When The Usual opened eight years ago on a then-still-sleepy stretch of Magnolia Avenue, many wondered if Fort Worth was ready for a cocktail lounge of its caliber.
Well, it’s time to raise a glass to toast, as The Usual hosts its eighth anniversary on Monday. The celebration with bring back favorite cocktails from past menus and will feature some familiar faces behind the bar.
The craft-cocktail movement is booming. Cocktail-centric venues have popped up across the city, and most restaurants now offer a few signature libations of their own, just to keep pace. Cocktails even have a mini-festival in their honor, with the second annual Fort Worth Cocktail Week shaking things up back in October.
The Usual was one of the first to the party, spotting that burgeoning trend at just the right time to ride the wave. In fact, around here, The Usual invented that wave. “We were not only the first craft cocktail bar in Fort Worth, but in all of North Texas,” says head bartender Jason Pollard.
Pollard and co-owner Brad Hensarling are constantly honing their craft and are even happy to train their competition. They still occasionally host a free class (once a monthly event) for bar and restaurant employees. “We want to see cocktail culture in Fort Worth rise and continue to improve. It only helps everyone get better,” Pollard says.
They have educated their consumer over the years as well, upping their expectations for craft cocktails as well as superior service, thereby forcing the competition to follow suit. “When we first opened in 2009, we knew it would entail bringing people on this journey with us and we enjoy the chance to engage with and educate our customers.” Pollard says.
Their cocktails have set the standard, with intriguing flavor combinations and unique ingredients, including their own seasonal house-made syrups and spirits infused with fresh herbs.
Along with the classic cocktails section of the menu, The Usual always delights with something you have never tasted before. Take, for instance, The Booker T Flip ($12), which incorporates aged cachaça (a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice), lemon, green onion syrup, maple and a whole egg. Where else are you going to find a creation like that?
Among those famailiar faces behind the bar at Monday’s anniversary celebration will be bartenders who got their start at The Usual and have since taken the lessons learned here on with them to other cities and states.
“It’s really a source of pride for us to launch professionals who have worked here, and watching them get to do great things,” Pollard says. “To have that kind of reach from Fort Worth is incredible.’