you can also get a good cocktail. We have a cocktail called Bat City, which is what they call Austin, Texas. It’s Maker’s Mark [bourbon], Alma Tepec, which is a Oaxacan pasilla chile Agricole rum, with sweet vermouth served on a large cube with a Bordeaux cherry. We have the Daisy on the menu, which is sotol with passionfruit purée and lemon juice with a Peychaud’s float. To welcome everybody, I’m going to be doing a Texas Tiki Punch. We do serve sweet tea here, so I kind of wanted to welcome everyone with a Southern classic, so it’s going to be bourbon, orgeat, tea and vermouth.

What’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient? The most overrated?
I think chartreuse is overused. Any of the lesser-known agave family, like sotol, bacanora, raicilla or Agricole rum are some that people don’t use too often.

What is your favorite classic cocktail?
I have a tattoo on my right arm that says, “Mai Tai or Die.” It’s really hard to find a good Mai Tai at your neighborhood restaurant. I always keep a nice bottle of orgeat on hand in case anybody ever orders one. Anytime you mix lime, sugar and spirit, you’re going to have a great day.