Kyle Hilla has a special touch. At the Statler, a recently restored hotel in downtown Dallas, Hilla’s interactive cocktails span the Fine China’s Sino-French Connection, which requires a French press, and Bourbon and Banter’s “most Instagrammable cocktail,” which necessitates the use of a tiny hammer.
While his creations may sound playful, Hilla’s attention to detail is no joke. He’s been recognized as bartender of the year in D Magazine and CultureMap; spent time as a “liquid architect” at the Statler’s Epic Food and Beverage; and now heads up food and beverage at the hotel’s eclectic dining and drinking venues.
No matter the adventure, Hilla is at the helm. Between constructing his next masterpiece and planning his guests’ next stellar experiences, he took the time to tell us about his adverse reaction to the smell of cinnamon, his love for Cynar, and why, despite his high-end dining digs, the place he’d like to spend his final days drinking is the local VFW.
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What’s your desert-island drink?
My desert-island drink would have to be a Queen Park Swizzle. Nothing could be as refreshing and tasty on a desert island than a minty rum cocktail topped with Angostura bitters — will surely help you forget that you are stranded!
What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?
A shot of Goldschlager. To this day I can’t have a cinnamon candle burning at my house without feeling a little sick.
FMK three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan?
F: Margarita. M: Negroni. K: Manhattan.
You’re on death row. What’s your final drink?
My final drink will be bitter shot of Cynar.
You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
The VFW. Simple drinks, good people, and better stories.
What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf?
As previously mentioned, the best bottle I have on my shelf is Cynar. But, if you are looking for something more exclusive, I would say the Hibiki 21 Yr. (it definitely won’t be around much longer). The worst is Fireball — although well liked by many, cinnamon liquors do not bode well for me.
What cocktail will you never order again?
A stirred Last Word. Although the great Máté Hartai will try and convince you this is somehow better than the traditional shaken Last Word, he is wrong and you should stick with your gut.