Whole Foods Markets brings 45 beer taps to its new Domain store

Whole Foods Market Domain StoreDo you want to go to the grocery store to have a couple beers? Not too long ago that would have been an absurd question. Lately a few stores around Austin have added beer taps to let customers enjoy a pint whether they are buying groceries or not. Whole Foods Markets, which has beer taps in its downtown, Arbor Trails and Bee Caves stores, is opening a new location at the Domain on Wednesday, January 15, 2014, that will have 45 beer taps in its Draft Shack. That’s great news for beer lovers in Austin.

Austin’s fifth Whole Foods Market store will be its second largest in the area with 63,000 square feet and will of course carry the fat selection of natural, organic and locally sourced eats that we’ve come to expect. Like each Whole Foods store, the new location at the Domain will have a unique feel with art pieces by Judy Paul, a cool moss and steel wall installation above the escalator by Articulture, re-purposed wheel barrows hanging above the Wheel barrow mobil at Whole Foods Marketproduce department and neon art in beer ally made by Austin Ion Art.

The artistic touches give it a cozy feel worthy of lingering a bit longer. The draw to linger is enhanced immensely with the Draft Shack, the store’s indoor oyster bar with 45 beers and four wines on tap as well as chargrilled oysters, gumbo and BBQ shrimp. The bar is located adjacent to the wine section. Both the beer and wine selections will rotate regularly with unique selections from new distributors.

Having a big selection of beer on tap gives Whole Foods the ability to sell us local brews that aren’t currently bottled to be available on the store shelves. The taps in Draft Shack will feature local beers from brewers like Austin Beerworks and wine from Duchman Winery. It will also have Abita Root Beer, house-made cold brewed coffee and hard cider from Austin Eastciders.

The Draft Shack isn’t the only place in the new store to chill with a draft beer. In front of the store, the Public Domain has outdoor seating, playground equipment for the rug rats, fire pits and a bad-ass recycled freight train shipping container that has been converted into an outdoor beer and bratwurst bar with four beers and root beer on tap. Dogs are welcome and even invited to “Yappy Hours.” The Public Domain will also have space for live music. Not bad for a grocery store.

Whole Foods Market Draft Shack BarIf you prefer to take your beer home, the Domain store will have 80 feet of beer in coolers. The beer aisle will have a four foot section that features 100 point rated beers. It will also have a selection of gluten free beers and ciders.

Krystal Angelo, the draft beer buyer for Whole Foods Market Domain and Jake Maddux, aka @BeerEvangelist, will host a Google + Hops Hangout on Tuesday, January 14, from noon to noon:30 to talk all things craft beer. This is a great chance to plan out your first beer adventure at the new Domain store.

All of those excellent beverages call for a nosh. Prepared foods will be plentiful in the Domain store. The bakery will have bread from Easy Tiger, fresh tortillas made in-store, a cookie of the, and made in-store bagels and bialys. The seafood department will also roll out do-it-yourself sushi and sashimi. My tour guide, Rachel is a huge fan of the Texas Ramen spot that will make Ramen with a Texas BBQ. There will be plenty of good chow on the hot bars and salad bars.

The store opening celebrations will start with a bread breaking ceremony (a Whole Foods Market version of ribbon cutting) at 7:30 a.m. and the official opening at 8 a.m. The first 500 shoppers in the store will receive a new Austin shopping bags filled with goodies. I wonder if it will include a local beer?

What are you drinking?

Hendrick’s Gin’s exclusive new cordial is available in only three cities — and Austin is one of them

Lesley Gracie, Hendrick’s Gin‘s master distiller, and a couple brand ambassadors are barnstorming a few U.S. cities, including New York, Austin and San Francisco to introduce a new quinine-based cordial called Quinetum (sorry Portland and Seattle — apparently your bar culture simply isn’t cool enough).

Here’s the kicker: Gracie distilled only 4,000 small bottles of the stuff and is bringing only 2,400 bottles to the States. With that limited supply, Hendricks isn’t even selling it — they’re just giving it away to two dozen of the coolest bars in these select cities.

In her first ever visit to Austin, Gracie recounted how she spent five years testing various recipes of herbal distillates. “I built this to find the right flavor to make delicious cocktails based on Hendrick’s Gin. We tested out tiny batches with local bartenders in Scotland to get it right.”

Now Hendrick’s is looking to top bartenders to create dazzling cocktails with Quinetum to pair with its cucumber- and rose-kissed gin. It’s a genius marketing ploy to gin up prestige for Hendrick’s by adding in an ultraexclusive lover to tease us.

Since you can’t buy it, your job is to track down where Quinetum is served and give it a taste before it all runs out. Here is your insider tip — NoVa Kitchen & Bar on Rainey Street has secured a coveted bottle and plans to start making cocktails with it very soon.

Tacy Rowland, lead bartender at NoVa, is thrilled to land a bottle, saying, “Hendricks Quinetum was expertly created with the bartender in mind. It’s complex without being overpowering: floral, slightly sweet and balanced with a lovely little bite from the cinchona bark. It’s very friendly in playing with a variety of spirits. I plan on using it in a gin, green tea and cinnamon toddy throughout the fall.”

Quinine made from cinchona succirubra bark has been used for centuries as a cure for malaria and a way to calm a nasty fever. In the 1630s, the Spanish brought it from South America to Europe, where it evolved over the years from being used just for medicinal purposes to become a nice bittering agent to pair with alcohol in cocktails. It’s a bit of an ironic twist that Hendrick’s chose to package Quinetum in a container fashioned after an antique poison bottle that they found in an old London shop.

Gracie’s tinkering with the Quinetum recipe eventually landed on a blend of quinine, lavender and orange distillates with extracts of orange blossom, wormwood and holy thistle, blended with glycerol to for a silky texture and a nip of sucrose to give it a sweetness (and to satisfy Alcohol Tobacco and Trade Bureau laws). The base distillate has four percent alcohol, which puts it in the cordial category, rather than syrup.

The result is a concentrated elixir with a rich, honeyed flavor. It’s potent enough to go a long way in a cocktail. As Gracie lovingly described it, “What most bartenders will immediately pick up on is the orange nose, giving way to subtle lavender notes. The taste has a deep green, bitter flavor from the wormwood, holy thistle and, of course, quinine. Bartenders should find this combination amiable for crafting into cocktails with Hendrick’s characteristic floral notes and spicy bitterness, which comes from the caraway seed and cubeb berries.”

While the intent is to find some of the best bartenders to create new cocktails with Quinetum, the Hendrick’s crew mixed up a couple concoctions to get the creative juices flowing.

Whiffen’s Wonderful Wibble

  • 2 parts Hendrick’s
  • ½ part fresh lemon juice
  • ½ part fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • ½ part Quinetum
  • ½ part tamarind syrup

Serve chilled or on the rocks in a coupe or martini glass.

Warburg’s Buck

  • 2 parts Hendrick’s
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  • ½ part Quinetum
  • ½ Rooibos Syrup
  • Topped with ginger ale

Serve over ice in a Collins glass.  Garnish with cucumber slice.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a small sample of Quinetum and plan to test a cocktail with it, gin, Fino Sherry and sparkling water. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If you want to try it, head to NoVa or conduct a foraging expedition at likely bars around town, including Bar Congress,ContigoDrink.well.Eastside Showroom and Whistler’s. One of them is bound to have a batch.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?