Garage wins Official Drink of Austin competition

Austin’s best cocktail bars battle for recognition and bragging rights.

Garage Wins

 

There are a lot of places to get a great cocktail in Austin, but only one bar gets to say it has the Official Cocktail of Austin. To earn that honor, the winners were one of six teams that had to run the cocktail gauntlet at the Official Drink of Austin 2015 event hosted by the Tipsy Texan to benefit the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. Teams from some of Austin’s best cocktail bars, including drink.well., Half Step, Odd Duck, Garage, Licha’s Cantina and the soon-to-open VOX Table, battled it out in front of a panel of judges to earn the title.

Teams from some of Austin’s best cocktail bars, including drink.well.Half StepOdd DuckGarageLicha’s Cantina and the soon-to-open VOX Table, battled it out in front of a panel of judges to earn the title.

The event has changed throughout the years and has grown with the rise of craft cocktails.

“We saw remarkable support for the event this year from the bars: Twenty-six venues submitted menus for the competition, a record for us,” says event originator and founder of Tipsy Texan, David Alan. “Furthermore, many of them were from restaurant bars, not just the usual-suspect cocktail bars you see in many competitions. As the scene matures, it becomes harder and harder each year to narrow it down to just six contestants. This was the best lineup we’ve ever had and we sold out of tickets, and could have sold a hundred more if we’d had them. My voice isn’t loud enough to sing the praises of this community.”

The competition not only shows off the talent of local bartenders, but it also shines a spotlight on Texas spirits. The thirsty crowd sampled drinks from each of the competing bars, as well as various cocktails from locally owned distilleries, including Balcones Distilling, Deep Eddy Vodka, Dripping Springs Gin, Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, Garrison Brothers, Genius Gin, Paula’s Texas Spirits, Revolution Spirits, Tequila 512, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Treaty Oak Distilling and White Hat Rum.

Rivers of booze were flowing and people voted for their favorites with the People’s Choice Award. A panel of drink experts, including Chef Jack Gilmore, Gina Chavez, Dan Gentile, Jason Stevens, Jason Kosmas and last year’s winner, Justin Elliott of Qui, cast a critical palate on each concoction.

Kosmas let us in on his judging criteria., “Of course it’s got to be a great drink,” he says. “The scrutiny is if it really represents Austin. We see some great cocktails here that don’t have an Austin feel. You can’t fake it.”

Led by Chauncy James, the team from Garage, the covert bar tucked inside the American National Bank parking garage, brought its A game. In so doing, they won the People’s Choice Award. However, the judges selected the Half Step team led by Chris Bostick as its winner. That set up an onstage shake-off between Garage, with its vodka-based drink, The Indian Paintbrush, against Half Step, with its smoky version of a michelada called the Don Brimstone.

Garage emerged victorious, earning The Indian Paintbrush the title of The Official Drink of Austin 2015.

The Indian Paintbrush Aka, The Official Drink of Austin

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Dripping Springs Vodka
  • 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • .5 ounce fresh lime juice
  • .5 ounce rosemary syrup
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Directions:

Pour all ingredients into a tin, shake over ice, double fine strain into a Tom Collins glass and add ice and garnish with rosemary.

While it is a ton of fun, the event also raises money for a good cause.

“The purpose of what we do is to raise money and reinvest it in the community,” says Mariam Parker, executive director of the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. “Proceeds from the event help provide money for culinary innovation grants. The event also highlights the incredible talent we have in town.”

This story was originally published by Austin Woman Magazine.

Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to the event. 

What Are You Drinking? 

Win tickets to “The Official Drink of Austin” cocktail competition

official drink of austin

What are you doing on Thursday night? Do you want to go watch some of the most talented bartenders in Austin mix amazing cocktails in hopes that their concoction is crowed “The Official Drink of Austin”? Do you want to taste everything they make? Do you want to do it for free?

Hell yeah!

Here is your chance. What are You Drinking is giving away a pair of tickets to this bad-ass event.

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance is once again in bed with Tipsy Texan to host the crazy fun Official Drink of Austin cocktail competition on Thursday, February 26 from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at Fair Market.  The insanely talented  bar teams from drink.well., Half Step, Odd Duck, Garage, Licha’s Cantina, and VOX Table will strut their stuff to see who is best.

Now, this’ll be a straight cocktail-off, old school rules. First bartender mixes; second bartender duplicates, then elaborates. Okay, boys – let’s go to work! … or something like that.

It won’t be David Bowie judging this competition. Nope. The esteemed judges include Jason Kosmas, co-founder of The 86 Company; Jack Gilmore, chef and owner of Jack Allen’s Kitchen; Justin Elliott, last year’s Official Drink of Austin winner and bartender at qui restaurant; Dan Gentile, writer for Thrillist; and Austin singer/songwriter Gina Chavez. Like Bowie, many of the judges will be wearing leather pants and excessive makeup and trying to make it with David Alan.

Did I mention the drinks? There will be gallons of delicious Texas booze poured from the generous distillers at Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, Treaty Oak Distilling, Balcones Distilling, Garrison Brothers, Deep Eddy Vodka, White Hat Rum, Dripping Springs Gin, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Genius Gin, Revolution Spirits, Paula’s Texas Spirits,Tequila 512, and more. Plus you can wiggle your tushy to the groovy cuts spun by DJ ulovei.

Its not just for braggin’ rights. These selfless bar heroes are raising money for culinary grants too. The Austin Food and Wine Alliance raises fat sacks of cash for culinary grants, giving away $75,000 since 2012.

Tickets are $55, but here is your chance to win a pair. All you have to do is answer the following question:

“What Texas spirit was included in the winning cocktail recipe from the 2014 Official Drink of Austin?”

Submit your answer in the comment section below. One winner will be chosen at random from all correct submissions.

_______

Updated Tuesday, Feb 24, 7:40 pm: Thanks to everyone who entered! Bryce Boltjes had the correct answer, Balcones Rumbles was the Texas spirit used in the Tepache. Many of you had the right answer, and Bryce’s response was chosen by drawing a random number. I hope to see you there on Thursday!

 What Are You Drinking? 

Win tickets to “Official Drink of Austin” cocktail competition and Texas spirit showcase

Official Drink of Austin What is better than a room full of skilled bartenders from the top bars in Austin mixing excellent cocktails for you? Getting free tickets to the Official Drink of Austin competition courtesy of Austin Food & Wine Alliance and What Are You Drinking! That’s what.

 The reincarnated booze bash returns this Thursday, February 20, after a two year nap to test the skills of six bar teams from drink.well., Four Seasons Hotel, Midnight Cowboy, qui, Weather Up, and Whisler’s to see who wins the title of the Official Drink of Austin. The cocktail competition, hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance and Tipsy Texan will be held 7–10 pm AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center to raise funds for culinary grants awarded by the Alliance.

AT&T Conference Center Map“We want to showcase the Texas spirits industry in this event,” said Austin Food & Wine Alliance executive director, Mariam Parker. “When the Official Drink of Austin contest was started by the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Tito’s Vodka about a decade ago, Tito’s was the primary distillery in the state. Now there are more than 40 distillers operating in the state and 13 participating in our event.”

Book your cab ride ahead of time, because tasting your way through this party could make you a tipsy Texan. The competitors will be set up in the middle of the room, showing off their skills and serving samples to guests. They will be surrounded by a phalanx of Texas distilleries and local chefs. Not only will you be able to taste the Official Drink of Austin contest entries, but you will be able to sample cocktails featuring Texas spirits including Deep Eddy Vodka, Dripping Springs Vodka, Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, Genius Gin, Paula Texas Spirits, Red River Whiskey, Tequila 512, Tito’s Vodka, Treaty Oak Distilling, White Hat Rum, and Z Tequila.

Bob your head to booty music provided DJ ulovei while noshing on nibbles served by some of the hottest chefs in town including Josh Watkins and Plinio Sandalio of The Carillon, Peter Maffei of Finn & Porter, Camden Stuerzenberger of Fork & Vine, Jean Pierre Lacoste of Frank, John Lichtenberger of Peche, Lawrence Kocurek of TRACE, Mat Clouser of Swift’s Attic, Kristine Kittrell of Weather Up, Eric Silverstein of The Peached Tortilla, Scott Higby of TRIO, and Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier of Lick’s Honest Ice Cream.

The format of the competition has changed a bit this year, with a change to a team competition rather than individual bartenders battling. The six participating a five-member bar teams were chosen from a field of twenty entrants who submitted three drink recipes made with at least one, one-ounce Texas spirit as the main ingredient.

David Alan, Tipsy Texan

The six finalist bars were chosen to compete in an intense process by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance executive director, Mariam Parker, Alliance board member, Michael Bepko, and professional bartender and drinks author, David Alan (aka the Tipsy Texan) who was instrumental in establishing the original Official Drink competition.

“It was not easy to pick the six finalists by any means,” said Parker. “To earn a spot in the competition, bar teams had to bring something unique. We wanted to see special cocktails. For example, one of the drinks the Drink.well team submitted featured a foam made with Jester King beer. We have such a creative community and many of the bartenders are artistic. It will be fun to see how their ideas translate into the cocktail. ”

At the Official Drink event, contestants will present a set of cocktails for each judge that are made with no more than six components including alcohol and non-alcohol elements like drops, rinses and dashes. They will be given 17 minutes to wow the judges with showmanship, creativity, craft and taste. The crowd will be in on the act awarding People’s Choice points to each team’s overall score. The two teams with the highest scores will throw it down in a drink off live on stage, mixing their best cocktails for the judges.

Jason KosmasThe judges will have their work cut out for them. The panel is packed with exceptional credentials. Jason Kosmas, has made his mark in the cocktail world as co-founder of the 86 Company and helped spark the classic cocktail scene New York City as co-founder of Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. He will be looking for touches of Austin when marking his ballot.

“It will be important that the cocktails represent the city by capturing the balance between the funkiness, the nerdiness, and the fun,” said Kosmas.

He is also looking for drinks that aren’t over done. “The cocktail scene has gotten into the place where drinks have gotten crazy with bold ingredients,” said Kosmas. “It’s been said that the greatest technique that any chef can exercise is restraint. The same is true for cocktails. Don’t make it too complicated. It doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to taste good. Sometimes bartenders just need to stop before they put their last ingredient in.”

That sounds like a recipe for success. The winners get the honor of touting the title of Austin’s Official Drink for the entire year. The official drink will be featured at Austin Food & Wine Alliance events throughout the year.

Win free tickets!

Tickets are $65 each to attend the event, but one lucky winner will receive two tickets. All you have to do is answer the following question:

“What two Texas spirits were included in the winning cocktail recipe from the 2011 Drink Local Night?”

Submit your answer in the comment section below. One winner will be chosen at random from all correct submissions.

What are you drinking? 

Photo of Jason Kosmas taken by Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer

Fine time at Wine & Swine

Wine & SwineThis Sunday hundreds of people gathered in the sun to chow whole hog prepared in dozens of ways. The second annual Wine & Swine event hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance pitted 17 chefs against each other in a competition of unrationed rashers. It was a truly Texan event with more roast meat than you can imagine and plenty to drink.

Many of the chefs stayed up all night roasting whole pigs in various ways. Of course the chefs needed high octane fuel to keep themselves awake. John Bates of Nobel Pig drank plenty of Jester King beer. Josh Watkins of the Carrilon listed a litany of drinks including tequila and vodka. Fortunately the event had plenty of drinks on hand for guests like me to enjoy.

Before we get to what I was drinking, congratulations to the chef’s who won the Greenling Fan Favorite Award. The Grand Champion went to chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon with his Cuban pork dish. In second place was chef Jason Dady of Bin 555 and Jason Dady Restaurants with his maple bourbon-glazed whole pig (I understand it was a very close finish) and third place went to Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo with his pork with smoke tomatoes and arugula.

OK, back to the drinks. I strolled about the grounds of Pioneer Farms slugging back cocktails made by David Allen, the Tipsy Texan, local beers from Hops & Grain and Jester King, cider from Argus Cidery, Texas wine from Pedarnales Cellars and rum from White Hat. Here are a few photos of the wonderful things I enjoyed while there.

This event was a hell of a lot of fun. If you missed it, make plans to go next year to pig out and drink your fill. Where else can you see well-dressed beautiful women sucking the meat off a rib bone without a care in the world?

What are you drinking?

 

Local chefs go whole hog at Wine & Swine, benefiting Austin Food & Wine Alliance

Jason Dady, Bin 555How many ways can you think of to prepare a whole pig?

On Sunday, Nov. 4, more than a dozen prominent central Texas chefs will test their haute hog skills at the second annual Wine & Swine charity event held by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. The day of food and fun runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the pastoral setting of Pioneer Farms in northeast Austin.

Alliance President Cathy Cochran-Lewis is expecting a sell-out crowd of about 500 guests to attend.

“The first event was incredibly social and the kind of party everyone wants to be invited to. We’re excited to bring it back,” says Cochran-Lewis. “We’ll be set up in the historic town square of Pioneer Farms with hay rides, live music, a cocktail lounge, amazing wines and local craft beer. The highlight will be the dishes prepared by adventurous chefs who love to roast whole animals.”

James Beard Award nominee Jason Dady originated the event concept to pit talented chefs in a competition for the best roasted pig. Local chefs have eagerly volunteered to participate to see what they can do with a whole pig when given creative license to apply their unique style and prepare the pigs any way they choose, pulling out all the stops as they go.

Because roasting a whole hog takes time, many of the chefs will camp out for the night on the farm tending fires either in or above the ground. Chef Josh Watkins, from The Carillon, is bringing his creativity to this year’s event.

“Last year we dug a hole, lit a gigantic fire in it to roast our pig. We marinated our pig in a Cuban marinade, wrapped it in banana leafs, then in a burlap sack, buried it and cooked it,” says Watkins. “This year we’re not digging a hole — I’ll tell you that. We’re using a stainless steel roasting box, known as the Chinese microwave, which roasts the pig with indirect heat with coals burning outside of the box. I’m fairly competitive, so I’m going to be creative and serve pork in six to eight different ways.”

Chef Watkins won the Greenling Fan Favorite at the Alliance’s Live Fire event earlier this year and he knows he’ll have stiff competition at Wine & Swine. “The ultimate goal is to repeat. Instead of just roasting a pig, I’m going to have to make it more elegant, more intriguing. Sometimes in outdoor settings people go to rustic. Rustic has its place in a family style meal, but this is a chef’s station set up. Elegance is in order.”

The Texas Pork Producers Association will award a $1,000 prize to the Greenling Fan Favorite chef at Wine & Swine. Guests are able to vote for their favorite pork sensation using Twitter and text messages at the event.

Swine searing Central Texas chefs competing include father and son duo Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine and Odd Duck working together. They will be competing against Alma Alcocer-Thomas, El Alma; John Bates, Noble Pig; John Bullington, Alamo Drafthouse; Jason Dady, Bin 555 in San Antonio; Ben Hightower, Trace; James Holmes, Olivia; Eric Lucas, Whole Foods Market; Charles Mayes, Café Josie; David Norman, Easy Tiger; Zack Northcutt, Swift’s Attic; Rebecca Rather, The Pink Pig; and Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo.

Proceeds from Wine & Swine will support the Austin Food & Wine Alliance efforts to foster innovation in the Central Texas food and beverage community through its grant program. The Alliance hopes to provide$20,000 in grants this year for chefs, farmers, artisan producers and culinary nonprofits.

Nothing could sound more rustic than a pig roast on a cool November day around open fires on a 90-acre farm, but the event also promises to be an exquisite culinary experience. Tickets are available for online purchase for $75 and will be sold at the door for $95.

This article was previously published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking? 

“Brontosaurus ribs” by local chef win the Greenling Fan Favorite award at Live Fire! meat-cooking competition

In Forrest Gump, Bubba rattles off over 20 different ways to prepare shrimp. It turns out that beef is pretty damn versatile too. On a beautiful April night at the rustic Salt Lick Pavilion, roughly 550 people gathered to grub on beef prepared in creative ways by 16 chefs at Live Fire.Iron and fire and Live Fire

In its second year, the celebration of Texas cuisine hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance hit its stride with hot chefs, inventive dishes, delicious drinks and entertainment; The Elana James Trio had people dancing to western-swing in the pavilion while fire dancers mesmerized the crowd on the lawn — even the bugs lit up in the waning light of dusk.

Alliance executive director, Mariam Parker says, “It’s a really fun event that lets people sample the great flavors of Texas and a twist of the red-hot culinary scene.”

Live Fire started as part of the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival and continues as a legacy event held on the eve of the new Austin Food & Wine Festival. This year, chefs were given  leeway to come up with their own recipes as long as they used beef as the main ingredient. After all, the Texas Beef Council was one of the primary sponsors.

While most of the participating chefs were from Austin, the event also drew chefs from culinary destinations like Portland and San Antonio, where commitment to local ingredients and innovative culinary trends is a shared passion.

The longest line at the event was unsurprisingly for Franklin Barbecue. People in Austin are accustomed to waiting for hours on end for a helping of the barbecue that Aaron Franklin serves at his East Side eatery.

Inspired by local cocktail scenester, David Alan, Franklin presented a sumptuous sandwich with chopped brisket and sausage, purple coleslaw and pickles spilling over a slider bun called the Tipsy Texan. Franklin explained why he participated in the event, “The people putting on Live Fire are so awesome. I can’t imagine not doing this event. It’s for a great cause.”

Not shying away from the exotic, Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo prepared cured beef heart with chicory salad. Why beef heart? Wiseheart quipped, “Because the lungs were already taken. That, and we wanted something unexpected that people would enjoy.”

I was instantly drawn to Beast for the name alone, but when I saw what chef Naomi Pomeroy created, I wanted to set up camp. A rare Texas waygu strip loin roast with wild ramp butter (ramps are in season in Oregon right now) was paired with bone marrow and caramelized tomato tarts. “Bone marrow is the foie gras of beef.”

Her sentiment was shared by meat aficionado and butcher blogger, Reece Lagunas of Whole Foods Market, who made barbacoa with bone marrow butter. “Barbacoa is a staple in Texas. What’s not to like about something that has twenty-five percent fat that cooks down. It’s bound to be good.” Sliced avocado slid over the top gave it extra silkiness.

In one of the most visually stunning displays, John Bullington of Alamo Drafthouse, roasted a 407 pound half cow over an open fire pit and served it with corn mescal pudding. The hulking beast cooked for 20 hours on a specially made rack before it was carved up and served to the crowd.

In his second year making the trip from Portland for Live Fire, Adam Sappington of The Country Cat, created grilled beef shanks tossed in roasted garlic and sherry vinegar with (again) bone marrow butter and Maker’s Mark sauce. “I love beef shank. We do all-around butchery at the restaurant, and I fell in love with the shank because it has a great gelatinous texture. It’s a hidden gem in the cow.”

Local tail-to-snout enthusiast, Ned Elliott of Foreign & Domestic, created a Reuben-like sandwich of beef tongue pastrami on rye with chicken liver mousse and Maker’s Mark onion jam. Maker’s Mark was a sponsor for a second year in a row, which explains why it shows up in multiple recipes.

Drawing on his Hawaiian and Californian roots, Jonathan Gelman of The Driskill served fire-grilled and smoked beef tri tip along with cast-iron cornbread puree. “Tri tip isn’t a very popular cut in Texas. I wanted to introduce it to a broader audience. It’s touchy to cook. If you over cook it, it gets tough. If you under cook it, it gets tough. I cooked this for 12 hours before the event and then finished it on the grill.”

Participants were able to choose their favorite dish in a text-vote. The winner of this year’s Greenling Fan Favorite was Josh Watkins of The Carillon. Watkins prepared two dishes, fried beef cheeks and beef ribs served with corn pudding and pickled vegetables. He braised the beef cheeks ahead of time and then fried them on-site to and served them with Brussels sprouts. The monstrous ribs, which Watkins called “brontosaurus ribs,” were smoked for 48 hours before the event.

There were plenty of good cocktails, local beer and fine wines to wash all of that cow down the gullet with 19 wine and spirit makers and four local craft breweries participating. Texas wine pioneers, Ed and Susan Auler, who were the original founders of the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, were on hand to pour Fall Creek Vineyards wines. Always affable up-and-coming craft brewer, Josh Hare, had cans of his Hops and Grain brews at the ready. The Pale Dog ale went particularly well with Franklin Barbeque. April Collins poured a selection from wines from her portfolio flanked by her hubby, Master Sommelier, Craig Collins.

Proceeds from Live Fire will let Austin Food & Wine Alliance support the local culinary community through a vibrant Culinary Grant Program for chefs, farmers, artisan producers and nonprofits. The Alliance, which is dedicated to fostering awareness and innovation in the Central Texas food and beverage community, plans to raise enough money with Live Fire to award two to four grants of $5,000 each.

“A grant of that size makes an impact to the beneficiary, allowing them to do things like buy equipment,” says Parker.

Awards will likely be announced around the time of the Alliance’s next big event, a pig roast, in the fall. I may be hungry again by then.

This story was first published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?