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? 

Daniel Barnes of Treaty Oak Distilling Awarded Distiller of the Year

Daniel Barnes, Distiller of the YearI had the privilege of hosting Treaty Oak Distilling’s first ever media event to announce that Daniel Barnes has received the prestigious 2014 Distiller of the Year award by MicroLiquor. He was selected among a field of more than 400 distinguished craft distiller entrants in the United States.

The event felt like a party with friends as a group of bloggers and journalists were greeted on the front porch with a refreshing La Mariquita cocktail made with Graham’s Texas Tea mixed by David Alan, the Tipsy Texan. The group then gathered in the cozy Lenoir dining room to nibble on incredible charcuterie, like octopus pastrami, prepared by Chef Todd Duplechan.

Barnes shared the news of a few more awards that Treaty Oak has collected. It has won:

1. Triple Gold medal in the MicroLiquor Spirit Awards competition for Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum. Treaty Oak Rum is made with molasses sourced from the last sugar mill in Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley that is brewed into rum beer with an initial fermentation that takes four days and then distilled. The Platinum Rum is aged for two years in 60 gallon new American white oak barrels to make the Barrel Reserve Rum.

2. Triple Gold medal in the MicroLiquor Spirit Awards for Waterloo Antique Gin, a barrel aged gin. Waterloo gin was one of the first modern Texas-made gins when it was released at the end of 2011. It’s made with 11 botanicals including juniper, lavender, rosemary, pecans, grapefruit, lemon, and orange zest, coriander, ginger root, licorice root and anise in is a juniper-forward London Dry style gin with a Texas twist. Waterloo Antique Gin is made by aging the original product for a full year in a first-use heavy-charred barrel, giving it rich whisky notes of cinnamon, clove and anise flavors, while letting the juniper and floral flavors come through.

3. The Fifty Best awarded a Double-Gold medal to Graham’s Texas Tea Vodka in the “Best Flavored Vodka” awards for 2014. Graham’s Texas Tea is made with premium Nilgiri tea blended with turbinado sugar, Hill Country water and vodka. Barnes tasted around 50 different teas before picking and Nilgiri because of its intense flavors, strong fragrance and balanced body. It’s starkly different from the American and English breakfast teas.

After describing the awards and how the spirits are made, we all had the opportunity to sip both the Platinum and Barrel Aged Rum side-by-side, followed by  the Waterloo Gin and the Waterloo Antique Gin. Good stuff.

Taste test of Treaty Oak Rum and Waterloo Gin

 

David Alan showed off his cocktail acumen by preparing a classic daiquiri with Treaty Oak Barrel Aged Rum and a twist on the Old Fashioned made with Waterloo Antique Gin. Both were fantastic.

Treaty Oak Distilling partner, Nate Powell, ended the evening by sharing a little glimpse at what’s next for the distillery.  The current Treaty Oak distillery in north Austin is bursting at the seams. To keep up with demand, Treaty Oak needs a lot more space and a lot more capacity. The company recently broke ground on new facilities that will be located on the 30-acre Ghost Hill Ranch near Dripping Springs right up the road from Jester King Brewery.  Its going to be quite the booze tourism destination featuring a state-of-the-art distillery capable of increasing production allowing the brand to continue to expand nationally, along with a brewery, tasting room and cocktail house.

Thanks Treaty Oak for a fun night of cocktails, nibbles and news.

Disclosure: Treaty Oak Distillery hired me to organize the media event and to provide PR consulting. They did not request this post and are not sponsoring it. 

What Are You Drinking?

Celebrate National Rum Day in a style that would have pleased Hemingway

Jungle Bird at Pleasant Storage RoomEat Drink Celebrate National Rum Day

Blame Christopher Columbus. He is credited with introducing sugar cane throughout the West Indies, spurring the birth of rum as the first distilled spirit in the Americas. The tropical climate of the Caribbean is perfect for growing sugar cane. It is the lifeblood of rum, which is made by distilling the derivatives of sugar cane, like molasses.

Dark and sticky as tar, molasses is fermented with yeast to make rum beer, which is then distilled and filtered. Un-aged rum, known as white, light or silver, is great in cocktails like the daiquiri, mai tai or mojito. Rum aged in charred barrels, known as gold and dark, glows its namesake deep hue and flaunts its sweetness in cocktails or when sipped alone.

Rum smells of linen dresses, ocean breezes early in the evening, crushed strawberries and vacation romances in open-air cafés. Rum has an unspoken agreement with Caribbean memories to always play a role, either as the starring actor or as an extra setting the scene. It is such a fantastic drink, it even has its own day. National Rum Day is Aug. 16.

Pleasant Storage Room is the brainchild of Paul Hargrove and John Kelly O’Hare, who worked together at East Side Show Room. The two share an affinity for rum and wanted to develop a bar that focuses on rum punch and rum cocktails. Fellow East Side Show Room veteran Alfonso Hernandez-Nicolai was brought on as bar manager and given the reigns to design the bar and visual identity. He put industrial-design graduate school on hold and threw himself headlong into his love affair with rum.

“Rum has so much diversity and is great in so many fun cocktails,” Hernandez-Nicolai says. “It’s a dynamic spirit that has been made for hundreds of years and not restricted to one style. It draws its personality from the cultural backdrop of the Caribbean, with colonialism influences on distilling from the English, Spanish, Dutch and French. In the 1950s and ’60s, rum was all about escapism. We want to recapture that feeling of paradise at home.”

Whether your heart yearns for dry-style rum from Venezuela or Panama, or heavily oaked aged rum from the U.S., you’ll find it at Pleasant Storage Room. With more than 60 labels of rum from throughout the Caribbean, you’ll find almost anything, except Bacardi. For a change of pace, try rhum agricole made with fresh sugar-cane juice instead of molasses in Martinique. This style of rum is unique because its production is regulated by the French government as coming from a certified geographic designation, or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Rhum agricole is great in ’Ti Punch (short for Petite Punch), made with a squeeze of lime, petite cane syrup, simple syrup and rhum agricole.

“Zaya 12-Year-Old Estate Rum from Trinidad is popular,” Hernandez-Nicolai says, commenting on the hottest rums in Austin. “It’s a really accessible rum that is beautiful to drink on the rocks. Another rum that people love is Neisson rhum agricole de Martinique. It is less sweet, extremely floral and earthy like humus-rich soil, fresh cut straw. If you like scotch, try this.”

Rum punch is a specialty at the Pleasant Storage Room. Share a bowl with friends. Or try a fun tiki cocktail like Na Pali Death Toll, which is made with añejo rum, passion fruit, lime, lemon liqueur and herb salt, served with a flaming coconut for a great spectacle. Pleasant Storage Room also has a full kitchen. The menu features island street food like fried conch hushpuppies, four styles of ceviche jerk chicken and a Cubano sandwich that is out of this world.

208 W. Fourth St., 512.322.9921 pleasantrumbar.com. Open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

SUMMER RUM COCKTAILS

Mojito

 

Rum Punch at Pleasant Storage Room

 

Commodore Punch

  • 750-millileter bottle V.S.O.P. Clement Rhum Agricole
  • 750-millileter bottle Decourtet V.S.O.P. Cognac
  • 750-millileter bottle Lustau East India Solera Sherry
  • 750-milileters black tea 1 14 ounces raw sugar
  • 18 lemons

Directions: First, make an oleo saccharum. Start by peeling the golden yellow skin without any pith off all 18 lemons. In a large bowl, layer the peels in the sugar, then muddle until the sugar and lemon peels create a thick, oily substance without breaking the peels apart. Let it sit for at least one hour. Juice all 18 lemons and pour the juice over the oleo saccharum. Add the caramelized black tea and let sit for 30 minutes. Add all other spirits and stir for 30 minutes. Strain the punch into bottles. Once the bottles are full, add a shot of argon before they are recapped. Let them sit for a day.

Where to Celebrate Rum Day

TEXAS RUM

While rum has its roots in the Caribbean, it’s made throughout the world, including in Texas. Here are a few local rums to put on your summer sipping list:

This story was originally published in the August issue of Austin Woman Magazine. It looks great in print. Pick it up on your local news stand.

What are you drinking? 

Texas Tiki Week returns to 10 Austin bars this week

Texas Tiki Week

Break out your coconut bras and Hawaiian shirts, it’s time for the Third Annual Texas Tiki Week taking place Tuesday, June 24 through Monday, June 30.

The world owes a debt of gratitude to Donn Beach (a.k.a. Don the Beachcomber) who established the first Polynesian-themed tiki bar shortly after the end of Prohibition in 1934 in Hollywood, California. The former bootlegger single-handedly created this tropical drink genre in an attempt to bolster interest in lowly rum. He introduced 70 original cocktails, such as the Scorpion and the Zombie, using the recipe for the Jamaican Planter’s Punch as a starting point.

During Texas Tiki Week, bars in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio will pour special tiki cocktails and feature tiki seminars led by cocktail experts from around the country. Participating bars in Austin include Bar Congress, Contigo, Drink.Well., East Side Show Room, Half Step, Péché, Pleasant Storage Room, Red7, The Tigress and Whisler’s.

“Texas Tiki Week was initially designed to be Austin’s contribution to all of the many cocktail weeks that are popping across the country,” says Jessica Sanders of Drink.Well., who is also co-founder Texas Tiki Week and president of the Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG).

“Austin is a bit eccentric and quirky, which makes it ripe for a week that celebrates Tiki, which is also a bit left of center in the cocktail world. Tiki is fun, whimsical and there is an elevated level of theater watching a tiki cocktail come together. You can’t help but smile.”

This year’s festivities start on Monday, June 23 with the Official Kick-Off Party at Pleasant Storage Room with renowned New York barman and tiki master Brian Miller mixing classic and contemporary tiki cocktails. The event is open to USBG members and invited guests only, but Pleasant Storage Room will reprise the cocktail menu for the public through Sunday. Don’t look for a tired mai thai. The menu will include more interesting classics like Don the Beachcomber’s original Pearl Diver Punch and new drinks like the Na Poli Death Toll.

Here are just a few of the most anticipated Tiki Week events.

Tuesday, June 24
Tuesday, June 24: Drink.Well. will host the Grease 2-inspired “Rock a Hula Luau” with five tiki cocktails, including a tiki twist on the classic Pink Lady and the “T-Bird,” variation of the classic Jungle Bird with rhum agricole, pineapple gomme syrup and aperol. Mindy Kucan from the Hale Pele tiki lounge in Portland will be the guest bartender.

Wednesday, June 25
Bar Congress‘ Tiki Night will feature modern twists and tiki classics including the Flaming Bowl of Cong’s Navy Grog and the Baba Yaga tiki amuse booze’ shot featuring rums, spices and Amaro.

Thursday, June 26
The Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter will host a “Cinema Cocktails” screening of the Elvis Presley classic Blue Hawaii with a tiki menu created by Bill Norris, Alamo Drafthouse beverage director, and the cocktail team at 400 Rabbits.

Saturday, June 28
Red 7 presents V2, a special live performance by Leon Taylor and Bob Spalding of “The Ventures,” one of the most iconic surf rock bands in history. Cocktails from the Red 7 team will feature Sailor Jerry rum. Opening acts will include the Del-Vipers and King Pelican.

If you’d rather sip a tiki-inspired drink at home, Pleasant Storage Room has provided the classic Pearl Diver Punch and Jungle Bird recipes.

Pearl Diver Punch (Don the Beachcomber from the 1930s)
The Pearl Diver screams exotic: spicy, refreshing with a lovely balance of tart with a hint of sweet. The booze isn’t afraid to let you know it’s steering this sailboat. Dive in.

  • .75 ounce El Dorado 8 year Demerara Rum
  • 1.5 ounce Puerto Rican Rum
  • .5 ounce Jamacian Smith and Cross N.S. Rum
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • .75 fresh lime juice
  • 1 dash house-made falernum
  • 1 ounce pearl diver mix – an elaborate mix of sweet butter, nutmeg, allspice and other awesome ingredients

Blended and served over pebble ice in a tiki mug, garnished with mint and lime

The screams exotic. Spicy, refreshing with a lovely balance of tart with a hint of sweet. The booze isn’t afraid to let you know its steering this sailboat. Dive in.

Jungle Bird (Aviary Bar at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton 1978)

  • 1.5 ounces Hamilton’s Jamaican  pot-still blackstrap rum
  • .75 ounces Campari
  • 3  ounces pineapple juice
  • .5 ounce lime juice
  • .5 ounce roasted pineapple juice
  • 1 pinch black salt

Shake ingredients hard over ice. Strain into a tiki mug and garnish with a pineapple frond.

This drink is no joke. While you could try to make it at home, its better to go see an expert during Tiki Week to get the full experience.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?

 

 

 

Raising a glass to fight cancer, LIVESTRONG!

There is nothing light-hearted about cancer. However, even the most serious subjects deserve a serious party. Sometimes gathering like-minded souls together to fight a shared villain is the right thing to do. This weekend we hosted our third annual Mellow Yellow Benefit to raise a glass, and raise money and awareness for the LIVESTRONG Challenge for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

We set out to raise $5,000 by inviting people to attend our party and make a donation to LIVESTRONG as their ticket to entry. We asked for donations of services and food and beverages to keep our costs down and to be able to donate all proceeds to the Foundation. I am moved by the outpouring of generosity I found every time I asked. To date we have raised $6,000!

Three Texas spirits companies — Republic Tequila, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Treaty Oak Distilling Company —  gladly donated for a third year in a row. Heck, Republic Tequila also sent two beautiful bartenders and Republic Spirit Blends to set up and staff a margarita bar! They made Twisted Margaritas. Here is the recipe:

Twisted Margarita

  • 1 ½ ounces Republic Tequila
  • 1 ½ ounces Republic Jalapeño-Lime Spirit Blend
  • 1 ½ ounces Republic Prickly Pear Spirit Blend
  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice Shake and pour into a rocks glass

Josh Hare, brewer at Hops & Grain, sent over 10 cases of beer on the eve of his brewery’s first anniversary.

Ed and Susan Auler of Fall Creek Vineyards donated wine for a second year in a row and came to the party to wish us well and enjoy the fun. Miguel Lecuona of Fredericksburg Wine Road 290 was a tour de force gathering four cases of donated wine from seven Texas wineries and delivered them with a smile.

The house and yard looked glamorous and the food fast fantastic thanks to Suzanne Court Catering & Events, who hustled favors to get donations of goods and services. Our photography sponsor, Steve Rogers Photography, donated his time and talent to capture the fun in our LIVESTRONG photo booth (the well lit photo booth pictures below are from Steve and the candids are fom me). Chris Brewer from the Lance Armstrong Foundation made the photo booth look official by loaning us an amazing LIVESTRONG backdrop.
I appreciate the help of Stephen Moser spreading the word about the Mellow Yellow Benefit in the Austin Chronicle and Michael Barnes for sharing the love in the Austin American Statesman.
Much of the thanks for creating a memorable event yet again this year goes to Beautiful Wife. She was instrumental in converting our home in to a fun event venue.
Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause and who came to the event. You are making a difference in the lives of the more than 28 million people living with cancer. THANK YOU! 

Special thanks to all of our beverage sponsors:

Austin mixologists compete in Manhattan Cocktail Classic

Jessica Sanders, owner of drink.well

It’s not exactly a completely male-dominated profession like NFL football or Chippendales dancing, but if you look at the most celebrated mixologists in town you’ll note that most are men. The tide is turning in Austin.

Two talented classic cocktail creators, drink.well owner Jessica Sanders and bartender Tacy Rowland, competed in the third annual Manhattan Cocktail Classic this weekend in New York. I guess we are maturing from a town with only tied t-shirt and Daisy Duke wearin’ bartenders slinging a shot and a beer to a town that embraces both genders making creative craft drinks.

To get a spot behind the bar in the national competition, both Jessica and Tacy won preliminary regional challenges. Contestants in in 29 local chapters of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) battled for a spot in the Manhattan Cocktail Classic mixing drinks with specific main ingredients. Participants are judge not only on the quality of their cocktails, but on service and elegant presentation as well.

Jessica competed in the search for the best aperitivo cocktail hosted Campari. The test was to create a before-dinner drink that contains at least one ounce of Campari and to use spirits from the company’s brand portfolio.

To add to the challenge, USBG guidelines forbid the use of house-made ingredients or anything that isn’t replicable. That removed several creative twists from the contestants’ bag of tricks and made them rely on other methods to make the spirits play well together.

Jessica relished the challenge of working with a bitter and sometimes intimidating spirit like Campari and upped the ante by choosing Scotch as the base spirit for her drink called the Civetta in Islay.

She said, “Both Campari and Scotch have overwhelming flavor profiles, so I added sherry to restrain the peatiness of Scotch and bitterness of Campari while allowing the integrity of the spirit to come across. My preference for cocktails is to have it so balanced that you can’t tell what’s in there. I think of this one as a twist on the classic pre-dinner drink, the Negroni. This is a sexy and alluring cocktail that will impress your date on a romantic night out.”

Did she succeed? Hell yes! This is no pre-dinner drink. It’s a pre-danger drink. I took one sip of the Civetta in Islay and muttered, “I have dirty thoughts,” when Jessica asked me what I thought. I could only give her a mischievous smile as I savored the smooth bitter sweetness. The Burlesque Bitters has a pepperiness that wakes up the palate and plays well with the orange sherry. I needed a moment. The drink isn’t on the menu, but drink.well offers it as a special for $12. Order it just to see Jessica in action — oh and to get that feeling you shouldn’t have in polite company.

Tacy tested her skills in Don Q Rum competition challenging USBG members to mix an island cocktail that embodies the spirit of Puerto Rico. About 20 bartenders competed locally to go on to the national competition in Manhattan and the top five finals winners will go to Puerto Rico to tour the distillery.

Tacy was eager to gauge her bartending skills in the Don Q 2012 Mix It Up Ultimate Mixology Challenge. She said, “I like to compete. It’s a great way to learn more about the cocktail scene and grow my skills.”

With strong competition, Tacy wanted to create a grown-up variation on a classic tiki drink with plenty of spice, which she called Espirita de Vida. She said, “The easiest way to make an island rum drink is put fruit and juice in a glass and call it fun. I wanted more depth and flavor, so I start with a Don Q Gran Anejo base. I then add two more types of rum and simple ingredients. The result is a balanced drink with an earthy tone from aged rum that you can enjoy outside on a summer day.”

Tacy’s drink is no sugar bomb with fruit flavors that boost the rum rather than obscuring it. It’s both elegant and clean and with the smoky caramel gusto that will appeal to whiskey drinkers. Tacy whipped the mint, ground the cinnamon and sprayed the Absinth for absolute freshness of flavors. The drink is served over crushed ice in frosted glass that brings the refreshing and clean cocktail to life. I was immediately transported to a beach, listening to the surf and feeling the sea spray. Can you put a little lotion on my back?

While Jessica and Tacy won the regional shows, neither placed in the national competition. Despite that, they showed that there are top-notch female bartenders in Austin worthy of the national stage. They also learned a lot about the importance of “Bring It On” style at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and can’t wait to bring it next year.

Here are the recipes so for you to try your hand at making the regional winning cocktails.

Civetta in Islay: Jessica Sanders, Winner of Campari regional competition

  • 1 oz. Bowmore 12 Year Single Malt Scotch
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz Duque de Carmona Orange Sherry
  • 2 drops/dashes Bittermen’s Burlesque Bitters

Espirita de Vida: Tacy Rowland, Winner of Don Q Rum regional competition

  • 1 oz Don Q Gran Anejo
  • 1/2 oz Don Q Anejo
  • 1/2 oz Don Q Cristal
  • 1/2 oz Maraschino Liquour
  • 1 oz grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • Fresh grated cinnamon
  • 2 dashes Bitterman’s Tiki bitters
  • Spray of Tenneyson Absinthe Royale

This article first appeared on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?

Some things get better with time: Treaty Oak Aged Rum

It sucks getting older. My knees hurt after every bike ride. One too many comes one too soon; and the mornings after are always less forgiving. What’s worse is that my dream of becoming an NBA star slips further and further into implausibility. Getting old only leads in one direction. It’s not like I’m crying about it, but I’m faced with daily cues of my slow decay and finite morality.

The other day I entered a place that reminded me that many things get better over time. I entered a place where aging is not only encouraged, but demanded. I entered a place where paradoxically silver ages to mellow amber. I entered the fragrant, warm and pragmatic Treaty Oak Distilling Co. where Chris Lamb, the lead distiller, gave me a ride in a time machine to see what is in store for those who look forward to maturity.

It all started a handful of years ago. In 2005 an entrepreneurially spirited Sommelier, Daniel Barnes, started experimenting with 200 recipes of rum. He established Graham Barnes Distilling (recently renamed Treaty Oak Distilling Co.) in Austin, Texas with a passion for drink, a copper pot still with a column, and a bent on refining his rum recipe to find the taste he was looking for. Treaty Oak Rum was introduced in in 2007.

Actually the inspiration started before that. Not far from the center of downtown Austin stands a majestic Live Oak. Treaty Oak is reportedly been alive for more than 500 years. Treaty Oak is the legendary meeting place where Stephen F. Austin met local Native Americans to negotiate the first boundary for Texas in the 1830s. Treaty Oak is the namesake for Treaty Oak Rum.

Actually it started before that. Not far from the border with Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley, the last sugar mill in Texas boils off sugar cane juice to make molasses as dark and sticky as tar. Molasses is older than my knees, it’s older than the United States with roots dating to the 1500s. Molasses made in Santa Rosa, TX is the main ingredient in Treaty Oak Rum.

Armed with Daniel’s time-tested recipe, Chris brews rum beer made of molasses and yeast in an initial fermentation that takes four days. He then distills the embryonic rum in a custom made pot and column still that has a unique distillation process that produces the equivalent of six to eight standard pot distillations per run. In the Treaty Oak still, the beer is boiled in the pot releasing vapors into the column where it cools and drips back down into the pot. It then begins the process all over again. The rum is then filtered twice for a smooth, round flavor.

Chris explained the process with the casual ease of Yoda. Despite his proficiency, he’s only been at this for a couple of years and he learned distilling on the job through trial and error. Oh and he has a story about a doozey of an error. Chris, can I tell them about the time you imploded the brand-new still?

As he talked, we dipped our fingers into the run-off from the still to test the alcohol to sugar balance in the flavor. Daniel and Chris have a very specific flavor profile they are striving for consistently in each batch. For the Treaty Oak Platinum they want rum that is not as sweet as some others. The molasses from Santa Rosa is bitter sweet to start and the double filtration cuts down the black strap molasses flavors and leaves behind the desired dark chocolate and vanilla flavors.

The Platinum Rum is delicious, but for those who are willing to wait, we will be treated to Treaty Oak Aged Rum, which is slated for a December 2011 release. The genesis of the Aged Rum is an experiment Daniel and Chris did with a one gallon barrel of platinum and aged it for 2 years. The aging brought out an amazing up-front sweetness that they knew they had to bring to market.

They decided to expand it to 60 gallon new American white oak barrels with a custom select char that results in soft buttery, vanilla blends in the production runs of the Aged Rum. They chose a heavy char on the barrels to get more natural filtration and tannins from a new barrel. Initially Treaty Oak Aged Rum will be produced in small batches aged for about 8 months; just enough aging to bring out fantastic qualities.

The guys at Treaty Oak have great recipes for the Platinum Rum. Not so for the Aged Rum. This rum should be enjoyed chilled, served in a snifter. Don’t mess with it. No ice, no juice. Just enjoy the flavor.

Treaty Oak Aged Rum

Is it worth the wait? Hell yeah. Let me tell you what it’s like. When it’s introduced, the Aged Rum will be 40 percent alcohol, but the pre-release batch I tasted was a heart-warming 49 percent alcohol.

Look Like looking into deep amber eyes caught in the sun, glistening, bright and sleek, yet deep. The eyes of an old soul looking back unblinking and unashamed of the sticky tears slowly rolling down.
Smell A vibrant smell of brown sugar, sweet corn and an invigorating rush of alcohol vapors straight up the nostril (remember, I tasted the high-test).
Taste The aged rum has lush flavors of chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla. Oh and mine had lots of kick. Chris encouraged me to add a dash of water to get it closer to the alcohol levels that will be released at production. That did the trick. It was smooth and sweet as a lasting kiss from a lover. A kiss I wanted to experience again. A kiss that could linger for a long time.
Price $25

Some things are worth the wait. Sometimes it’s preferable to get old. Will Treaty Oak Aged Rum reverse the degeneration of my knees? I doubt it, but I might forget about my dreams of the NBA after a couple glasses.

Treaty Oak Aged Rum will be available at bars, restaurants and retailers in Austin and surrounding areas starting in December 2011.

Treaty Oak provided a sample of the Aged Rum for this review. This article also appeared on Austin CultureMap.

What are you drinking?

Free Brain Freeze

Have you ever wondered what kind of hooch would go best in a cherry Slurpee at 7-11? Here’s your chance to experiment with a free mixer. The ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores are celebrating their 84th birthday on Monday, July 11th, by doling out free 7.11-oz size Slurpees.

What’s a birthday party without a few games? Pop on a party hat and join a series of competitions, including timed Slurpee-drinking contests, one-minute 7-Eleven-themed challenges and a Twitter popularity contest. You could win some killer 7-11 prizes. Not sure what they are, but I’m hoping for Twinkies and Mt. Dew.

Where:   2600 Guadalupe, Austin, TX 78705 (check your local store if you don’t live in Austin)
When:    Monday, July 11, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Here is my cocktail recommendation.

Messy Mojito

  • 7.11 oz Summertime Lime Slurpee
  • 1 oz Treaty Oak Platinum Rum
  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar, or to taste

Place mint leaves and 1 lime wedge into a sturdy glass. Use a muddler to crush the mint and lime to release the mint oils and lime juice. Do not strain the mixture. Fill the glass almost to the top with the Slurpee. Pour the rum over the Slurpee, stir and taste. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.

Get one of those extra fat straws so you can suck it down fast enough to get a brain freeze, and a buzz.

What are you drinking?

 

Specialty Drinks for Livestrong

My Mellow Yellow Benefit is coming up on Saturday, September 25. I you want to be one of the lucky ones on the invite list, all you have to do is make a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation on my page.

Entertainment will be provided by legendary DJ el john Selector of Thievery Corporation fame. Bring a wad of cash for the silent auction with lots of goodies like art, Mellow Johnny’s bike stuff, jewelry and more. We’ll of course have mouth-watering drinks provided by several sponsors including the Austin Wine Merchant, Live Oak Brewing Company, Republic Tequila, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Treaty Oak Rum and Graham’s Texas Tea.

 The good folks at Treaty Oak Rum and Graham’s Texas Tea have some great concoctions for us to try. Here’s what we’re making:

Pepperita:
2 oz Treaty Oak Platinum Rum
1 oz agave nectar
1 oz fresh lime juice
3 fresh jalapeno slices
3 oz club soda

Shake first three ingredients with two of the jalapeno slices.  Strain over ice, top with club soda and garnish with remaining jalapeno slice.

Texas Fuzz:
2 oz Graham’s Texas Tea
2 oz still water
3-4 Fresh Mint leaves, torn
1 Fresh Peach, sliced into 8 slices

Muddle peach slice and mint leaves in 2oz Graham’s Texas Tea. Top with still water and serve over ice.

I’ll of course get some reviews of the drinks written up after the party, but thought I’d get you good and thirsty now. If you want to try this out at home, check out this video of Eric Thorton mixing a Pepperita.

Let me know if you want to come and I’ll send you an invitation.

Cheers!

A drink for Livestrong

What is the official drink of the Austin Livestrong Challenge? There is one way for you to find out. Make a donation to my Livestrong campaign benefiting the Lance Armstrong Foundation and I’ll invite you to my bad-ass house party on Saturday, September 25 to thank you for your generous contribution to the fight against cancer.

The good folks at Treaty Oak Rum and Graham’s Texas Tea are donating their fantastic hooch and suggesting some fantastic cocktail recipes. I’m accepting donations from all other producers and distributors, so don’t be shy. Regardless of donations, there will be plenty of delicious drinks for you to choose from.

To keep you thirsty, we have the incredible DJ, el john Selector, of Thievery Corporation fame spinnin mind-melt-booty-rock. He will definitely keep your ass shakin. Check him out serving as the conguerro in this Thievery video.

Bottom line: this will be a ridiculously fun party and it supports a very important cause. Make a donation and get an invitation.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bd5jh3SLAc&fs=1&hl=en_US]