Austin’s status as a big city seems to have been cemented over the past year with the arrival of Formula 1 racing, the burgeoning census data and the advent of 10-digit dialing to accommodate a new area code. The city’s growth might bring more congestion, but it hasn’t dramatically altered its sophisticated and adventurous, yet relaxed, personality. Austin’s best bars embrace that same personality. That’s what makes them cool.
Whether you are closing a deal over happy hour, looking to impress your friend on date night or you just want to relax after work, the swanky cocktail lounge at Bar Congress is your destination. Tucked between its sister establishments—the casual Second Bar + Kitchen and the elegant Congress restaurant—Bar Congress is a refined yet welcoming blend of both. It’s a neighborhood bar where residents nibble on Chef David Bull’s delectable snacks, a celebration destination for a glass of Champagne before a 20th anniversary dinner and a cocktail bar where aficionados congregate for some of today’s best craft cocktails.
The man behind the excellent cocktails, Jason Stevens, has polished his skills over the past 15 years of bar management at hot spots such as the East Side Showroom and The Tigress before coming to Bar Congress. He is an award-winning mixologist, speaker and teacher of the history and art of quality -focused cocktails, and his recipes have been published nationally and locally. Stevens sees a shift toward simplicity in the Austin cocktail scene.
“The era of the 25-minute cocktail is going away,” he says. “There is a focus on simple cocktails with fresh local ingredients and local spirits. Tequila and mescal are popular here. With the onset of summer, people want refreshing drinks. I’m a big fan of all types of rum. I’m also getting into aromatized wines, aperitifs and vermouth.”
AUSTIN’S COOLEST COCKTAIL
April 5, 1971: This lively cocktail is named for the day Gary Busey was arrested for his first DWI. (This historical fact is completely unconfirmed and fully fabricated.)
The April 5, 1971, combines Steven’s love for Sherry and tiki drinks without using rum. It mingles the light and refreshing elements of a margarita but tastes nothing like one. It’s complex without being difficult, showcasing the flavor of tequila. The light touch of cinnamon and allspice gives it a playful and sophisticated zing. The fresh zip of citrus sings summer wrapped in a whisper-dry Sherry for a nutty almond underlying flavor with a hint of sweetness. “On the surface it’s laidback, but it has lots of depth and complexity once you get past it all,” Stevens says, “just like Austin.”
- 1 ounce Siembra Azul Tequila Blanco
- 1 ounce Amontillado Sherry
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce Cong’s Spices #2, a lightly spiced grapefruit cordial made in-house
Directions: Combine all ingredients, shake and serve up with a twist of Rio Star grapefruit peel on top.
This story was originally published in the July, 2013 issue of Austin Woman Magazine.