The past is alive at The Usual on Magnolia in Fort Worth where the bartenders are slinging sophisticated cocktails from an era gone by.
“Basically what we wanted to do here was join in this movement of resurrecting the techniques and recipes for bartending,” said owner Brad Hensarling.
Hensarling adds you won’t find many places like his.
“We are different from really any other bar in Fort Worth in that bartenders need to know how to taste the spirits appropriately. It’s a technique that is very different from tasting say beer or wine because you’re dealing with a high-proof liquid.”
He and his bartenders use spirits, liqueur and citris to shake up your satisfaction.
“And everybody that we’ve been working with has gone above and beyond to take this craft very seriously,” said Hensarling.
The hipness you’ll find here is often times associated with prohibition, but the roots of The Usual reach further.
“I think we’ve got one cocktail on the menu that was developed during prohibition and it’s kind of funny because the style of drinks that we do gets associated with the prohibition era quite a bit. In reality, during prohibition, all of America’s really good bartenders took off and moved to Europe and you start seeing a lot of American-style bars pop up in Europe around that time,” said Hensarling
According to Hensarling, America invented the cocktail.
“It was one of the first things the world ever viewed as us as doing really well, our first great contribution other than democracy. So, we gave the world the cocktail and the rest of the world was just mystified that we would mix these things together. The rest of world drank beer, straight spirits, and wine and just the thought of was just abhorrent, but it turned out it tasted really good,” said Hensarling.
So an industry was born along with a drinking era unlike any other.
“So, you have this period from the 1860’s with kind of a dead spot in the middle until 1919 when prohibition was enacted and then, really since then, we’ve been in the dark ages and the rest of the world has been moving along and making our cocktails the whole time,” said Hensarling.
Just as important as the drinks they serve is having a comfortable place for customers to sit.
“When we approached this, we wanted to something that was, you know, unique and modern and clean obviously, but we also wanted to pay homage to where we’re located,” said Hensarling.
He wanted a place that would compliment the Fairmount neighborhood the bar sits in.
“The fireplace that stands right behind me that was basically the last vestige of the original house that was built on this site in 1900. Everything else has been redone, but we left that standing as to pay honor to the historic nature of the neighborhood,” said Hensarling.
Even the walls have meaning.
“The kind of ironic thing about the walls is they are covered in American White Oak which is about what 80-percent of the world’s spirits are aged in. This all came from a Mennonite colony up in Missouri, hauled it down here and planned it and cut it all ourself,” said Hensarling.
While the cocktails go quickly, Hensarling is building a business in the hopes that the memories of a centuries old craft won’t.
“I really want to show how what we do is versatile and not just a flash in the pan say like the martini bars were. This is a real craft that is taking on real momentum and we should see a whole lot more of it come around in the coming years,” said Hensarling.
1408 West Magnolia Avenue
Fort Worth, TX