Your bartender knows pretty much everything about you, because you walk in and think that the world is your oyster and you’re the only one with Problems. Well, your bartender has some stories of their own, and that’s what we’re highlighting with this series. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get to know your bartender.
Name: Leighton Bagley
Title: Bar Manager / Bartender
Bar: Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits
Leighton Bagley, originally from San Antonio, is an Old-School Bartender. If you’re reading that line and Moe from The Simpsons comes to mind, slap that thought of your head. He’s a thinking-man’s bartender. Ask Leighton what drink you should order at Dichotomy, and you’re almost guaranteed to have a few questions lobbed at you: “How was your day?” and “What did you do?” Then Leighton feels prepared enough to make the drink you need, not necessarily the one for which you came in. And you’ll love it.
How does he do it? What type of alcohol alchemist is Leighton Bagley? It comes from a deep knowledge of not just cocktails, but of the history of those cocktails. His mom was a classically trained bartender, and Leighton has picked up on a deep appreciation of the right drink at the right time. He knows his stuff, studies it regularly, trying to find the way They used to do it in the old days. How old are those days? Basically from the founding of the Republic up through Prohibition (1780s-1930s, for those of you who “don’t like history.”) Dichotomy respects the speakeasy era of American history.
"I want to know where did the cocktails come from, what time period, and how did they evolve?” Leighton told us over one of his appropriately-named A Little Slice of Heaven (Plantation 3-Star Rum + Giffard Pineapple + Orange Juice + Vanilla Syrup + Orange Bitters + Topo Chico). What’s more, Dichotomy uses fresh, local ingredients for their drinks.
Want to work for Leighton at Dichotomy? Get ready to spend the first 8-12 months serving as a bar back while you learn the Ropes According To Leighton. Sounds strict, huh? The result is that every bartender at Dichotomy has at least a working knowledge of the years of work Leighton has put into his craft. Take the daiquiri, for instance: three ingredients. Can’t be hard to make a proper daiquiri, right? You’ve probably made them for your friends. But Leighton can tell if you didn’t shake it long enough, messed up the acidity, too much syrup, etc.
There’s a commitment to the craft that you don’t see at your standard TGI Friday’s. Dichotomy intentionally does not have a soda gun - they mix in the proper amount of Topo Chico by hand. They hand-make or sous-vide all of their syrups, so you’re getting Legit Craft with your cocktail. And that’s the takeaway from getting to spend an hour or so with Leighton: what he presents to you on a regular basis are consciously-crafted cocktails.
Did you know that the Blue Blazer (one of his favorite drinks to make) is a forerunner of the Hot Toddy? Leighton does. “It’s an extremely technical drink,” Leighton said, “the process of learning how to make it was very satisfying.” That’s the thing with Leighton, and Dichotomy - the attention to details. He has a library dedicated to studying the details of the history of classic American cocktails.
You want details? Leighton, inspired by the Japanese tradition, has an obsession with ice, and makes his own. I didn’t know that was A Thing until I saw a hand-made cube in a Very Good Whiskey (not its official title) and it is straight-up gorgeous. The puns on the menu are incredible, as well. Ask Leighton about the story behind the Wolverine’s Downfall (it involves Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, and is a great story). And that’s the thing: every patron, every bartender, every cocktail has a story.
Dichotomy is the first craft bar in Waco, and the first Mod Bar in the Great State of Texas. Leighton is a worthy leader of such a wonderful local treasure. Ask him some questions sometime.
Favorite Drink To Make: Blue Blazer
Favorite Drink To Drink: “I treat alcohol like I do food. Usually I’m in the mood for something.”
Hot Take on the classic American film Cocktail: “I loved it at a younger age. Flair Bartending has been around since before Prohibition, and bartenders have always tried to be flashy. It is meant to captivate the guests. I do it a little bit but try to make sure the guest doesn’t have to wait.”
508 Austin Avenue