When I go out for dinner I want to go someplace where the chef is willing to explore interesting pairings of quality ingredients and serve them with an artistic flair. If I want a basic steak, I can do that at home. We’ve come to expect creativity and excellence in fine dining. The same thing is true with swank drinks.
Austin has a thirst for good drink and fortunately has several excellent places to quench that thirst. Garrett Mikell, a local celeb in the mixologist world, recently opened a cozy boozing den called Townhouse, located on 5th near the intersection of Lavaca. When I first walked in, I instantly relaxed as if they pumped in vaporized Xanax. The chill lighting, exposed brick, high ceilings with pressed tin panels, rich wood bar back scaling to the ceiling accessed with a library ladder, intimate groupings of mismatched couches and chairs on Oriental rugs said, “you look like you could use a damned fine drink.” Yes, yes I could. Add to that a delightful greeting from our gorgeous server, Jennifer, and I was on the verge of bliss.
Jennifer gave me a run-down of the über creative and witty drink menu featuring house-made infused whisky, vodka, rum and gin. Garrett flexed his ingenious cocktail brain to bring us a twist on the mint julep, “Kentucky Derby’s Bitch,” an internet meme in the making, “OMG LOL WTF” and the love-child of a Manhattan and a margarita, “Pancho Villa Manhattan.”
Flummoxed. There were way too many fantastic choices for me, so I turned over the keys to Jennifer, Garrett and bartenders John and Anoop to select drinks for me. Here is what I had.
This is a sexy twist on the bubbly French 77 with pink peppercorn infused Right gin, lemon simple syrup, champagne and a mist of atomized crème de violet that they spray over the drink to transform it into brilliance. The crème de violet actually changes the color of the drink right before your eyes.
|Look||Classic Martini glass filled with a lilac slurpy with a haze of fine froth, garnished with a lemon twist.|
|Smell||Sassy French lass blowing bubbles with violet gum.|
|Taste||It came on with bomb-pop sweetness without being syrupy. The bubbly tickled away the sweet letting it ease into a fruit finish that completely obscured any hint of a bitter bite of juniper.|
Freshershest (slurred like a drunk saying Exorcist)
A theatrical presentation starting off with a pineapple dusted with sugar and torched for caramelized deliciousness, then muddled and mixed with scarlet Ibis blended Trinidad rum, lime tincture and soda.
|Look||Jolly Rancher lemon yellow smiled up at me, asking to be drunk.|
|Smell||Coy citrus beckoned me in for a closer sniff.|
|Taste||Hawaiian hula dancer swaying her hips before I put it to my lips. A luau of pineapple without the pig.|
Where is My Stapler?
A hangover breakfast treat if there ever was one. A sophisticated cousin of the bloody Mary with tomato infused Tito’s vodka, black pepper simple, cucumber slices and spears and fresh basil leaves.
|Look||Tall, lean cylinder basil shreds and cucumber slices suspended in hazy plasma. Not a hint of tomato red.|
|Smell||A fresh cup of gazpacho with spicy black pepper.|
|Taste||Slap-its-face fresh with smooth tomato, clean cucumber and minty basil. I wanted another one of these. Sensational.|
Get the blow-torch out again for thyme brûléed clementine orange in this bee’s knees drink with honeycomb infused gin, lemon simple syrup and raw honey and bits of honey comb.
|Look||Autumn brown orange leaves in the lazy afternoon sun.|
|Smell||High tea in Nigella Lawson’s herb garden.|
|Taste||Grand Marnier playing with matches. While good, this is the only drink that wasn’t as balanced as I’d like. The thyme over powered the subtle raw honey.|
My good friend Cotton Candy says that Austin is a town of accidental nights out. There are too many great places to go to stay in at night. When you go out intentionally with the purpose of finding high-caliber cocktails, try Townhouse. Garrett takes his drinks seriously, mixing excellent elements with top-quality liquor. He pays attention to every last detail, including using cold draft cube ice that melts slowly so it doesn’t water down your drink.
Check out this video of John mixing my drinks.