Matt Dulaney is one of the most hard-working people in the industry, from working three separate bars to getting his photography career off the ground. The soft-spoken bartender at Bobcat Teddy’s (Monday, Saturday) and Might As Well (Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday), and barback at Houston Watch Co. (Friday), sat down with us and shared with us everything he’s up to.
How long have you been in the industry?
I’ve been a part of the industry for almost 10 years now. Started as a server in a seafood restaurant in New Braunfels, and bounced between server jobs for a couple of years there and a few restaurants in San Antonio. Been bartending since 2011.
How did you get into bartending?
I was the reluctant hospitality industry person; I never saw myself having a career in the industry. What I knew was that waiting tables and bartending were quick and easy ways to make money. I had moved from Austin to Canyon Lake–reason being I had spent eight months unemployed and this was around the time when the job and housing market crashed. I called my dad and told him I wasn’t doing too good, so he came and picked me up, helped me buy a truck, and got me started working in a gas station. I wasn’t making a lot of money and any money that I did make went to maintenance for the truck to keep it running. I was absolutely not okay being in this situation at this point in my life. So I would go out to New Braunfels and hit up bars and restaurants, turning in applications. There was a restaurant that gave me a shot; I worked there for three months before my mom called me, and she was living in San Antonio, and she enticed me with better job opportunities out there. So, I got a job off the Riverwalk at a place called Boudro’s. You could say it’s where I cut my teeth—it was a very busy and popular restaurant, and I had no idea what I was doing.
How would you say you adjusted to the mixology scene?
There was definitely a learning curve. I thought it was going to be a cake walk. I already knew the recipes, so all I had to do was put it into practice, but the mindset behind the bar was very different from anything I was ever used to. I’m a meticulous person; I like to focus on individual things and make sure they are being done perfectly. When creating a craft cocktail you have to have that focus on that drink you’re making, but you have to understand that there’s five other people that need drinks, and there’s this guy waiting to close out, you’re running low on ice, and you have to call out to a barback if you have one. Your mind is always going and trying to think five steps ahead, so that was my learning curve.
What would you say is your specialty cocktail?
The way I was always taught is that the best cocktail that I can make for any one person is the one that they are most desiring at that moment. I think I make a great Old Fashioned, a Last Word, a great Tom Collins, Manhattan, Sazerac, the list can go on and on. But at the end of the day, if someone comes up and asks me what would I recommend, my first question back to them is what do they normally like to drink. Reason being if I make someone an Old Fashioned or some boozy whiskey cocktail and they don’t like whiskey, I have not only wasted their time, but I’ve wasted product, and I put the ball back in their court. My specialty cocktail is the best cocktail I can make for the person sitting across the bar.
What are some of your favorite haunts when off the clock?
Grand Prize. I came from a lot of high-volume bars in the past, and when I get off work I want to go somewhere a little low key, a little quieter, and I’m more of a beer and a shot guy. Here it’s not a pre-requisite to get a cocktail; I can just get a spirit or beer and relax, but I can also have a great cocktail while I’m here. I love everyone over at Johnny’s Gold Brick; I don’t get to go as often as I would like, but usually if I’m in the neighborhood I try to pop in. Also, I’m a big whiskey guy, so Poison Girl is an absolute for me, and Bad News Bar … I have a lot of haunts apparently.
You’re a busy guy; do you have time for a hobby or side hustle?
I have a few hobbies and one side hustle, and as sad as it is to say it took me 31 years to figure it out that you don’t really ever have time to pursue those things … you have to make the time. I’ve taken up gardening at my house because I want to grow things. I love the idea that I can go to my backyard and pick up some carrots and potatoes and cook them. I have a side hustle doing photography, and it’s definitely been a challenge, especially recently as I’ve been trying to pursue it more and more.
The days I’m off I’m home trying to figure out which of my skills are the weakest and improve on them, or edit photos or inquire if anyone has photographic needs. Izakaya has been my greatest resource; they’ve given me some good shots to really start my portfolio. This all has led me to launch my website portfolio and call it Chromatic Revival.
It’s the end of the world: What is your last drink?
My last drink would be a neat pour of Dalmore King Alexander III scotch in a quiet bar with a book to read. As much as I love cocktails, whiskey is my one true love when it comes to the spirits world. Dalmore is a blend of ages and it’s one of the few scotches in the world that I haven’t done very much research of, and I think I’ve actually been avoiding reading into it and makes it what it is. In my entire life, I’ve had it twice, I’ve seen the bottle twice, and the first time I had it, it was a mind blowing, life-changing dream. I’ve always wanted to keep that mystery about it because when you learn about something it takes away from the mystique of the spirit.