It’s no secret that the craft cocktail movement has taken Austin by storm. Walk into just about any eating and drinking establishment – from local chef-driven diners to national chain restaurants – and you’ll find a special cocktail menu filled with drinks that harken back to the Golden Age of imbibing.
Once content with a simple Jack and Coke, or Margarita (made with cloyingly sweet, pre-made, lime mix), we now saddle up to the bar and demand our favorite barmen wow us with “mixology”.
But unlike the days of Prohibition where a combination of shady backalleys, secret door knocks, code words and hand shakes were involved to get a nip, these modern-day saloons are leading the way in the craft cocktail movement using farmers market ingredients, housemade bitters and infused spirits to put a new twist on the classic cocktail.
And while you may not always drink cocktails, when you do, please remember to do so responsibly.
The double-threat Bar Congress/Second Bar + Kitchen is a modern Speakeasy with looks to kill. But don’t let it’s chic downtown address fool you. Just like that sleeve tattoo peeking out past the cuff of your french cuff shirt, these bars show they’re still punks at heart. Lead by veteran Austin bar men Jason Stevens and “Bad Billy” Hanky, these two siblings are THE place to have a cocktail in Austin.
Tucked at the end of hipster paradise on North Loop Avenue, Tigress Pub is the quaint and quirky little sister of the Austin cocktail scene. Frequent guest appearances by some of Texas’ most notable bartenders (Anvil‘s Bobby Huegel, Tipsy Texan David Alan & Joe Eifler, Alamo Drafthouse’s Bill Norris and Bad Dog Bar Craft’s Lara Nixon among them), a smattering of seats and $7 cocktails, Tipsy Tech alum Pam Pritchard, has turned this cozy spot into a thing. Look for an expansion into the space next door coming soon.
You could make a pretty serious case that the bar at Fino was ground zero for cocktails in Austin at one time. Formerly led by Bill Norris (now National Beverage Director for Alamo Drafthouse properties), and currently being manned by Josh Loving, alums from behind the bar of this Mediterranean eatery continue to pop up all over town.
It’s safe to say that without the Tipsy Texans Austin’s cocktail vernacular wouldn’t have expanded much past the Mexican Martini or Margarita. Whether it’s through their ongoing cocktail program consulting business, the Tipsy Tech cocktail education series or various cocktail events they host throughout the year (I’m partial to the Derby Day party at Rain Lily Farm), David Alan, along with his partner Joe Eifler, continue to exemplify the best of what craft cocktails has to offer. Seek them out.
Other notable Austin cocktail programs:
East Side Showroom (http://eastsideshowroom.com/)
The Carrillon (http://www.thecarillonrestaurant.com/)
Malverde/La Condesa (http://malverdeaustin.com/)
Volstead Lounge (https://www.facebook.com/volsteadlounge)
drink.well. American Pub (http://drinkwellaustin.com/)
Midnight Cowboy (3/9) & 400 Rabbits (3/22)
Former Fino and Haddington’s barman Bill Norris, arguably the city’s (nay Texas’) best bartender and the National Beverage Director for Alamo Drafthouse, just announced the opening of what might become Austin’s next cocktail destination, Midnight Cowboy; along with mezcal/tequila cocktail bar 400 Rabbits.
So Austin – what’s your favorite place to grab a cocktail?