3 whiskey cocktails guaranteed to keep you warm this winter

Late winter weather in Texas calls for whiskey to warm you up. But instead of heading to a bar for a beverage, What Are You Drinking brings you three winter warmer whiskey cocktail recipes to make at home.

A Texas take on Irish Coffee

Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey

Amanda and Nick Swift both love Scotch whisky. Amanda was born to love it.

“My family is Irish Catholic,” she said. “If you’re not drunk by noon, you’re not doin’ it right.”

Rather than feed that passion at the local pub, Amanda and Nick traveled extensively to whiskey meccas like Kentucky, Ireland and Scotland to research production methods and learn the business. They used that knowledge to start the Swift Distillery, which makes Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey, in Dripping Springs in 2012 and had cranked out their first batch by August 2013.

“We tried a couple hundred recipes before settling on the one we use,” said Nick. “We kept refining it to find just the right two-row barley that when malted is sweet but not too sweet. We want a slight musty flavor with the right amount of subtlety.”

The Swifts also worked hard to match the mineral content in the water they use to the profile of water used to make whisky in Speyside, in the Scottish Lowlands. Amanda put her science education to work to analyze the water and add back minerals after filtering it.

“We are very particular about our water,” said Nick. “We like the water from just outside Elgin, Scotland and just outside Bushmills, Ireland, which are similar in ion content. We want to replicate that.”

They took the same care in selecting copper stills that were handmade in Portugal, and the aging barrels from a Kentucky bourbon distillery and the Sandeman Sherry bodega in Spain. The Swifts do every step of production by hand. They hand mill 1,200 pounds of grain a week and ferment it on site. It is then distilled one bucket at a time. Each bucket is poured through a copper funnel lined with cheese cloth right into a barrel for aging.

After distillation, the first batch of Swift Single Malt lazed about for year in bourbon barrels and another three months in Sherry casks before it was bottled. The second batch — the batch that is on shelves now — also aged for a year in bourbon barrels, but matured for six months in the Sherry casks. Swift plans to make about 39 bourbon barrels or the equivalent of 15,000 bottles a year.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Amanda. “We hand bottle every one right down to putting the hand numbered label on each one. My dad stuffs every cork into the bottles.” The finished whiskey is golden amber in color and regularly compared to The MaCallan in flavor. It’s fantastic neat or with a cube of ice, but Amanda’s dad loves it in Irish Coffee. Pick up a bottle of Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey at Wine & Spirits on South Lamar Boulevard or Austin Wine Merchant for $50; or order it by the glass at Péché, Black Heart or Lamberts.

Swift Irish Coffee

  • Equal parts Swift Single Malt and Bailey’s Irish cream
  • 5 ounces strong coffee

Top with homemade whipped cream.

Prohibition Scotch

Cutty Sark Boulevardier
The dreaded Dark Age for alcohol started January 17, 1920 and spread its gloom until December 5, 1933, spanning the time when Cutty Sark, the blended Scotch whisky was introduced to the world in 1923. The UK-based whisky maker has just released a Prohibition Edition commemorating the end of prohibition 90 years ago.

Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is made in small batches in Scotland, aged in American oak casks and sold in black bottles that harken back to the bottle style of the 1920s. It is a lighter style whisky with vanilla, toffee and citrus flavors. What could be better than mixing a Prohibition era cocktail with it? The Boulevardier, a cousin of the gin-based Negroni, came to prominence in print in 1927. The Bouldevardier swaps the gin in Negroni for a good pour of whiskey (typically bourbon) which is mixed with equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth. For a smokier, nuttier version, swap the bourbon for Scotch and replace the vermouth with Madeira. It’s delightful. Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is available at Specs for $30 a bottle.

Bastard Boulevardier

  • 1.5 ounces Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce Madeira

Combine the ingredients in a glass filled with ice and strain into a rocks glass with ice.

Garnish with a twist of lemon.

The Capone cocktail  

Capone with Templeton Rye
While we certainly don’t celebrate the murderous crime of infamous gangster Al Capone we can get behind his love for whiskey. January 17 marked what would have been his 116 birthday, which is a fun excuse to make a cocktail with another Prohibition era whiskey, Templeton Rye.

Templeton Rye is distilled in Indiana and bottled in Templeton, Iowa, giving it the Mid-West roots any Chicago mobster could admire. Reportedly this whiskey was Capone’s rye of choice. In fact, it is said that he had bottles smuggled into Alcatraz and that he’s buried with a bottle. We can’t vouch for that, but we can tell you his namesake cocktail is badass. Templeton Rye is available at Twin Liquors for $40.

The Capone

  • 3 ounces Templeton Rye Whiskey
  • 1 ounce Grand Marnier
  • Splash of Champagne
  • Dash of bitters

Combine Templeton Rye, bitters and Grand Marnier in a shaker. Shake well, strain in martini glass. Float champagne and garnish with lemon twist.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I received samples of each of the three whiskeys to taste for this story.

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The perfect holiday gifts for cocktail lovers

The best holiday gifts are the gifts that keep on giving. If you want the perfect gift for a friend or loved one who loves cocktails as much as you, give them this craft cocktail gift set. Its two gifts in one: they’ll love you for it and you stand a good chance of having them make you cocktails for the next year.

These indispensable happy hour implements were selected by a guy who knows his way around a bar:  Scranton Twohey, the owner of the east side cocktail mecca, Whisler’s. Twohey claims these five necessities for the home bar will only set you back about $75 for the whole shebang and all of them are available at cocktailkingdom.com.

1.       Hoffman Bar SpoonBar Spoon (1)

Spirits driven drinks should be stirred, not shaken. This spoon has a classic look and the spiraled neck makes it easy to grip. The Hoffman is available in silver, copper & even gold plated. $19.95

2.       Silicone 2×2 inch Ice Cube TraysIce Cube Tray

Big ice cubes have less surface area and melt slower than small cubes, so your drink doesn’t get watered down. Spherical cubes might be fun, but when two-inch ice cubes are all you need. $6.95

3.       Natural Wood MuddlerMuddler

Muddlers are vital for crushing herbs like mint to make mojitos and mint juleps. When shopping for a muddler make sure it’s long enough to reach to the bottom of your tallest glass. $10.95

4.       Leopold jiggerJigger

Just like with baking, creating the perfect cocktail requires precise measurement. Besides the unique vintage design, this jigger has measurements marked on the inside for more accurate pouring. Measurements include 1oz, 1/2oz, 3/4 oz, 1 1Ž2 oz and 2 oz. $18.95

5.       Set of two Koriko Weighted Shaker TinsSet of Koriko Shakers

Shakers are a must have for any home bar. With a great stainless steel style, these tins also seal together well, so there are no leaks when making cocktails  $16.90

If you would rather buy your tools in person, Twohey also recommends local stores Serve Gourmet, Metier Cooks Supply and Breed & Co for finding bar essentials.

If you need a demonstration first, you can always see these bar tools in action at Whisler’s. Try the Fall/Winter menu featuring 12 new cocktails like:

Eastside Queen

Eastside Queen  

  • 1.5 oz Vodka
  • .75 oz Cranberry-Rosemary Syrup
  • .75 oz Lemon

Shaken and served up in a chilled coupe. Garnish with rosemary sprig.

I Yam What I Yam

I Yam What I Yam 

  • 1.5 oz Butter-Infused Rum
  • .5 oz Milletti Amaro
  • 1 oz Sweet Potato Shrub
  • 2 dashes of walnut bitters & 1 dash bitters

Shaken and strained over ice in an old-fashioned glass.  Garnish with toasted marshmallow.

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19 Austin Bars Celebrate Negroni Week, June 2 – 8

Negroni at Drink.well. This week, Campari and Imbibe bring us Negroni Week, a celebration of a beloved classic cocktail  — and an easy way to raise money for charitable causes. From June 2-8, 17 local bars will donate $1 from every Negroni sold to a charity of the bar’s choice. Who can beat drinking for a good cause?

“We launched Negroni Week last year, and it was a very spur of the moment idea, but within a couple of weeks had over 120 bars and restaurants around the country signed up to donate $1 of every Negroni sale to the charity of their choice,” said Karen Foley, publisher of Imbibe Magazine. “Based on the response, we decided to get more serious about the idea. We partnered with Campari and the US Bartenders Guild to help build the momentum. We now have more than 1,000 bars signed up from around the world.”

The Negroni is an Italian cocktail invented in the early 1900s and typically is served as an aperitif. A classic Negroni is pretty straight-forward. The sexy red drink is simply equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth served with a twist of orange. It’s the perfect yin and yang of sweet and bitter with a boozy spank.

Participating Austin bartenders will mix up their favorite Negroni variations. To kick off Negroni Week, we share our five favorite spots (and a few recipes, too).

Searsucker Austin
Searsucker is tapping a cask of barrel-aged “rum-gronie,” and will serve refreshing drinks for $12. “We are serving drinks from barrel of rum-groni, which I made by aging El Dorado Rum, Comapri and sweet Vermouth in a 20 liter barrel for two months,” said Tyler Naumann, beverage director. “Rum is my favorite spirit to work with and barrel-aged rum is sweet. It goes well with lime and it’s great to drink when it’s hot outside. I used a virgin, first char barrel for this batch. The barrel calms down the bitterness of the Campari and added a smoky vibe that rounds it out in a cool way.”

Searsucker also offers a traditional Negroni made with Fords Gin and a tequila version called Amargo, using Casamigos tequila. Proceeds will benefit Austin Pets Alive!.

Whisler’s
With a new mezcal bar, Mezcalería Tobalá, perched upstairs from its main bar, Whisler’s enters Negroni Week with smoky Mexican flair. Rather than the traditional gin, mezcal graces the Whisler’s Negroni. Proceeds will benefit Austin Music Foundation.

Drink.Well.
The bartenders at this North Loop neighborhood cocktail den will mix three variations on the Negroni including the classic Negroni, the Negroni Fragola and La Conquistadora with proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. On Wednesday, Drink.Well. will serve Genius Gin for an all-night happy hour in Negronis for $6 all night.

Negroni Fragola 

  • 1.5 ounce Plymouth Gin
  • .75 ounce strawberry-infused Dolin Blanc vermouth
  • .75 ounce Campari
  • 2 dashes Regan’s Orange bitters

Stirred and served up in a coupe and garnished with a strawberry slice floating on the surface.

W Hotel Austin
The swanky Living Room bars in the W Hotel Austin is mixing three twists on the Negroni cocktail concocted by Living Room bar manager Will Rogers and head libationist Dustin Courtright.

“The exciting thing about Negroni Week is taking a classic cocktail and putting a new spin on it. We’ve loved the Negroni and have had different versions on our menu like a sparkling Negroni with sparkling wine instead of vermouth and also have one with Lillet instead of vermouth. These drinks appeal to the evolving, sophisticated cocktail scene in Austin,” said Rogers. Proceeds from the MacGroni, Innocente and Portuguese Negroni will benefit the Young Chamber of Commerce.

MacGroni

  • 1 ounce The Glenlivet
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce Sweet Vermouth

Served with a lemon twist.

The Bonneville
The Bonneville is introducing The Coqueta, which it describes as a more feminine style Negroni made by substituting Campari with Aperol (slightly less bitter)and topping it with bright and bubbly Prosecco. The drink will benefit PAWS of Austin.

The Coqueta

  • 1 ounce No. 3 Gin
  • 1 ounce Aperol
  • 1 ounce Sweet Vermouth

Top with Prosecco and garnish with bruleed orange slice.

— Update — June 3 additions 

Dozen Street

This new east side bar, located at 12th and Chicon, has thrown its hat into the Negroni ring using the new locally-produced Revolution Austin Reserve Gin. Proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity.

A Spirited Revolution

  • 2 ounces Revolution Austin Reserve Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Campari
  • 1/4 ounce St. Germain
  • 3/4 ounce Dolin Sweet Vermouth

Garnish with flamed grapefruit zest.

Participating bars are:

If you want to participate in the Negroni Week social media action, use the #NegroniWeek hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

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Speed Rack Fundraiser to be Held at Drink.well

Jessica Sanders, Drinkwell ownerWhat’s better than a fantastic cocktail? A fantastic cocktail made by an extremely talented female bartender.

On Wednesday, January 15, the top female bartenders in Texas will battle to see who is the best cocktail slinger in Speed Rack, a national cocktail competition. The competition is held in eight major markets in timed round robin style events and judged challenges. The local winners go on to participate in the big momma competition in New York. It’s not only a test of great skill and creativity, but also a fundraiser. Proceeds go to support breast cancer related charities.

To prepare for Wednesday’s event, Dame Jessica Sanders, co-owner of the fantastic Drink.well is holding a fundraiser this Sunday, January 12, from 5 to 11 pm for the Speed Rack competitors. Sanders will be mixing a special menu of Speed Rack cocktails and donating all of her tips plus $1 from every cocktail sold to Speed Rack. The cocktails featured will be selected from the Speed Rack competition set, which includes more than 70 classic cocktails like a Rum Daisy, an Oaxacan Old Fashioned.

Sander’s goal on Sunday is to make all 70 cocktails at least once, ideally in groups of four just like it is done in the competition. Sounds like an excellent way to prep for the competition while raising extra money to fight breast cancer.

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10 Austin Cocktails to Warm Your Autumn Nights

Recently the mercury has been plummeting to a chilly 60 degrees, and frostbitten Austinites are scrambling to find their woolen sweaters and scarves. It’s that time of year. Now that the sun is going down earlier in the evening and that nip is in the air, it’s time to switch out of the light and breezy and slip into something more substantial.

Bars and restaurants around Austin are rolling out their autumn cocktail menus, featuring bolder, boozier and spicier drinks. Stop suffering through the merciless chill and fortify yourself against the shivers with these hearty drinks.

Bar Congress

Bar manager Jason Stevens welcomes the chance to pour bourbon, rye and applejack into seasonal drinks despite the limited cold spells that we get in Austin. He likes playing around with eaux-de-vie and stone fruits to create a little fall magic, and he just updated the Bar Congress menu with three autumn drinks on the menu.

Stevens gets a little misty and nostalgic while preparing his fall menu. “When I look to make a new autumn cocktail, I try to capture elements of my autumns growing up in Oregon and combine them with flavors I’ve grown to love in Texas. Maple, date and winter spice combine with port and molé, rounded out by bourbon’s heat and age.” He sees the Roundabout as a straightforward fall cocktail.

The Roundabout

  • 1.25 oz. Eagle Rare 10 year Bourbon
  • 1.5 oz. Dows 10 year Port
  • .5 oz. house made date syrup
  • .5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon
  • 2 heavy dashes Bittermans Molé Bitters
  • Egg white

Shake it vigorously with little to no ice.  Final touch is five drops of Angostura on the egg-white froth and garnish with a cherry.

This is a complex drink that isn’t fussy. It’s sweet and spicy in a smooth, cuddly way. It makes me want to light a fire and snuggle on a bearskin rug.

BungalowDeviled Apple

This drink is great for fall in Austin; it’s warm but with a nice kick.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Blue Nectar Silver Tequila
  • 1/2 oz. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Sour Apple Schnapps
  • 4 oz. cider

Drink.Well.

Drink.well. owner Jessica Sanders and bartender Dennis Gobis are retiring the tiki section of their menu and replacing it with cocktails more suited for the ski lodge than the beach. The autumn menu has six new boozy cocktails with spices that include cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. They are shooting for cocktails that stick with you with you, creating lush, velvety textures by swapping out simple syrup for gomme syrup in drinks like the Sazerac.

 A Shephard’s Holiday

Gobis created a simple, delicious negroni-style drink suited for chillier weather. It has a lovely layering of orange, cinnamon and clove to warm your heart.

  • 1 ounces Blanco Tequila (Siembra Azul)
  • 1 ounces Amaro CioCiaro
  • 1 ounces Punt e Mes
  • 2 dashes Old Fashioned Bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice and pour over a large-format ice cube in a rocks glass or serve up in a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with an expressed orange peel.

Jack Allen’s KitchenRound Rock Bee Keeper

In shaker tin, add the following:

  • 1 small scoop of ice
  • 1.5 oz. Rebecca Creek Texas Spirit Whiskey
  • .25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1 oz. house made Round Rock Honey-Fig syrup
  • 2 dashes of apple bitters

Shake and strain over ice in a 9-ounce rocks glass, add straw and garnish with sliced dried fig.

Lucy’s Fried ChickenGone a’Rye

Courtesy of William Schulte

  • 1.5 oz. Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
  • .5 oz. Campari
  • .25 oz. Luxardo Cherry Liqueur
  • .25 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice. Shake well. Stir until well chilled and strain into a cocktail (or highball) glass.

No Va Kitchen & Bar

Lead bartender Tacy Rowland is introducing six new autumn cocktails to the NoVa menu. The new upscale restaurant and bar is fitting in with its Rainey Street location by introducing a cocktail menu that uses beer, wine and cider. While the wine-based sangria is a top seller, Rowland is excited to create drinks with beer, too. She finds it an approachable way to introduce new ingredients.

One of the signature cocktails, Thunderstruck, mixes Austin Beerworks Black Thunder, which recently won the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival and coffee. Rowland says, “I’m a huge coffee lover. I’ve been playing around with coffee infusions at home and came up with this delicious Cynar coffee infusion.”

Thunderstruck

  • 1.5 oz. coffee Cynar
  • 1 oz. coconut milk
  • .5 oz. Chameleon cold brew
  • .5 oz. five spice syrup
  • 2-3 oz. Austin Beerworks Black Thunder

Shake all ingredients except beer, fine strain into glass and top with beer. Garnish with three coffee beans and serve it in a coupe.

This drink is dangerously delicious. It’s both sweet and bitter, with a sneaky punch. It is perfect for after dinner, brunch or end of the night.

Searsucker, Jack Manhattan

The bar crew at Searsucker has created a Jack-o-Lantern play on the classic Manhattan cocktail, using housemade pumpkin, all-spice, Clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla-bean-infused whiskey.

  • 2.5 oz. infused whiskey
  • .5 oz. Cocci
  • 5 dashes Jerry Thomas Own Decanter Bitters

Stir and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Sullivan’sSalted Caramel Apple Martini

  • 1.5 oz. Pinnacle Whipped Vodka
  • 1.5 oz. DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker
  • 2 oz.  Caramel Lemon Sour (dash of lemon sour in caramel sauce)

Place all ingredients into a Boston Shaker and shake approximately 10-15 times to combine. Strain into a chilled martini glass with a lightly salted rim.

Qui

Celebrity chef Paul Qui has a talented bar crew that has created six signature cocktails for autumn.

Compadre

  • 1 ounce Rittenhouse Rye
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce Amontillado sherry
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s

Stir the ingredients and serve it straight up in a coupe glass garnished with a lemon peel.

W Austin

Libationist Joyce Garrison believes whiskey drinks are great in the fall and has created one with a shadow of summer with the honey bourbon syrup, made with the just-released Red Handed Bourbon from the Treaty Oak Distillery.

Nefariously Red Handed

  • 1.5 oz. Red Handed Bourbon
  • 4 basil leaves
  • .5 oz.  blackberry honey syrup
  • .5 oz. blood orange bitters

Shaken and strained into a coupe glass and garnished with a flamed orange peel.

No matter what part of town you are in, you can take the edge off of those cold autumn nights with a bracing cocktail.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

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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.

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Austin’s Best Bourbon Cocktails at 4th Annual Bourbon, Bluegrass and BBQ

This Tuesday, September 24 from 6:30 to 9:30PM at Mercury Hall, 615 Cardinal Ln., some of Austin’s best bartenders will whip-up amazing cocktails made with more than 30 American whiskies at Bourbon, Bluegrass and BBQ. This is an excellent way to taste through a bunch of bourbon during Bourbon Heritage Month.

In it’s 4th Year, the Austin Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) ‘Bourbon, Bluegrass and BBQ’ brings 16 of Austin’s baddest bartenders together in friendly competition. USBG member-bartenders participating represent the chapter’s best cocktail venues including: drink.well., Midnight Cowboy, Contigo Austin, The W Hotel, Whisler’s, NoVa, Esquire Tavern (San Antonio), East Side Showroom, The League and The Turtle (Brownwood, TX).

Using a randomly selected Bourbon, contestants will craft an original cocktail to be judged during a live competition held at the event. The winner earns the spot as the official USBG Austin ambassador at Portland Cocktail Week in October 2013. I’m thrilled to be a judge this year and am looking forward to tasting some of the bourbon brilliance.

Its obvious from the name, Bourbon, Bluegrass and BBQ, has more than just cocktails. It also will have all you can eat BBQ and live music from the Sour Bridges and The Possum Posse.

Celebrated in tandem with Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) Benefit day, the event proceeds will benefit the Alliance, which is USBG Austin’s 2012-2013 philanthropic beneficiary. The whole sheebang is put together by the Austin Chapter of the USBG and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (H.A.A.M.) and spearheaded by event chair, Jessica Sanders, who is the secretary of the Austin Chapter of the USBG and co-owner/bar maven of drink.well.

Tickets are a steal at $35. Buy ’em online before you go.

This story also appeared on CultureMap.

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W Austin breaks out the old school jams in the Living Room to introduce autumn cocktail menu

There is nothing like the warm hiss and pop of vinyl  just before the song starts to put you in a nostalgic mood to hear some of your favorite tunes. The W Hotel Austin is busting open its album vault to spin new and old songs in the Living Room lounge with Spin/Spun, a weekly jam happening every Tuesday night. Tonight, Tuesday, October 23 at 7:00 kicks off the first set with the introduction of the fall cocktail menu.

The W’s top mixer, er libationist, Joyce Garrison says, “The fall menu is a fusion of cocktails that we are really passionate about. I wanted to feature fresh, seasonal ingredients combined with unexpected flavors that would allow guests to try new drinks and still come back for their favorites.”

Some of the cocktails the cocktails available in the W Hotel Living Room include:

  • bluegrass: Dripping Springs vodka, blueberry, mint, lime
  • new york, I love you: Maker’s Mark bourbon, cinnamon, Noilly Prat sweet vermouth
  • tailgate: Deep Eddy vodka, egg whites, blood orange bitters, Paula’s Texas Orange
  • r & r: Cruzan Aged Rum infused with Rooibos tea, peppadew, pineapple
  • brothers quarrel: Buffalo Trace whiskey, St Germain elderflower liquor, Canton ginger liquor, Laphroaig 10yr scotch, burnt lemon
  • last word: Tanqurey gin, green chartreuse, Luxardo marachino liquor, lime juice
  • midnight in valencia: Cinco vodka, Patron coco, ancho chili, orange

Your job will be to pair the perfect cocktail with your favorite tunes from the Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, BB King, or The Black Keys.

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Time for Texas Tiki Week

Hip swiveling fun at Texas Tiki Week

Just as we are entering the “hot as Hell” phase of summer, a cool breeze called the Texas Tiki Week blows in. Starting this Sunday, June 24, 2012, at 4pm gallons of rum will be spilled down gullets in bars around Austin. Grab your coconut bras, grass skirts and get ready to get laid, oh I mean leid.

Organized by the Austin Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG), Texas Tiki Week gets shaking at three North Loop bars with luau-inspired cocktails, like the Toucan Sam and the Sunset Fizz. A few concoctions from Dame Jessica Sanders, the Drink.Well mixtress, caught my fancy:

Rick(e)y Martin-ique: La Vida Loca WILL be lived during Texas Tiki Week!

  • Rhum Agricole, Kaffir Lime Cordial, Fresh Lime, Club Soda

Pass the Tabu: Named for the iconic Brady Brunch episode where a discovered tiki idol wreaks havoc on the Brady family’s Hawaiian vacation.

  • Don Q Cristal Rum, Campari, Grapefruit Juice, Macadamia Nut Orgeat, Angostura Bitters, Acid Phosphate

The Snail: The Tipsy Texan’s legendary pre-batched punch with over a dozen ingredients. This bad boy will be sold in small punch cups, while supplies last and ONLY on Sunday. Beware, this one will leave you feeling hazy and moving slow as a snail the next day.

  • Don Q Anejo Rum, Calvados, Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Pear Liqueur, Cachaca, Domaine de Canton, Balcones Rumble Aperol, Hum Botanical Liqueur, Lime, Lemon, Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters

Dame Jessica said, “I am particularly fascinated by the fact that despite the island overtones, ‘tiki’ was (and still is) at its core an American pop-culture phenomenon, cuisine and aesthetic. The cocktail menus that folks will see at Drink.Well. and across Austin’s other USBG venues will represent the exotic, fun and perhaps even quirky aspects of the tiki cocktail renaissance. We’ve certainly got a fantastic selection of rums and rhum agricoles in each of our tool boxes to play. And, secretly, I hope I see at least one person rock coconut bra next week!”

Drink.Well will have traditional Tiki glassware, leis and Texas Tiki Week t-shirts available for sale for $10. The bar will also show various “…Goes to Hawaii” American TV shows all night, including “Save by the Bell: Hawaiian Style.”

Dead Man's Party, courtesy of drink.well

Your itinerary (courtesy of USBG)

  • Sunday, June 24th – North Loop becomes “Rum Row” with Tiki cocktails and food specials at Drink.Well., The Tigress and Workhorse Bar.
  • Monday, June 25th – USBG ‘Members Only’ Happy Hour & Boat Cruise, departs from Hula Hut.
  • Tuesday, June 26th – A special daytime educational event with Ed Hamilton (Location TBA), followed by debauchery at The Volstead Lounge converted into Justin Elliot’s Rhum Bar, from 7pm until the hulu skirts start falling off.
  • Wednesday, June 27th –  Jason Stevens will kick his infamous Tiki menu at Bar Congress into high gear for Tiki Week.
  • Thursday, June 28th Contigo Austin will host a Texas Luau featuring cocktails from Drink Local 2011 winner Houston Eaves and his team plus the always terrific food from Contigo’s chef, Andrew Wiseheart.
  • Saturday, June 30th – USBG Austin will close it out right with a Tiki Block Party at Noble Pig with polynesian sandwich specials, complimentary cocktails and one helluva good time.

What are you drinking?

Three summer cocktails for Memorial Day Weekend

Get WET

Memorial Day has morphed from just a solemn day of remembrance for the men and women who fought for our country and died in war into the official kickoff of summer. It’s a perfect weekend to salute our heroes and to kickback with a summery cocktail.

If you like to have someone else do the work for you so you can truly relax, try some new summer cocktails at the W Austin. The W’s libationist, Joyce Garrison is mixing breezy drinks with a kick of Texas-style heat.

If you are intrepid enough to match your mixology skills against one of Austin’s “Best Mixologist” as recognized in 2010 by the Austin Chronicle, you’re in luck. She has graciously provided three recipes to play along at home.

Garrison’s first drink uses Austin’s Tito’s Handmade Vodka with refreshing lemonade and a bite of jalapeño.

Jalapeno Cucumber Lemonade

  • 1.5 ounces Tito’s Vodka
  • 2.5 ounces cucumber water
  • 1 ounce jalapeño infused simple syrup
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • Build in pint glass
  • Shake
  • Strain into glass with Kold draft ice
  • Garnish with cucumber spear

It just isn’t a summer holiday without watermelon. Skip spitting the seeds and sip on this tequila martini instead.

Sandia SipperSandia Sipper

  • 1.5 ounces Cazadores Respoda Tequila
  • .5 ounce lime juice
  • 3 cubes watermelon
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 ounce agave nectar
  • Muddle watermelon with lime juice in shaker glass.  Add all ingredients with ice and shake.  Strain into rocks glass with ice and half rim of salt.  Garnish with watermelon cube and lime wedge.

Garrison says her third drink is inspired by W Austin’s WET Deck, and will have you feeling like you’re sitting poolside. I think she may have had something else in mind.

Get WET

  • Hendrick’s gin 1.5 ounces
  • St. germane .5 ounce
  • Lemon juice .5 ounce
  • Simple syrup  .5 ounce
  • Grapefruit juice 1.5 ounce
  • Bubbles
  • Shake all without bubbles and pour over fresh ice then top with bubbles

There you have it; your recipe for summer relaxation on Memorial Day weekend.