You Really Need to be Drinking Vermouth Right Now

Alessio Vermouth Bianco
Alessio Vermouth Bianco

Why drink vermouth?

Vermouth is a light, refreshing drink that is perfect to sip during summer. It has depth and complexity that make it a delight to drink on its own, and make it an intriguing ingredient in excellent cocktails.

How do I drink vermouth?

Let’s burn down the tired trope that vermouth is only for old ladies, or only a mixer for cocktails. It’s true that vermouth is great in a lot of fantastic classic cocktails like the Negroni (Happy Negroni Week!), the Martini, and the Manhattan, but it is delicious all on its own. It was originally made to serve straight as an apéritif or a digestif. That’s exactly how you should drink it this summer.

Chill it. Pour it. Drink it.

If you want vermouth in a “cocktail” without the fuss, pour it on ice and serve it with an orange twist. Or add a little soda water to it.

Let’s get started. Go into your liquor cabinet and fish out that dusty, half-empty bottle of vermouth and throw it away. Now run out and grab a new bottle of fresh vermouth and make it a go-to drink for the summer.

What is vermouth?

The reason you should throw away a perfectly good bottle of vermouth that is half full is because vermouth is made with wine. You would never drink a glass of wine after leaving an open bottle sitting around for a few months, would you? It loses its flavor and gets oxidized. Vermouth lasts a little bit longer than normal wine, because its fortified with spirits to stabilize it. Once open, keep vermouth in the fridge and it will retain its flavor for about three weeks. Consider buying 350 ml bottles if you don’t want to waste any.

Vermouth gets its distinct flavor because the wine is flavored with the Artemisia herb, aka wormwood, the main flavoring ingredient in absinthe. Each type of vermouth has its own blend of other aromatic herbs in a range of dry to sweet styles.

Which vermouth should I drink?

Vermouth has grown popularity in the U.S. in recent years, making it easier to find high-quality brands at bars, restaurants, and shops. A few good brands to look for include Primitivo Quiles and Yzaguirre from Spain; Dolin and Nouilly Prat from France; and Carpano, Carpano Antica, Cinzano, and Cocchi from Italy.

Alessio Vermouths from Tempus Fugit Spirits

Lately I’ve been diggin’ Alessio Vermouths made in Italy. This family of vermouths from the Tempus Fugit Spirits company are fairly new to Texas, but incredibly easy to find at most wine shops and good bars around the state.

Started in 2001 by Peter Schaff in Europe and John Troia in California, Tempus Fugit Spirits is all about recreating historic recipes for classic spirits and liqueurs. Schaff developed a fondness for absinthe during many visits to Paris for business. After the re-legalization of absinthe in the U.S. in 2007, Schaff and Troia started working on absinthe recipes in Europe. They created Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe and grew the portfolio from it to include Amari, such as Gran Classico Bitter, liqueurs, and the Alessio Vermouths.

Recently the brand ambassador for Tempus Fugit took me on a tour of the company’s vermouth.

Alessio Vermouth Bianco

Alessio Rosita Cocktail
Alessio Rosita Cocktail

 

This sweet white Italian vermouth just landed in Austin in time for summer sipping. It is made with fortified white wine base in a similar style to the original vermouth blanc from Chambéry, France, where Dolin is made, but with a higher thujone levels from the wormwood. Made in Piedmont, Italy, it has lively citrus and grapefruit, sweet spices, mild bitterness and a lovely sweetness on the finish. Kick back with this “Vino di Moda” (fashion wine) chilled in a white wine glass or mixed in classic cocktail. It has 18% ABV and sells for about $23 for a 750 ml.

We had it in a version of the Rosita Cocktail:

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce Alessio Vermouth Bianco
  • 1 ounce Gran Classic Bitter

Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso

Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso
Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso

 

Made with a classic di Torino recipe from the late 19th century, this vermouth is made with Trebbiano wine from the Piedmont region of Italy, and both Grande and Petite Wormwood grown in Piedmont as the main bittering agents, along with more than 25 herbs, roots and spices. Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso is created with an elaborate production method to create extractions of various roots and herbs like cardamom, coriander and cassia cinnamon. It is absolutely delicious on its own with bright citrus, complex herbal flavors, fig, Christmas cake, and a fun balance of sweet and bitter. Enjoy this “Vino di Lusso” (luxury wine) on its own or with a splash of soda. The 17% ABV sells for about $24 for 750 ml.

Alessio Vermouth Chinato

Alessio Vermouth Chinato
Alessio Vermouth Chinato

 

This vermouth is made with the same 19th century recipe, the same wine base, the same 25 other herbs, including Grande and Petite Wormwood, but it differs in that it also has the addition of Cinchona bark. Cinchona is bitter source of quinine, and the same bittering agent that was used in the original Kina Lillet and also in Cocchi Americano. It gives Alessio Vermouth Chinato a super complex flavor with bright lemon, sweet caramelized almonds, chocolate, cola nut, and raisin flavors. It’s great in any cocktail that calls for sweet vermouth. I prefer to sip this vermouth straight with hard cheeses. It’s amazing. The 16.5% ABV vermouth sells for around $25 for a 750 ml.

Alessio Vino Chinato

Alessio Vino Chinato

Vermouth made from red wine is relatively rare, but that is exactly what we have with Alessio Vino Chinato. It is made with Nebbiolo d’Alba grapes grown in the Piedmont region of Italy, Cinchona bark, but no Wormwood. What does it taste like? Think of an amazing Barolo with firm tannin, and bold red and black fruit flavors, and then add a dollop of sweetness, herbal flavors, and bitterness. This is an elegant aperitif sipper before a meal, or as a digestif with a bit of dark chocolate after dinner. It is new to Austin in the past month, so go about and grab a bottle for about $30.

Make vermouth your go to drink this summer.

Disclosure: I was provided with samples for review at no charge.

What are you drinking?

6 drink trends for 2016 from the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

SACC Whiskey Tasting
Whiskey Tasting at #SACC2016

 

The fifth annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) washed into the city on a wave of liquor. This year’s event had 25 percent more attendees than 2015 as well as a jump in the number of booze brands participating. More than 8,700 mixologists, brand representatives, and cocktail enthusiasts drank in information and binged on merriment at dozens of dinners and parties strewn all over town.

Notable industry experts like Houston Eaves of The Esquire Tavern in San Antonio, Jessica Sanders of drink.well. in Austin, and Alba Huerta of Julep in Houston packed hotel ballrooms with bartenders eager to learn tricks of the trade and the hottest trends for 2016. The presenters at SACC certainly have their finger on the pulse of the most important trends in the industry.

As Jason Kosmos, co-owner of The 86 Co. put it, “We are the urban shamans. We deliver the medicine. We deliver the advice.”

What do the cocktail shamans say about the cocktail trends of 2016?

1. Beer is for cocktails

Jacob Grier making a Beer Flip at #SACC2016
Jacob Grier making a Beer Flip at #SACC2016

 

Jacob Grier, author of Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, introduced a few hearty beer cocktails in his session with an academic approach to old-school drinks. In a “don’t try this one at home” moment, he superheated a metal rod to 1,000 degrees with a blowtorch to demonstrate how the earliest versions of flips were made. Rather than being a cold cocktail made with egg whites, historically, flips were made with beer, rum, sugar, and spice, served hot. Grier replicated it with a glowing red rod plunged into a malty beer, sending steam into the air and beer frothing over. The iron quickly heats the beer and caramelizes the sugars immediately. The result? A cocktail that smells like hot iron, tastes like scorched sugar in a smoky beer, and is oddly delightful.

For a safer way to make at home, and a really satisfying warm drink to fortify you against the cold, try his cognac and dark ale cocktail:

  • 2 ounces cognac
  • 12 ounces malty English ale like Samuel Smith Winter Welcome
  • 2 tablespoons Demerara raw sugar

Mix winter spices like clove and cinnamon in the beer and cognac mixture, while heating it on the stove. Serve it piping hot in a mug.

2. Whiskey is still king

Treaty Oak Distilling Whiskey Cruise at #SACC2016
Treaty Oak Distilling Whiskey Cruise at #SACC2016

 

No fewer than five seminars were dedicated to the caramel colored king, whiskey. In addition, there were several parties where whiskey was the featured spirit or heavily dominant. The recent surge in bourbon sales isn’t the only thing driving industry interest. Demand for rye whiskey, scotch, and Japanese whiskey is also running hot, and skyrocketing prices reaching beyond five digits will continue. The diversity of options running from rustic to elegant offer the drinking public plenty to thirst for.

3. Mezcal is the next bourbon
For the past few years, bourbon has been the hottest selling spirit, leaving many popular brands in scarce supply. Now it’s mezcal’s turn to soak in the spotlight. Mezcal was featured in a seminar on its culture, and brands like Montelobos Mezcal, Wahaka Mezcal, and Ilegal Mezcal held events to help bartenders hone their palates on the agave spirit. This is one spirit we are sure to see topping many cocktail lists this year.

Get into the spirit with this twist on the Moscow Mule, the Wahaka Mule:

  • 1.5 ounces Wahaka Mezcal
  • 3 ounces ginger beer

Stir and add a squeeze of lime.

4. Service matters
Dushan Zaric, a driving force behind the infamous Employees Only cocktail bar in New York and co-owner of The 86 Co., thinks the most important element of cocktail culture exists outside the glass. “As we grow as a profession and a craft movement, we are forced to adopt hospitality. In the culinary profession, it’s the better ingredients, the better experience. In cocktails, the quality of our drinks won’t differentiate us anymore. It will be more of the human dynamic that will set us apart. It is all about better service.”

5. Fortified factor
Jessica Sanders, co-owner of Austin’s drink.well. and soon-to-open-cocktail den Backbeat, sees the secondary players taking center stage. “Certainly, base spirits like mezcal and rye whiskey continue to be at the forefront but, above all, what you see is a very focused interest in education around modifier spirits and fortified wines — Madeira, sherry, and herbal liqueurs being particularly prevalent.”

6. Fun dominates

#SACC2016 Cocktail Tasting
#SACC2016 Cocktail Tasting

 

Travis Tober, who recently turned over the reigns as beverage director for Vox Table to become House Spirits Distillery’s national director of education and advocacy, is drawing on his inner Cyndi Lauper. “The biggest trend I saw at SACC this year was ‘fun.’ Gone are the days of speakeasies and rules at the door. The common citizen is hip to cocktails and they want them without pretentiousness. The cocktail scene is starting to relax and enjoy itself. And I for one am relieved.”

If the predictions of the spirit soothsayers of SACC hold true, we are in for a year of beer, dark liquor, and excellent experiences at the bars around Texas.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I was provided a press pass allowing me to attend sessions at no cost.

What are you drinking?

What are you reading on What Are You Drinking in 2015

TexSom Tasting

I’ve been writing about beer, wine, spirits cocktails, and sometimes food on What Are You Drinking for more than five years now. The intent is to share information about great drinks, the stories of the people who make the drinks that we love, and fantastic places to enjoy drinks. In 2015 I wrote 57 new stories for the blog.

I’m always interested to see what people are most interested in reading. This year, among my top 20 most read stories, 11 were about wine or the wine industry, 8 were about cocktails and spirits and 1 was about beer. A little less than half of the stories published on the blog were originally written for another outlet and then reposted here.

It turns out that my two most read stories this year were written in 2013. A comprehensive story about whiskey has lasting interest. The second most read is about Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, which is a crazy popular brand.

WAYD Top stories 2015

 

Here are the top 20 most read stories on What Are You Drinking in 2015 that were written this year:

  1. 8 Texas wineries to explore off the beaten path, JANUARY 22, 2015 (extended version of a CultureMap story)
  2. Cool off with a Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka shandy, MAY 30, 2015
  3. I’m Embarrassed to be Texan, AUGUST 26, 2015
  4. Austin’s Best Bartenders: MARCH 7, 2015 (Austin Man Magazine)
  5. Texas Hill Country lands major event with 2016 Wine Tourism Conference, NOVEMBER 23, 2015
  6. Who gives a crap about wine bloggers?, DECEMBER 21, 2015
  7. Crazy good times at the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival, APRIL 29, 2015
  8. Texas wine takes on the world, APRIL 29, 2015
  9. Win tickets to “The Official Drink of Austin” cocktail competition, FEBRUARY 24, 2015
  10. The 12 best places for happy hour in Central Austin, AUGUST 2, 2015 (Austin Woman Magazine)
  11. Infinite Monkey Theorem winery set to open in funky South Austin space, AUGUST 3, 2015 (extended version of a CultureMap story with added videos)
  12. Screw the New Year’s resolution — Let’s drink Franciacorta, JANUARY 10, 2015
  13. National wine pros will compete in 2015 Somms Under Fire food and wine event, JANUARY 14, 2015
  14. The Intoxicating Experiences of the 2015 TexSom, AUGUST 14, 2015
  15. The Right Wines for Summer Grilling, JUNE 3, 2015 (Wine & Food Foundation Newsletter)
  16. Real Ale Brewing has Extreme Makeover, FEBRUARY 17, 2015
  17. 3 whiskey cocktails guaranteed to keep you warm this winter, FEBRUARY 3, 2015 (CultureMap)
  18. Summery Whisky Cocktails for National Scotch Day, JULY 26, 2015
  19. These 9 Austin bartenders are shaking up the cocktail scene, APRIL 16, 2015 (CultureMap)
  20. Garage wins Official Drink of Austin competition, MARCH 11, 2015 (Austin Woman Magazine)

What were your favorite stories in 2015?

It turns out that not everyone just clicks on my site every week to find out what’s new. Here is where people find me.

WAYD Referals 2015

Not everyone who reads this blog is from the U.S.

WAYD Visitors by Country

Thanks for reading the stories on What Are You Drinking. I welcome your feedback.

Cheers to a Happy 2016!

What Are You Drinking?

The 12 drinks of Christmas: Delicious libations for boozy holiday entertaining

I love the traditions of the holidays. The Trail of Lights, the decadent treats, spending time with family around the Christmas tree, sitting on Santa’s lap, and sometimes even Christmas carols.

But not all Christmas carols. The indomitable repetition of that seemingly endless cumulative carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” is as maddening as it is catchy. It may draw on your nostalgic heartstrings, convincing you to sing along the first time you hear it each season, but after that …

Back in 1982, the Canadian comedy couple Bob and Doug McKenzie created a fantastic parody of the “12 Days of Christmas” that gleefully declares, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, beer.” To honor that sentiment, here are 12 festive drinks to have at home or a party to help you start new holiday traditions.

1. Beer is the right thing to have on the first day of Christmas in a nod to Bob and Doug. A good choice is Rahr & Sons Winter Warmer, a dark English-style ale with dried fruit and chocolate flavors. These guys in Fort Worth know how to make a solid brew. It’s great on its own and pairs incredibly well with gingerbread.

Rahr and Sons Winter Warmer
Rahr and Sons Winter Warmer

 

2. The second day calls for a delicious holiday twist on a classic cocktail, a perfect way to prep your appetite for a big holiday meal. The boozy Cynar Manhattan made with double-proof Cynar 70 is one of the best tasting versions of a Manhattan you’ll ever have. The newly introduced big brother of Cynar has the same balance of bitter and sweet flavors with festive hints of spice and herbs.

Stir the ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Cynar Manhattan
Cynar Manhattan

 

3. The third day deserves a classic wine to celebrate the holidays: a stout cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet is a bear skin rug in front of the fire. To really wow your holiday guests, grab the 2012 Rodney Strong Alexander’s Crown cabernet sauvignon single vineyard, a Sonoma County beauty bursting with the lovely smell of plum and chocolate and powerful blackberry, black cherry, licorice, and dark chocolate flavors with a bit of cedar lingering on the finish. Whether you serve this with a sumptuous beef Wellington or on its own, it’s sure to dazzle for $75.

Alexanders Crown Cabernet Sauvignon
Alexanders Crown Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Another choice is the 2012 Experience Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with viscous flavors of spiced black currant, jammy plum, and dried strawberry. It’s great with rib roast for $25.

Experience Napa Valley Cabernet
Experience Napa Valley Cabernet

 

The third day calls for a third bottle of wine. An easygoing and unpretentious choice for the neighborhood party is 2013 Sterling Vintner’s Collection cabernet sauvignon. This Central Coast cab packs in a load of blackberry, ripe blueberry, dark chocolate, and vanilla flavors with a sprinkle of baking spice. Pick it up for $27.

Sterling Cabernet Sauvignon
Sterling Cabernet Sauvignon

 

4. The fourth day warrants a lush wine. Merlot is the Snuggie of the wine world: soft, cuddly, and oh so comforting. An incredibly elegant merlot for the holidays is the 2012 Matanzas Creek Winery Jackson Park Vineyard merlot. This Sonoma County vineyard is planted with the same grapes as one of the most famous Bordeaux wineries, Petrus. It’s velvety smooth with plum, blueberry, and boysenberry jam flavors and a bitter-sweet chocolate finish. The Matanzas Creek merlot goes incredibly well with roasted duck and sells for $60.

Matanzas Creek Merlot
Matanzas Creek Merlot

 

5. The fifth day asks for a slightly more rustic wine. Syrah is a walk through the woods to find just the right Christmas tree. The 2012 Qupé Santa Barbara County syrah ($30), made with biodynamic or organically grown grapes from the cool climates of the Santa Maria Valley and the Edna Valley in California, is as wild, funky, and brambly as any French Rhone wine. This little number is bounding with blackberry, cranberry tarts, and spiced with herbs and pepper. Serve it with a festive grilled lamb for the holidays.

Qupe Syrah
Qupe Syrah

 

6. The sixth day requires a playful wine. Petite sirah is a kiss under the mistletoe. For one big, bold kiss go with the 2013 Parducci True Grit Reserve petite sirah from Mendocino County, California. It has dusty raspberry scents, tart raspberry, Luden’s cherry cough drops, and blueberry pie with a healthy dollop of tannin. Yum! It is a great wine with steak and sells for $30.

Parducci True Grit
Parducci True Grit

 

7. The seventh day is a good time for portable wine. Grab a can of Underwood rosé from the Union Wine Company of Oregon to sip while you look at holiday light displays. The half-bottle size can be enjoyed in a crowd, and the fresh watermelon, strawberry, and tart lemon flavors pair resplendently with funnel cake. Pick up a four-pack for $24.

Underwood Rose Wine
Underwood Rose Wine

 

8. The eighth day is all about cuddly comfort. Pinot noir is the purr of a snuggly kitten, velvet furred and wispy tongued. A classic from the Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon, the 2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate pinot noir gleams like Dorothy’s ruby slippers with aromas of wet leaves, Bing cherries, and mocha. It has bright black cherry, raspberry, and chocolate flavors that give way to an earthiness characteristic of Oregon pinot noir. It is great with salmon and sells for $30.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir

 

9. The ninth day is a little naughty. Cinsaut is a tryst at the office Christmas party. Emblematic of a night of debauchery is the 2014 Bonny Doon cinsaut counoise from vineyards in California’s Paso Robles, Mendocino, and Lodi. Its looks are deceiving. The light ruby color of this wine is as delicate as the newest Beaujolais Nouveau, but its taste is anything but subtle. Wild strawberry, raspberry, and cranberry scents endorse the red berry, satiny chocolate, and herbal flavors. It pairs exceedingly well with quail and sells for $35.

Bonnie Doon Cinsault
Bonnie Doon Cinsault

 

10. The 10th day is sophisticated. There is nothing as erudite as a snifter of brandy. A Spanish delight, Lepanto Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva is made from Palomino grapes and aged for 15 years in the same intricate fashion that sherry is made. The century-old oak casks used in the aging give it vanilla and honey flavors that envelop a bourbon-esque core like a velvet smoking jacket. Serve it at room temperature to savor the unmistakable imprint of sherry with its telltale oxidized sea-breeze taste. I could sip this all night after opening gifts. Deelish. It goes for $46.

Lepanto Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva
Lepanto Brandy

 

11. The 11th day wakes up early for a cup of coffee. Coffee with a dose of cheer, of course. Coffee with liquor is the next best thing to snuggling with a ski bunny. Pour a couple ounces of Frangelico into your cup. The sweet hazelnut and vanilla flavors will perk up any morning. Pouring from the distinct bottle with the rope belt is a lot of fun too. Be careful not to overdo it because even in coffee it can get you drunk as a monk. Grab a bottle for $25.

Frangelico Coffee
Frangelico Coffee

 

12. By the 12th day you are bound to be in need of a tummy soothing digestifAmaro Averna soothes the flames of holiday indulgence with a luxurious blend of honey and bitter-sweet chocolate flavors. Sip a small glass neat or with an ice cube and let the sweet, thick herbs and citrus do their trick. It’s a lovely way to wind down the holidays for $30/bottle.

Amaro Averna
Amaro Averna

 

If you must sing a Christmas carol while enjoying any of these drinks, please make it “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. Cheers to a happy holiday!

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I received samples to review of most of the products included in this post.

What are you drinking?

The Townsend salutes the Paramount Theatre with special cocktail

The venerable Paramount Theatre  in downtown Austin will light its new blade sign today to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The new 50 foot tall sign is an exact replica of the original one that was removed in the 1960s.

Photo courtesy of the Paramount Facebook page
Photo courtesy of the Paramount Facebook page

 

In honor of the sign lighting, The Townsend, located at 718 Congress Avenue, which is located directly across the street in the glow of the Theatre marquee, has created the Blade Reviver #2 cocktail. The drink is served with a short fact sheet detailing the 100 year history of the Paramount Theatre in honor of this historic event.

The Townsend is hosting a private event after the relighting tonight, Wednesday, September 23. The Blade Reviver #2 will be served at the bar and available nightly (open 4:00 p.m. to 2 a.m.) through Sunday the 27th.

The Blade Reviver courtesy of The Townsend
The Blade Reviver #2 courtesy of The Townsend

 

 

Blade Reviver #2

  • Tito’s Vodka
  • Combier Pamplemousse liqueur
  • lime juice
  • Salers Gentiane Aperitif liqueur
  • Underberg

“The Blade Reviver #2 is refreshing, but with an spicy earthiness and an old-world funk that I think really beautifully connects this drink to a mythical Austin of generations past,” says Justin Elliott, food and beverage wrangler, The Townsend

The Paramount will be celebrating with multiple parties tonight with prime views of the relighting ceremony, including a street party on Congress Avenue in front of the Theatre. After the vertical sign and the glowing flame is relit, the party will continue inside the Paramount with a special Patty Griffin CD release show. Tickets to the celebration are available at www.austintheatre.org.

What are you drinking? 

 

 

What would Muppets drink?

It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to get things started…

Following is a guest post from Beautiful Wife, Suzanne McGinnis, written in collaboration with me. 

What would Kermit Drink?
What would Kermit Drink?

 

The “Muppet Show” is back. I can’t wait for the debut of the new series on Tuesday, September 22. I can hear the theme song in my head. A tidal wave of childhood memories flood me and I go back to playing “what Muppet does that stranger look like?” as I go throughout my day. “She is totally Janis…That guy looks exactly like Sam the Eagle.”

I’ve been a huge Jim Henson/Muppet fan for decades. Beyond Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, I watched the Muppet Show religiously, all the movies and have delighted in sharing the entire DVD collection of the show with my kids (best baby gift ever – thank you Amber Allen). Our daughter now loves Alice Cooper from the Halloween special and all of us crack up watching Steve Martin and Carol Burnett work their magic in genius Muppet Style.

I love imagining who the first guests will be…Jimmy Fallon, Dave Grohl, Ellen or Tina Fey and what sketches they will bring back. Equally as fun, I like playing a little game called, “What would the Muppets drink?,” which my amazing husband, Matt McGinnis, whole heartedly embraced.

Game on! Happily, hours later, after much debate and contemplation, here are our best guesses for:

“the most sensational, inspirational celebrational, Muppetational” MUPPET COCKTAIL HOUR.

What would Muppets drink?

Muppet Matt’s pick Suzanne’s pick
Kermit Pousse- café (for the rainbow connection) 2 fingers skim milk
Piggy Cosmo Champagne (always champagne)
Janis Odell IPA Miller High Life
Rowlf Manhattan Screwdriver
Gonzo Mezcal Flaming Dr. Pepper
Fozzie Old Fashioned Shirley Temple
Statler/Waldorf Schnapps Sherry
Sam The Eagle Bourbon + 1 cube Bourbon + 1 cube
Dr. Teeth Pitcher of Margaritas White Russian
Capt. Link Hogthrob Dirty Martini with 5 olives Cognac
Swedish Chef Akvavit Bartles & James Wine Cooler
Bunsen Honeydew Gin& Tonic made with liquid nitrogen Jello Shots
Beaker Absinthe Mind Eraser
Animal Prairie Fire Black coffee (fresh & hot) yes, he’ll wait

 

You can be sure we’ll be sipping at least one of these next week. The new Muppet Show starts Tuesday, Sept. 22nd on ABC at 8pm. What will you be drinking? Maybe a viewing party and Muppet Drinking game is in order…

What are you drinking? 

 

3 DIY cocktails to toast the end of summer

Kids are going back to school. Municipal pools have closed. But summer isn’t really over. A few minutes in the merciless 100-degree sun will tell you that summer is still in full swing. A look at the calendar will tell you that summer cocktails are still in fashion until Wednesday, September 23.

These sweltering afternoons and balmy evenings call for something cold, refreshing, and dare we say, low in alcohol. Here are three less boozy late summer cocktails that are perfect to make at home with alternatives to the typical vodka, gin, tequila, and whiskey drinks.

Sometimes bitter is better

Amaro Lucano Cocktail
Amaro Lucano Cocktail

Liqueurs bring sweet, savory, and bitter twists to summer cocktails. The king of the bitter category is Italian amaro (it literally translates to “bitter”) with Fernet-Branca soaking in the spotlight. These spirits spiked with spices, herbs, roots, fruit, or botanicals are great as either an aperitif or as a digestif, and they are great mixed in cocktails.
Amaro Lucano is made with a family recipe of more than 30 herbs that are dried, crushed, and steeped in alcohol. The recipe, passed down for four generations, makes a lusciously sweet and mildly bitter, caramely liqueur with loads of spice and herb flavors. The sweetness makes it an impeccable companion to fresh fruit. Pureed strawberries and fresh lemon with a bubbly fizz make Amaro Lucano sunshine in a glass. While it clocks in at 28-percent alcohol, it’s got far less kick than vodka. It is available at the Austin Wine Merchant for $28.

Bitter Berry Bash

  • 2 ounces ​Amaro Lucano
  • 1 ounce fresh pressed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce fresh strawberry puree (or use strawberry jam)
  • Splash of dry sparkling wine-style cider, such as Argus Cidery

Shake all ingredients except cider and strain into a cup with ice. Top with sparkling cider. Garnish with a strawberry.

Feelin’ Fino with sherry

Tio Pepe Cocktail
Tio Pepe Cocktail

 

The fortified wine, sherry, might conjure images of old British women in floral dresses and big hats, but it’s actually a sophisticated wine worthy of sipping or mixing in your next cocktail. Hailing from Andalucía on the Southern coast of Spain, sherry is made with the cool breath of the Atlantic, a cozy blanket of yeast, and a slow ride through complex system of barrels. The result is an absolutely unique wine that leaves an indelible impression, just like the Spanish seaside.

Try the Mr. Pepe cocktail, a riff on a traditional mojito using the Tio Pepe fino sherry rather than rum. The dry, light-style sherry is great in summer cocktails. It only has 15-percent alcohol and the bottle will keep forever even after you open it. It’s a natural complement to seafood and a dip in the pool. Pick it up at Spec’s for $18.

Mr. Pepe
Developed by Yamasaki Tsuyoshi, Star Bar, Tokyo

  • 1.5 ounces Tio Pepe fino sherry
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1.5 ounces soda water
  • 6 pieces of lime
  • 12 mint sprigs

Crush the six lime pieces and mint sprigs in a rocks glass and add all of the liquid ingredients. Fill the glass with crushed ice and garnish with a mint leaf.

Invigorating vermouth

Carpano Bianco Summer Spritz
Carpano Bianco Summer Spritz

 

Vermouth is one of the best-known aperitif wines with its heavy connection with popular cocktails like the Manhattan and martini. It’s also delightful served neat or over a smack of ice to get that appetite revved up with bittersweet goodness.

The first documented vermouth recipe was made by Italian distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786.

Carpano Bianco is still made with a similar recipe in Sicily and Romagna with Trebbiano, chardonnay, and Cortese grapes, along with herbs, roots, and barks giving it mischievous citrus and spirited spice flavors. Mix this 15-percent wine with orange soda in our Summer Spritz. This is super easy to make and even easier to love. Light as a summer dress and refreshing as Barton Springs, grab a bottle at Total Wine for $21.

Summer Spritz

  • 2 ounces Carpano Bianco vermouth
  • ​San Pellegrino Aranciata sparkling orange soda

Fill a tumbler or high ball glass with ice, add the Carpano Bianco, and fill with the San Pellegrino. Add a wedge of citrus for garnish.

Kickback, relax, and let the last rays of summer soak in with a fantastic drink.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I was provided samples of each of the three products featured at no charge.

What are you drinking? 

The 12 best places for happy hour in Central Austin 

CHAMPAGNE DINING AND DRINKING ON A BEER BUDGET

Happy Hour at Peche
Happy Hour at Peche

 

Just hearing the phrase “happy hour” gets people salivating. We love sipping delicious, inexpensive drinks and nibbling delectable bites while relaxing with friends. What a perfect way to end a workday.

Austin is loaded with great places to eat and drink. Austin Woman/What Are You Drinking combed the city to find some of the best happy-hour deals on food and drinks, and the most relaxing places to enjoy them. Although there are many great happy-hour offerings in locations throughout the city, our list features establishments that are centrally located and accessible, no matter where you live in the city.

BEST FREE NOSH: ITALIC

123 W. Sixth St.


Italic Happy Hour

Chef Andrew Curren and the ELM Restaurant Group opened Italic, the downtown Italian hotspot, earlier this year. The bright and cheerful place to meet friends quickly became a popular happy-hour destination, with $1 off draft beers, Italian house wine for $4 a glass or $16 for a 20-ounce bottle and $2 off the house Negroni. A huge bonus is that focaccia sandwiches are complimentary with drink orders.

“We have excellent prices on appetizers like the prosciutto and baked ricotta, which are about half price,” says Assistant Manager John Tillery. “We have a fantastic atmosphere with a minimalist design that lends itself to an upscale feel without being pretentious. There are a lot of great places in Austin and we want to set ourselves apart with great guest service.”

 

BEST HIDEAWAY: GARAGE

503 Colorado St.

Daiquiri at Garage
Daiquiri at Garage

 

Tucked inside the American National Bank parking garage, this clandestine bar isn’t exactly easy to find. Nevertheless, early in the evening, it’s full of creative types and downtown office workers unwinding in the dark, cozy bar in the round. Garage has a selection of custom and classic cocktails at happy-hour prices—about $4 off—and $1 off beer and wine. In addition, an in-house charcuterie tray comes with recommendations for pairing with the vintage cocktails.

“The bar is like no other place,” says Bar Manager Chauncey James. “You can get a really well-made classic cocktail at a very reasonable price in a cool space. Our bartenders know what they are doing. We have a fun time on Monday and Tuesday, in particular. It’s like Sunday, part two.”

 

BEST ODDITY: ODD DUCK

1201 S. Lamar Blvd.
Do you remember when Odd Duck was a farm-to-food-truck destination in South Austin? Now, this Bryce Gilmore creation wows locals and critics alike with its inventive American cuisine. Enjoy the Afternoon Snack menu Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 5 p.m., offering discounts on select nibbles. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 2:30 to 10 p.m., with $5 Moscow mules and 25-percent discounts on bottles of wine and bottled or canned beer.

 

BEST WINE MENU: LAV

1501 E. Seventh St.

laV Cusco Sour
laV Cusco Sour

 

The elegant fine-dining destination laV draws crowds with its drinks and food specials during happy hour. It offers an “après-midi” happy hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday in the wine bar and cocktail bar. Offerings include 25-percent discounts on select bar bites and $7 glasses of sommelier-selected red, white or sparkling wine, as well as $8 craft cocktails. Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m., laV’s massive selection of wine, the largest in town, is half off by the bottle. Well, anything less than $500, that is.

“laV is always full of fun people,” says Sommelier Vilma Mazaite. “Coming at happy hour is a good way to sample laV. We’re a wine-driven destination. We want people to try something amazing they haven’t had before. During happy hour, for the price of one, you can have two bottles, so you can experiment.”

 

BEST ECLECTIC BARGAIN: SWIFT’S ATTIC

315 Congress Ave.

Swifts Attic Strawberry Fields
Swifts Attic Strawberry Fields

 

Swift’s Attic has great deals on food and cocktails. Happy hour generously runs from 2 to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with all kinds of deals. There are $6 specialty cocktails, $5 select wines, $2 Bud Lights and Mickey’s and $1 off domestic drafts. Monday nights, there are $3 pints all night long. The cocktail selection is inventive, with creations like the Champampaloma, made with TY KU citrus liqueur and sparkling wine. The happy-hour food menu is loaded with delectable treats like the braised pork cheek bao sandwich.

“Swift’s Attic is a great place for drinks and excellent food after work,” says Co-owner CK Chin. “Everyone can have the Swift’s experience at great prices. There isn’t anything on the happy-hour menu that is over $10.”

 

BEST TOUCH OF NEW ORLEANS: PÉCHÉ

208 W. Fourth St.

Peche Lions Tail
Peche Lions Tail

 

On any given afternoon, the bar at Péché is full of people wearing a mix of ties and T-shirts. The sounds of lively conversation dance with jazz music, letting that New Orleans bon-temps vibe seep into every pore with every pour. Happy hour rules all day on Sunday and Monday and from 4 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Cocktails like the Lions Tail, made with bourbon, lime, allspice dram and angostura bitters, are $5, and food noted on the menu with an asterisk is half price.

“The specials are the draw,” says bartender Scott Doherty. “You can get one of the best cocktails in town for $5. It’s a super great deal.”

 

BEST WINE GARDEN: LENOIR

1807 S. First St.

Lenoir Wine Garden
Lenoir Wine Garden

 

Lenoir may be considered a chic fine-dining haunt, but its backyard wine garden is uber chill. Pull up a picnic-table bench and enjoy bar snacks for $2 off and half-price punch made with vermouth and Spanish grenache wine from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. It’s a lovely spot to enjoy half-price bottles of pinot noir all night on Thursdays.

“We originally opened the backyard as a place to wait for tables in our dining room,” says Co-owner Jessica Maher. “Now we offer small plates and bar snacks with delicious drinks in a super casual atmosphere. It has a private feeling, with the shade of huge oaks. Bring your dogs and kids and let them wander around. It’s a great place to hang out.”

 

BEST SUSHI DEAL: FINN & PORTER

500 E. Fourth St.

This contemporary steak and sushi restaurant inside the Hilton Austin draws convention visitors and locals with its beautiful ambiance, delicious drinks and killer happy-hour deals Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. Go for the half-price signature sushi, like the salmon ikura and tuna togarashi, as well as the chef’s tasting menu with fantastic nibbles. Pair that lovely sushi with discounted wines by the glass. Better yet, visit Friday, when all bottles of wine listed at less than $100 are half price.

 

BEST HOTEL HAPPY HOUR: W AUSTIN HOTEL’S LIVING ROOM BAR, WET DECK AND TRACE

200 Lavaca St.

You’re just as likely to meet a local as you are a tourist in one of the bars at the W Austin Hotel. Regardless of where guests are from, this spot makes for great people-watching in a stunning setting. The primetime reverse happy hour draws gorgeous Austinites to the cozy, cool Living Room Bar seven days a week from 7 to 10 p.m., with half off signature cocktails, as well as a specialty-nibbles menu. Wednesday through Sunday, you can shake it to tunes spun by local DJs during the primetime happy hour. Grab your bikini and head poolside each Thursday from 5 p.m. until sunset during the summer for happy hour on the Wet Deck and $7 drink specials. If you prefer to stay dry, the Trace outdoor patio has happy hour every day from 5 to 7 p.m., with deals on bar nibbles, Texas beers and cocktails, and half off selected wines by the glass.

 

BEST EASTSIDE COCKTAILS: WHISLER’S

1816 E. Sixth St.

Whislers Old Fashioned
Whislers Old Fashioned

 

Belly up to the bar in the historic stone building, or while away the last hours of sunlight in the outdoor courtyard at Whisler’s. This Eastside cocktail den has happy hour every day from 4 to 7 p.m., and from open to close on Monday. Whisler’s has a select menu of classic cocktails for bargain prices and beers for $1 off. The bar doesn’t have a kitchen, but the swoon-worthy East Side King food truck Thai Kun is parked just outside.

“The place is unique,” says bartender Victor Bernal. “It’s been a part of Austin for more than 100 years. We have great drinks at reasonable prices. Whisler’s Old Fashioned is our most popular drink at happy hour and all the time. It’s been proclaimed Austin’s No. 1 Old Fashioned.”

 

BEST RAW BAR: PARKSIDE

301 E. Sixth St.

The Garden at Parkside
The Garden at Parkside

 

Parkside is a culinary oasis in the midst of Dirty Sixth. It’s a treat to watch chefs artfully prepare ceviche and raw-bar staples behind a long stainless-steel bar. They will toss you a plate full of oysters, along with Champagne, for half price every Wednesday until 7 p.m. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday, 5 to 6:30 p.m., with half off all beer, liquor and the entire bar food menu. The Garden, made with TY KU soju Korean rice liquor, jasmine liquor and orange blossom water, is blissfully refreshing and a perfect accompaniment to ceviche.

“We have an excellent deal on some of the best raw seafood in town,” says General Manager Kevin Pearce. “Our oyster platters are a great deal and the bar burger and steaks are fantastic.”

 

BEST NEWCOMER: VOX TABLE

1100 S. Lamar Blvd.

Where a funky strip mall used to stand on South Lamar Boulevard, the Lamar Union now houses the refurbished Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and several shops and restaurants, including Vox Table. This new spot is quickly gathering accolades for its farm-to-table cuisine, as well as its creative cocktails. Happy hour runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at the bar, with $4 draft beer, $5 select fortified wines, $6 classic and house cocktails, half-price wines by the glass and half off items on the happy-hour food menu. The Herb is the Word cocktail, made with Fords Gin, lemon, herb-tea syrup, Cocchi Americano and yellow chartreuse, goes well with the Tongue + Cheek bun with Yorkshire pudding.

This story was originally published in the August issue of Austin Woman Magazine.

What are you drinking? 

Summery Whisky Cocktails for National Scotch Day

Braveheart cocktail with Black Grouse Whisky
Braveheart cocktail with Black Grouse Whisky

 

There seems to be a “National Day” for every drink out there. That’s OK by me. Monday July 27 is National Scotch Day, which is a perfect reason to enjoy a glass or two of lovely Scotch whisky. These days Bourbon is favored over Scotch in the U.S., but Scotch certainly deserves a place on your bar.

This stuff has a long heritage. The Scots have been making whisky since the late 15th century with malted barley. The first written mention of Scotch dates back to 1494. Today Scotch is made from a combo of malt and grain, compared to Bourbon which is made with grain including at least 51 percent corn. Depending on the mixture of malt and grain, Scotch comes in five types:

  • Single malt whisky – malt whisky from a single distillery
  • Single grain whisky – grain whisky from a single distillery (not common)
  • Blended malt whisky – a mixture of malt whiskies from different distilleries
  • Blended grain whisky – a mixture of grain whiskies from different distilleries (not common)
  • Blended whisky – a mixture of malt and grain whisky, usually from different distilleries

In addition to the types, the location where Scotch is made also has a bearing on it.

  • Lowland — considered to be mild, mellow, and delicate
  • Highland — the largest region for Scotch has well-known distilleries such as: Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Oban and Talisker
  • Islay — known for heavily peated and smoky single malts like Laphroaig
  • Speyside — situated next to the River Spey and known for creamy and fruity whiskies, it has the largest number of distilleries like Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and The Macallan.
  • Campbeltown — the smallest of the whisky producing regions, used to have several distilleries, but now only Glengyle, Glen Scotia, and Springbank remain

No matter which type or region, Scotch is delightful by itself or with ice. It’s also delicious in cocktails. Here are a few summery concoctions that you can make at home.

Braveheart
Created by Tim Heuisler, Time Restaurant, Philadelphia
A hearty, smoky take on the Bloody Mary.

  • 2 oz. The Black Grouse
  • 3 ½ oz. tomato juice (or Bloody Mary Mix)
  • ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz. Worcestershire
  • Pinch celery salt
  • Pinch fresh horseradish

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a gherkin, pickled onion and piece of bacon.

The Front Porch Punch
Created by Eryn Reece of Death & Company (NYC)
A refreshing summer drink that is slightly sweet with the herbal flavor of the tea and the smokiness of the whisky.

  •  2 oz Chai Tea Infused Famous Grouse*
  • .5 oz Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz Pineapple Juice
  • .75 oz Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz Soda Water

*To Make Chai-Tea Infused Famous Grouse: Add 4 tablespoons loose leaf chai tea to a 750 mL bottle of The Famous Grouse. Let sit for at least half an hour and strain desired amount. Using the chai tea infused Famous Grouse as the base, combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain onto fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with lemon wheels.

Grouse Front Porch Punch 3

That Scotch One
Created by Gareth Howells, Forrest Point, Brooklyn
Bitter, sweet and refreshing on a hot summer afternoon.

  • 1 ½  oz Cutty Sark Whisky
  • ½ oz Cocchi Americano
  • ¾ oz White Peppercorn, Hibiscus Honey Syrup
  • ¾ oz Lemon Juice
  • 2 Dash Peychauds Bitters
  • Boylan Creme Float
  • Muddled Strawberry
  • Mint Sprig Garnish

Combine all ingredients except the Boylan Creme in a Collins glass. Top with a Boylan Creme float and garnish with a sprig of mint.

That Scotch One

 

Disclosure: I received samples of various whiskies at no cost.

What are you drinking? 

New Congress Avenue hot spot, The Townsend, scores badass guest bartender

Adam Bryan Guest Bartender The Townsend
Adam Bryan Guest Bartender The Townsend

 

It’s fairly common for music venues like the Continental Club and Cactus Café to have an artist residency with guest bands playing shows on consecutive nights or weeks. It’s not a common thing to have a guest bartender residency, but newly opened cocktail bar The Townsend is doing just that.

The cocktail lounge and live music venue situated on Congress Avenue kicks off its bartender residency program with Adam Bryan running the show through July 23.

It’s not new to have guest bartenders, but this is the first week-long residency at a bar in Austin. For the three-week old Townsend, it’s quite a coup to land a buzzworthy bartender. Bryan is well-known in Austin for launching the cocktail program at East Side Show Room, working behind the stick at Midnight Cowboy, and serving as bar manager at Bar Congress.

“People have been asking me who was going to be the first guest bartender,” says Justin Elliott, The Townsend partner and food-and-beverage wrangler. “We wanted to take our time to get the right person, because this is a part of who we are. We knew when it’s right, it will be right to offer a residency.”

“I was the guy that showed up,” says Bryan.

Elliott continues, “Adam and I have spent a lot of time working together at East Side Show Room and Midnight Cowboy and have an in-the-trenches mentality. He called and said he was coming through town. The timing worked out. It works really well for Adam to be our first, because we are bringing in someone we trust and with whom we share values.”

Bryan was attracted to the residency because he and Elliott value simplicity in drinks. The Townsend’s approach to doing things differently with a classic cocktail lounge in the heart of downtown also caught his attention.

“For six or seven years the culinary landscape in this town has put on its big pants,” says Bryan. “To see the people involved in making that happen now establishing their own programs in their own spaces is really great. To be able to come back to Austin after being gone for a handful of months and see someone I respect doing just that is a great fit for me.”

Steven Weisburd, principal partner at The Townsend, dreamed up the residency program as a way to bring in talent from the hospitality industry and shake up the creative cocktail menu for customers. It’s a part of The Townsend’s royalty program in which bartenders earn a 1 percent royalty fee each time a drink they created is ordered.

“Our residency program won’t be limited Austin-based bartenders,” says Weisburd. “We want to be innovative with ideas at the Townsend so that we are not just another in a sea of bars. The way we approach our royalty program, the way we do art and music, all are a part of how we are respectful of talent and craftsmanship in several areas. It is a way to celebrate talent in an innovative way.”

Bryan has created a special three-drink menu that will be available from 7-11 pm during his residency. The menu incudes the Rosella Reyes, made with Ancho Reyes; the Velpar, made with Treaty Oak Rum and St. George Absinthe; and the Pedro y Lola made with Tequila Ocho Reposado and Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Each drink is priced at $12.

“The Velpar is an old drink from the early days of the East Side Show Room,” says Bryan. “I wanted to use a local spirit, and Treaty Oak had just been released. I appreciated those guys’ gumption and wanted to showcase that taste. There is a good story behind the name too. Treaty Oak Rum is named for the Treaty Oak tree in downtown Austin, which someone had an attempted to destroy with Velpar poison to kill the tree. At the time the drink was made, absinthe was misunderstood, so that fits in there too.”

Velpar Cocktail
Velpar Cocktail

 

Bryan’s cocktails will only be available for a short time, but Elliott thinks they may make a cameo appearance after the residency. He is toying with fun ideas to bring back various recipes from guest bartenders in an end of the year roundup or something like a throwback Thursday.

The Townsend is currently in discussions with several notable bartenders from around the country to take over the bar for future residencies.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What Are You Drinking?