Neighborhood Goods may primarily be a retail venture, but central to the concept from day one has been the requirement for a truly special restaurant / café / bar space, which sits right in the middle of our store. We call it Prim and Proper, and today we’d like to introduce you to Lucky, the curator of our beverage program. It’s no secret that we at Neighborhood Goods are pretty into our cocktails, wines, and beers, and the drinks menu has very much been a collaborative effort, but Lucky is most definitely the sun that our solar system of drinks circles around.
If you’ve visited either of Lucky’s Dallas-based bars, Parliament or The Standard Pour, you’ll know that he’s something of a local hero — but his reputation extends nationwide. Eddie Campbell, as he was born (yes, we had to research it, too), is highly regarded as a real craft cocktail connoisseur. Our founder Matt Alexander met Lucky through Andy Brimecome, who went to school with Matt in the UK but ended up co-founding Parliament with Lucky. “We’d always help out if Matt ever had a cocktail party,” he recalls, “and I said that if he ever did something that had a beverage program, I’d love to help.” Fast forward to today and Neighborhood Goods / Prim and Proper presented the perfect opportunity.
“So much of what we’ve done when designing our drinks is about combining modern flavors with classic techniques,” Lucky explains. “To me, this goes hand-in-hand with what Matt does in his business. This is a beverage program that reflects both of our personalities.” He elaborates by saying that Neighborhood Goods’ focus on boutique brands — i.e. people who are actively involved in the quality of their products — is what he’s aimed to mirror in the beverage program. “We’re treating the bartenders more like sushi chefs,” he says, “treating the garnishes with intricate attention. Squeezing the juices in front of the guests.” That way, he claims, customers can tell that what they’re drinking is something made from love. And Lucky plans on ongoing training for P&P staff for around three months. If you’re a bartender in this part of the world, this is quite the opportunity to work with a legend.
Anyway, let’s dig into this drinks menu a little. Asked if he could pick a couple cocktails that really embody the approach he’s taken, Lucky chooses The Cure and The Prim and Proper Old Fashioned.
“The Cure has global influences, but a little bit of a medicinal quality,” Lucky says, before pausing for thought. “Well, I hesitate to call it medicinal, but it definitely has some health food qualities to it, somewhat related to herbology — but still completely focused on the flavor.” This is a turmeric and shishito pepper-infused gin, with added ginger and Thai basil. “It’s relevant to English culture, as it drinks like a gimlet, but with very ‘now’ flavors,” he explains. “It’s this brilliant yellow, with purple Thai basil leaves. It’s really quite aesthetic.”
The Prim and Proper Old Fashioned is an old fashioned that’s been infused with English tobacco and leather, then barrel aged. Lucky explains that the barrel-aging process “has the effect of sweetening the old fashioned in a very natural way, and it brings out the vanilla notes of the bourbon, which helps round out those flavors of tobacco and leather”.
(Oh boy. Thank goodness we’re conducting this interview at an hour of the day in which it’s socially acceptable to drink.)
Interestingly, Lucky doesn’t drink himself. Curious about how a sober bartender can create such amazing cocktails, we gently put the question to him. “The truth is that designing cocktails, yet not tasting them, can be a handicap,” he admits, “but by focusing your opinion of that drink on what the guest tells you they do or don’t like, you can turn that into a strength. I have no personal bias in the flavor. It’s completely dependent on what other people tell me.” He explains that the other strength comes when training bartenders: “They have no excuse to not be better than me. Everyone I train has the ability to be better than me because they can taste the drink.”
If, at this point, you were thinking that Lucky is purely about cocktails, you’d be mistaken — but don’t worry, you’re not alone. We start discussing the beer list, which represents tried-and-tested favorites like Blue Moon and Shiner Bock through to smaller, local offerings such as Community Beer Co.’s delicious Mosaic IPA, or Real Ale Brewing Co.’s Devil’s Backbone — a Belgian-style tripel — and then Lucky starts on the wine. “Most people don’t know that before I was a bartender, I was a waiter in fine dining restaurants, and from my days as a waiter, I’ve had a tremendous love of wine.” Lucky talks me through the Prim and Proper’s wine list and that love is immediately apparent. Here are some cult wines, highly desired and often hard to get. And this is a man who cares deeply about his selection.
“Honestly, this wine menu is gangster,” he says, perhaps only half-jokingly. “We’re talking about wines like Orin Swift 8 Years in the Desert, which is a new big red blend, coming from the wine maker who made Prisoner. We’ve got Robert Craig Affinity, Stags’ Leap… It’s like one bold name after another. If you can’t find something on this wine list to enjoy, you don’t like wine.” With two champagnes, four whites, and five reds by the glass, and around ten reds and ten whites by the bottle, Lucky says that “we’ve pulled in favors for wines that would usually only be available in the nicest restaurants”.
Of course, we’re of the opinion that Prim and Proper is one of the nicest restaurants. But more on the food side of things later. For now, come down and join us for The Cure, The Prim and Proper Old Fashioned, one of those amazing and rare wines, a local beer, or anything else on our quite frankly impressive (yes, we’re biased) bar menu. We’ll even give you a selected drink for free if you show us that you’ve downloaded the Neighborhood Goods app. (You are reading this on the Neighborhood Goods app, aren’t you?) Cheers!