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.

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Food Comes First at the Austin Food & Wine Festival

IMG_0169The talent line up for the third annual Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, April 25-27, 2014 was announced this week. It features a star-studded list of local and national culinary pros starting with the organizing chefs Tim Love (Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Woodshed Smokehouse, Queenie’s Steakhouse, Love Shack, White Elephant Saloon); Tyson Cole (Uchi & Uchiko); and restaurateur Jesse Herman (La Condesa & Sway). The importance placed on food and the excellent talent level mirror the up-and-coming culinary scene in Austin.

The Fest organizers held a preview lunch at Contigo to trot out some of the stellar talent and show off the food. This media event demonstrated just how important Food is to the Fest. All of the organizing chefs were on hand along with chefs serving up nibbles including Jason Dady (Jason Dady Restaurant Group), David Bull (Congress, Second Bar + Kitchen & Bar Congress), John Bates (Noble Sandwiches), Jack Gilmore (Jack Allen’s Kitchen), Mike Lata (FIG & The Ordinary), Chris Shepherd (Blue Ginger & Blue Dragon) and the Contigo host, Andrew Wiseheart who wowed the crowd by roasting a whole pig in the parking lot. The nibbles were fantastic.

Tim Love -Mike Lata- Andrew Wiseheart - Chris Shepherd

There will be more than 40 events at the fest, including hands-on grilling demonstrations, two interactive fire pits, panel discussions and of course the Grand Tasting tents. On top of that there will be food fiestas like Feast Under the Stars on Thursday night, the Taste of Texas on Friday and the Rock Your Taco competition on Saturday.

 

 

 

OK, what about the drinks?

Oh, and there are also a handful of excellent wine industry pros on the list too. The importance placed on wine in no way reflects the burgeoning wine scene in Austin. At this Fest Food is clearly first and Wine is there to wash it down. Foodies will rejoice. Winos may weep.

The good news is that there is top notch talent. The Fest brings back four fan favorites from the past two years: FOOD & WINE magazine’s executive wine editor Ray Isle, wine writer and TV personality, Mark Oldman and the two most handsome master sommeliers in Austin Devon Broglie and Craig Collins. The new talent this year includes Frontera Grill sommelier, Jill Gubesch, the gorgeous sommelier from the soon to open LaV, Vilma Mazaite and the cocktail master from La Condesa and Sway Nate Wales.

The bad news is that there won’t be nearly as many wine and beverage sessions as food. The full program won’t be announced until February 25, but all indications are that there will be some similar panels from previous years and some changes. There will be winners and losers.

  • Win: There is a Mixology session and a Texas Spirits session on the schedule. No word on the talent or providers yet, but these are bound to be excellent programs. We are fortunate to have many excellent bartenders and fantastic distillers in Austin to choose from to present at the Fest. Prediction — Tim Love will crash a session and do his Shot Roulette where he pours tequila shots for 9 blindfolded contestants and one shot of canola oil for the tenth unlucky bastard.
  •  Lose: Likely the first casualty will be the Texas wine panel. It’s been great to see our local wines on the big stage for the past two years, but change is inevitable. Prediction — a handful of Texas wine die-hards will bemoan the passing loudly and will boycott the Fest. I’ll make sure to hit up the Texas wines in the Grand Tasting tent.
  • Win: Broglie and Collins will likely scheme a new topic that appeals to broad audience of wine lovers and novices alike to replace the Texas wine panel. These guys are not only two of the most knowledgeable wine experts in the world, but they are great presenters. Something good will happen in their Sunday afternoon session. Prediction — one or both of them will wear colorful pants.
  • Lose: While Mark Oldman is highly entertaining, his sessions have been pretty light-weight the past two years. The Fest draws an educated crowd that deserves a presentation that goes far deeper than Oldman delivers. I bet he’s more than eye-candy and actually knows his stuff. But I also bet he underestimates his audience yet again. Prediction — Oldman reprises his “bring the audience member onto the stage to saber a bottle of Champagne” bit. Its great showmanship.
  • Win: There is a space on the schedule for a craft beer session again this year on Saturday, but no brewers or talent has been announced. Let’s hope it’s not a naval gazing session on the state of the craft beer industry, but instead something really fun like a food and beer pairing session put on by some of the gifted Austin brewmasters. Prediction — Chris Troutman, one of the founders of the fantastic Austin Beer Guide, will actually show up at an event that isn’t fully dedicated to beer just to see this one panel.
  • Lose: According to the current schedule there are not any sessions dedicated to showcasing great culinary talent and wine talent together. It’s as if the organizers believe people actually eat food without pairing the right wine with it. Prediction — hungry wine lovers will mob the fire pits between sessions and thirsty foodies will get smashed in the Grand Tasting tents between sessions. The vast majority of attendees that love both food and wine will be disappointed that the worlds are separate.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Fest? Tickets are on sale now. Prediction — I’ll take a ton of pictures, will attend every wine and beverage session held and will sadly miss the incredible cooking demonstrations yet again this year.

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.

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Celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month with Texas Whiskey, Austin Cocktails

Kentucky Bourbon for National Bourbon Heritage MonthWe have a wealth of opportunities to celebrate bourbon in this country, and for that we can thank Congress. Not only did that esteemed body pronounce the homegrown whiskey “America’s Native Spirit” in 1964, but a 2007 Senate bill declared every September hence to be National Bourbon Heritage Month. This is one time when we can get behind the decisions of our government.

Some boozy history
Of course, whiskey in general isn’t an American product, but the specific type known as bourbon is. There are old-world whiskies, such as Scotch or Irish, and new-world whiskies — bourbon, Canadian, Tennessee, rye, corn, wheat and blended.

We owe a debt of gratitude to a Baptist minister from Kentucky, Elijah Craig, who first made bourbon in 1798. The processes Craig set in motion have evolved into standards that make bourbon a unique distilled spirit.

Ever since, we’ve had the happy luxury of dreaming dreams that fatten on the vapors of bourbon. Ah bourbon.

Whiskey must comply with stiff regulations to qualify as bourbon. It is made from fermented mash of grain — which includes not less than 51 percent corn — that is distilled to no more than 160 proof; entered into and aged in charred, brand-new oak barrels at no more than 125 proof; and bottled at no less than 80 proof. There can be no colors or flavors added — ever.

Within the strict rules, distillers can coax an array of flavors by creating their own mash bill, or grain recipe. Increasing the corn percentage can give it sweet flavors; adding rye gives it pepper, spice and bite; wheat brings out mellowness; and malted barley adds chocolate with fermented sugars.

The use of sour mash — that thin, watery part of a previously distilled batch of whiskey mash that is added into the next batch, a step Dr. James C. Crow developed in 1823 — also affects the flavor.

The biggest impact on flavor, though, is the barrel. It’s all about the oak. The wood seasoning (“toast” or “char”), along with conditions in the warehouse where the barrel is stored (the “rick house”) — including its size, the location of the barrel, and temperature swings and extremes — contributes to the flavor as much as the age, proof, blending and batch.

Many people think that bourbon can be made only in Kentucky; others think it requires water from a pure limestone aquifer in Kentucky. Both conceptions are myths. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States — including Texas.

Accidental birth of a fine Texas spirit
One night in Waco, Chip Tate set out to make a Mediterranean knock-off of bananas Foster. He concocted a treat of figs, honey and sugar, letting them giggle in the delight of a splash of whiskey that would inflame them. The result was so good that Tate wondered what they would taste like fermented and distilled. That night, with ideas fatten on the vapors of caramelized figs, Tate decided to distill those figs, honey and sugar and the first Texas-made whiskey was born; Balcones Rumble.

Tate’s Balcones Distillery started selling its whiskey in 2009 and has been making original Texas whiskey with Hopi blue corn ever since. Its lineup is, for the most part, distinctly different from bourbon, having a lot of similarities to Scottish malt. But the ever-tinkering Tate made a small batch of bourbon to satisfy his thirsty fans.

“We made a bourbon that is cask-strength at 64.2 percent alcohol,” Tate says. “We only made a few barrels of bourbon, which equates to 42 bottles for sale in Texas, and only 18 were sent to off-premise [not at a restaurant or bar] for sale. Our bourbon aged a little more than two years in the barrel.”

It tastes of honey, baking spice, toast and pepper, with a tannic tightness on the palate. The spice of the bourbon might make one assume that the mash contains rye, but it’s 100 percent blue corn — an indication of how much impact the barrel and aging conditions can have on the flavor.

Balcones whiskies are available in Austin at select retail stores and bars, including TenOak, the Tigress and Fino.

Serious Texas distillery
A little farther south, Dan Garrison started his in Hye, Texas, distillery in 2006 and bottled his first batch in 2010. Garrison Brothers makes the first vintage dated bourbon ever produced.

They consider the limestone substrate of the Texas Hill Country to be similar in many ways to the bedrock in Kentucky, producing a similar style of water for bourbon-making. Garrison Brothers follows regulations to the letter and hand-bottles every bit of bourbon that it ages in the Texas heat.

That dedication to craftsmanship means that it is available only in limited supply in Austin stores and sold by the bottle at The W Austin.

Many people contend that the only proper way to drink bourbon is straight up, on ice, or with a splash of water. Purists, please avert your gazes at this time. Bourbon is fantastic in a variety of cocktails. Several fine Austin establishments have generously shared their fantastic recipes for National Bourbon Heritage Month.

Drink.Well., The Cat’s Pajamas

  • 2 oz. Four Roses Single Barrel
  • .75 oz. Savory & James Cream Sherry
  • .5 oz. Cynar
  • 2 dashes Barkeep Chinese Five Spice Bitters
  • Apple slices

Add all ingredients together and stir. Pour into a chilled Leopold’s coupe and garnish with fanned apple slices.

Contigo cocktail Contigo, The Dancing Outlaw

  • 1.5 oz. Bulliet bourbon
  • 5 oz. Domain de Canton Ginger liqueur
  • .75 oz. lemon verbena syrup
  • .75 ounce lemon juice
  • 3 dashes of Bad Dog Fire and Damnation bitters

Shaken, strained over cracked ice, then garnished with a lemon zest and a lemon verbena leaf.

Put lemon verbena syrup in a saucepan. Add 1 quart water, 1.5 quarts brown sugar, stir and bring to a boil. Then add 3 bunches (handfuls) of lemon verbena leaves. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, bottle and store up to two weeks.

Lucy's Fried Chicken Cocktail Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Texas Whiskey Revival

  • .75 oz. Balcones True Blue Whiskey
  • .75 oz. St. Germain
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bar spoon simple syrup (1:1 ratio hot water and sugar)

In a rocks glass, add all the ingredients plus ice. Shake and pour back into glass. Garnish with your favorite cherry and citrus combination. Our favorite is garnished with candied orange peel and bourbon cherries when they are in season.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen, TX Whiskey Shandy

  • 1.5 oz. TX Blended Whiskey (Fort Worth)
  • 2 muddled lemon wedges
  • 1 oz. Round Rock honey-fig syrup
  • 3 oz. of Original Sin Hard Cider

Muddle lemon slices and honey-fig syrup in Collins glass. To avoid bitterness, be sure not to overmuddle. Add scoop of ice and whiskey. Top with hard cider (or fill to top). Roll in and out of shaker tin back into glass until fruit is not on bottom.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Eagle Rare Manhattan

  • 2 oz. Eagle Rare 10-Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (JAK’s hand-selected barrel)
  • 1 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters
  • Luxardo maraschino cherry

Place maraschino cherry in bottom of chilled 10 oz. martini glass. In a shaker with ice, stir whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters 10 times with bar spoon. Strain into glass over cherry.

 

This story originally ran on CultureMap. Photo credits:

DRINK.WELL. The Cat’s Pajamas – Haley Dawson
Contigo, The Dancing Outlaw – Haley Dawson
Lucy’s Fried Chicken’s, Texas Whiskey Revival – Kelly Rucker
Jack Allen’s Kitchen, TX Whiskey Shandy – Kenny Braun
Jack Allen’s Kitchen Eagle Rare Manhattan – Kenny Braun

All other photos are mine.

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The art of ceramics, food and cocktails at Make. Eat. Drink.

make.eat.drink.

It’s pretty obvious that I’m a huge fan of well-made, hand-crafted wine, beer, spirits and cocktails. I’m also an art lover and get a rush for wandering through exhibits and galleries. Fortunately Beautiful Wife shares these passions.
Why not combine the two loves?

Could there possibly be a better way to enjoy the artistic creation of craft cocktails and food than having it served in artisan-made cups and plates? Probably not. You can find out just how good it is at Make. Eat. Drink., a featured event of the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.), on Tuesday November 13 at the  East Side Glass Studios, 507 Calles Street (the same building as Hops & Grain).

Here is your chance to sample delectable eats lovingly made by Andrew Francisco, chef of Bridget Dunlap’s soon to be opened place, Mettle East Side Bistro. Elegant libations, courtesy of Contigo, will be served at a bar custom-made for the event by Petrified Design. The hottness is that the goodies will be served in ceramics made by E.A.S.T. artists, Keith Kreeger of Keith Kreeger Studios, Leigh Taylor Wyatt and Shara Funari of Eastside Glass and Ryan McKerley. You get to keep your handmade cup at the end of the event.

McKerley TumblersEast Side Glass Studios owners Shara Funari and Leigh Taylor Wyatt are excited to host the event. Funari said, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase the Boom Gallery space of East Side Glass Studio for Make. Eat. Drink. Joining forces with other artists/concepts of design allows me to utilize the medium of hot glass with purpose and intention.”

Ceramic artist and event organizer, Keith Kreeger says “I’m a firm believer that food and drink loving culture that is prevalent in Austin has the same affinity for fine things that craft lovers culture has. I’ve never met a craft lover that doesn’t go to the farmers market for fresh ingredients to cook their own meals. This event let’s foodies and drink aficionados appreciate how much more they can enjoy their fantastic food on hand-made functional art. The rituals and experience of hand-crafting food and drink is more complete when combined with the craftsmanship of a handmade dish. The details of a cup and how it feels on your lips can be as important to your experience as flavors you taste in a drink.”

Kieth Kreeger Studios
Kreeger continued, “Pottery and craft is moving more to the luxury goods market which is connected with the foodie movement. Our generation understands that the things we have in our homes should be of the same quality the food we serve on it.”

Grab you tickets for $100, and eat, drink, admire art and get a handmade cup by a Make. Eat. Drink artist. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Big Medium and the East Austin Studio Tour.

Sponsors include: Big Medium, Contigo, Mettle, Mockingbird Domestics, Keith Kreeger Studios and East Side Glass Studios.

What are you drinking? 

Biking with a purpose

Why do you ride your bike? Is it to commute to work? To get exercise? To run errands? To have fun with friends? To spend time with your kids? To lead wealthy tourists through vineyards in France? No matter what it is, you likely have a purpose for riding your bike. Here are two more purposes to add to your list.

This Sunday, May 27,  is the beginning of the 1st annual Bike-To-Eat Week in Austin. This clever marketing ploy gets people off of their asses and onto their bikes to spin to participating restaurants where they will receive a 10 percent discount on booze and food. Its a great way to support the cycling community by encouraging people to ride, rather than drive, to stuff their gullets.

Check out the list of participating restaurants and integrated Google map with handy-dandy bike routes. There are a bunch of great places to get craft cocktails and local brews like Contigo and Tacos and Tequila.

If biking for booze and burning off your dinner isn’t enough of a purpose for you, how about riding to kick cancer’s ass? After you get done building your quads on your ride home from Home Slice, log in to my LIVESTRONG fundraising page and make a donation. Help me give a big F@#$ YOU! to cancer. Too many of our friends and family are battling this disease and we can help them navigate the medical bills, the procedures to find a path to being a strong survivor. Do it.

OK, go eat and booze it up first. The current restaurants for Bike-to-Eat Week are:

  • Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant
  • Contigo
  • East Side Pies (Rosewood)
  • Frank
  • Home Slice
  • Jo’s
  • Juice Box/Soup Peddler
  • Mother’s Cafe and Garden
  • NeWorld Cafe
  • NeWorlDeli
  • Pars Deli
  • Ruby’s BBQ
  • Tacodeli (Lamar)
  • Tacodeli (Spyglass)
  • Tacodeli (Burnet)
  • The North Austin Trailer Yard or “The NATY”
  • TNT Tacos and Tequila

What are you drinking?

Up close with Houston Eaves, CultureMap Mixologist Tastemaker Award nominee

The old idiom, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” is true in the case of Houston Eaves, the award winning bar manager at Contigo. His parents made an indelible mark on him that influences his approach to mixology. He was surrounded by food, drink and travel during his formative years, and attributes his background in hospitality to his success today.

Houston Eaves making a Sazerac

As a kid, Eaves mixed cold cuts on breads while working alongside his father in the family deli in St. Louis, learning an appreciation for customer service. He got the travel bug from his mother who works for an airline. With her perks, he has been able to globe-trot inexpensively and experience what tickles the palates of people in far flung places.

That was just the start of a journey that has led him to be one of the most celebrated mixologists in Austin. Eaves, along with four other talented cocktail curators, is vying for the inaugural CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Mixology. Nominees will showcase their talents, mixing specialty cocktails at the awards ceremony being held Thursday, April 12, at the Driskill Hotel, and benefits the Austin Food and Wine Alliance.

Eaves journey continued as a bartender at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa, slinging drinks for the well-healed in need of a nip. While the drinks he mixed at the hotel were not as creative as the cocktails he’s making now, he learned a lot about bartending and guest services in his four years on the job.

Tropical breezes, papayas, mangos and fresh fruit of all sorts formed his next palette. Eaves spent a year in Costa Rica working at a hotel bar where rum was king. Wanderlust then took him to Argentina for a new adventure in drink. Obscure European and Middle Eastern ingredients and adventurous drinks, like the Fernet-Branca mochas, were the order of the day while he worked at an Asian restaurant owned by a creative Israeli mixologist. Eaves feels blessed to be able to travel and live abroad to see global trends. He relishes taking part in big trends and putting a little local twist on it to make it his own.

Back in the States, Eaves was exposed to another world of new drinks as a bar manager at East Side Showroom. He jumped head first into classic cocktails, techniques and history, voraciously reading, studying and tasting as much as he could to absorb the craft. He learned to make hundreds of cocktails. From there he worked at Fino with Josh Loving, whom Eaves describes as having an amazing palate, creativity and an intellectual view of cocktails. There he studied the science of mixology and how to make his own bitters and syrups.  Both were excellent experiences that added to his repertoire.

Eaves’ varied experience and diverse skills landed him the bar manager role at Contigo, one of the hottest new bars in Austin. Here, he’s shaping a cocktail menu that fits the space and the clientele including items like a series of winter hot toddies that went really well with the sprawling outdoor space around the cozy fire pit.

He is also bringing creativity with his own syrups. This month he is introducing a Poteet cardamom shrub, made with fresh Poteet strawberries from south Texas. A shrub?  Cocktail shrubs are vinegar-based syrups sweetened with fruit to give drinks puckering acidity balanced with sweetness. He plans to mix his unique strawberry shrub with gin or blanco tequila.

Eaves has become a local tastemaker by helping people discover new libations that fit their taste preference. “Customer education is big,” he says. “I like to introduce them to something new. People are more knowledgeable about what they are drinking. The whole food movement started the trend toward getting people more interested in what they are consuming and in trying new things. That carries over in the drinks. My approach is paying attention to service and figuring out what people want to drink.”

His expertise has earned recognition as the winner of the Don Q Rum 2011 Ultimate MixOff Challenge and the 2011 winner of the Official Drink of Austin.

The more spirits Eaves tastes, the more he explores, the more he want to taste the spirits front and center in his drinks. He is into boozier cocktails made with mescal, scotch and rum, as well sticking to the spirit forward classics. His favorite cocktail to make right now is the Sazerac, which he considers the quintessential cocktail. His recipe is:

  • Chilled rocks glass
  • In a second mixing glass add a few dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • Add a little sugar
  • 2 ounces Rittenhouse Rye
  • Add ice, stir to chill
  • Dump ice from first glass, rinse with Herbsaint, anise flavor liquor from New Orleans
  • Garnish with wide swath of lemon peel

Eaves is humble about his recent accolades and is flattered to be in the company of other excellent mixologists nominated for the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. “I’ve learned from all the other nominees. I’ve worked with them and have been inspired by them. It’s an honor to be in the same conversation with them. I have nothing but respect for the other nominees.”

The inaugural CultureMap Tastemaker Awards ceremony will be held Thursday, April 12, at the Driskill Hotel. Limited tickets are still available. The event will feature cocktails from the nominated mixologists and restaurants. This story also appears on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?

What Are You Drinking at the Austin City Limits Music Festival?

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary for one of the biggest and best destination music festivals in the country, the 2011 Austin City Limits Music Festival. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to all but the first one and have even been fortunate enough to do PR for it. Yeah, I have a love affair with my hometown party. It’s fair to say that I like to party like a rock star.

Have you ever wondered what all of the rock stars drink back-stage? Luckily for you, I’ve got the inside track. Lisa Hickey, marketing director, reminisced about the early days of the ACL Fest. “The concoction of sweet tea and vodka was made widely popular at the first ACL Festival.  Tito’s Vodka and Sweet Leaf Tea joined forces and created the Sweet-o-Tito.   We didn’t have many mixer options, but thanks to these two sponsors we had plenty of both.  It was a match made in heaven… and the rest is history!  We still serve up tons of these drinks each year at the festival in the VIP and Artist Lounges.”

They will be serving the Sweet-o-Tito again this year in the VIP and Artist Lounges along with a Tito’s bloody Mary happy hour every morning. A big hit last year was the Ambhar Tequila margarita and it will be back again this year.

We all know that the rock stars don’t stay at Zilker Park all night after the music ends. What are they drinking around town? I asked a couple of prominent bartenders at local hot-spots what they would make for artists that mosey into their bar. What does their persona inspire in a craft cocktail?

Shane Fischer at the whisky den, tenOak, has created signature cocktails for a smattering of artists playing at the festival this weekend. Here are the drinks he’s inspired to prepare.

Arcade Fire

  • 1 1/4 oz Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
  • top with redbull and splash of grenadine
  • serve on the rocks in a short glass

Foster the People

  • 1 1/2 oz Bulleit Rye Whiskey
  • 1 1/2 oz raspberry liquor
  • splash navan vanilla liquor
  • top with sprite
  • rocks, tall glass

Coldplay

  • 1 1/4 rumplemintz
  • 3/4 oz cool swan cream liquor
  • 1/2 oz chocolate liquor
  • serve on the rocks in a short frozen glass

Kanye West

  • 1 1/4 oz Remy Martin V.S.O.P
  • 1/2 oz Grand  Marnier
  • dash lemon grass extract
  • serve in snifter, natural sugar rim torch sugar, heat glass slightly

Stevie Wonder

  • 1 1/2 oz Fourty Creek Canadian Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz Heering Cherry liquor
  • top with half soda water and half pineapple
  • Serve in a short glass over crushed ice
  • garnish with a cherry

Santigold

  • 1 1/2 oz Jack Daniel’s Honey
  • 1/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • dash orange bitters
  • splash honey simple syrup
  • shaken vigorously, frozen martini glass

TV on the Radio

  • 1 1/4 oz Hendricks Gin
  • 1/2 oz Veev Acai liquor
  • dash Hibiscus lime simple syrup
  • top with jack fruit juice
  • on the rocks in a tall skinny glass
  • garnish with 2 floating blue berries

Fleet Foxes

  • 1 1/2 oz Vincent Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka
  • 1/2 oz cointreau
  • splash cream
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • Shake and strain into a martini glass
  • Garnish glass with chocolate shavings

Social Distortion

  • 1 oz Jack Daniel’s
  • 1 oz Jagermeister
  • shake and top with splash of coke
  • serve as a shot

Asleep at the Wheel

  • 1 1/4 oz Woodford reserve
  • 1/2 oz Amarula (Marula Cream liquor)
  • splash Paula’s Texas orange
  • Splash Sprite
  • Garnish with an orange wheel
  • on the rock, short glass

Houston Eaves, the bar manager at East-side destination, Contigo, said he would make Stevie Wonder “any damn thing he wanted.” He has more specific ideas for Jim James from Louisville-based My Morning Jacket. He would make his version of a Louisville Cocktail with Black Maple Hill Bourbon, sweet vermouth and house aromatic herbs.

What will I be drinking at this year’s ACL Fest? You can find me ducking into the hospitality area behind the AMD stage between sets to cool off with the cold beer they have on tap under the tent.

Do you have a favorite drink at the ACL Fest? If you were going to make a drink for any of the musicians, what would you make?

This story first appeared on Austin CultureMap.

What are you drinking?