Tipsy Texan’s new cocktail book celebrates the spirits of the Lone Star State

In Texas we have long growing seasons for a wide range of succulent produce, a burgeoning local spirits distilling industry and a hot craft cocktail scene. Now we also have a cocktail book written just for us: Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State. What else could we possibly need to make a well mixed drink in Texas? Nothing. Let’s secede!

Not so fast. Author David Alan, also known as the Tipsy Texan, published this book of cocktail history, locally-inspired recipes, and vignettes of Texas spirits pioneers as a way to celebrate Texas cocktails, but its influences go beyond our borders.

Rather than writing a book about the definitive Texas cocktail, Alan set out to capture the flavors of southern and southwestern cuisine, the local cocktail culture, and the strong spirit of hospitality that permeates the state. He also embraces the fun-loving vibe of Texas bars in what he calls a “yee-haw spirit.”

“We are in the throws of something we’ve never seen before. The number and the quality of spirits coming across the bar is amazing,” said Alan. “It’s important to source and support local ingredients where it makes sense, but being a strict locavore doesn’t make for an exciting bar. That ignores the reality of very robust spirits industry. A good cocktail bar is about diversity and in-season ingredients.”

In the early 2000s, Alan turned his attention to cocktails, began authoring the Tipsy Texan blog, and along with Lara Nixon founded Tipsy Tech, a cocktail education program.

David Alan Tipsy Texan“I’ve always been a drinking person even before I was into it professionally. The recreation side is attractive to me,” he said. “When I was in my twenties I found out about cocktails and it fanned a passion I had for service. It just gave me more things to obsess about with ingredients, garnishes, tools and such. It has been fascinating to get into it.”

The opportunity for the book arose from a chance meeting with a publisher while Alan was tending bar at an event in Marfa, Texas. Written for people who enjoy mixing cocktails and desire an approachable, fun source for home entertaining, the book is a staple guide for home bars.

In addition to cocktail recipes from prominent Texas mixologists like Bill Norris, Bobby Heugel, Jason Stevens and Houston Eaves, there is a helpful Tools and Techniques section with up-to-date technical information about glassware, tools and garnishes. The book is also as gorgeous as it is useful, featuring portrait photography by Michael Thad Carter and the mouth-watering cocktail photos by Aimee Wenske.

“The book has a mix of recipes ranging from classics, to classics with Texas twists, and our own [recipes], along with recipes from our friends,” said Alan. “These are drinks that we like to serve. The book is organized to whet your whistle with prompts for drinks to meet the situation. If it’s a hot as balls July day, look through the Light, Bright and Refreshing section and find something that tickles your fancy.”

To quench your thirst, here are a few of Alan’s own recipes from the book.

David Alan Tipsy Texan book signing Corpse Reviver 3000
Alan calls on a pair of Texas spirits to create a hair-of-the-dog style drink to wake the dead. This twist on the classic cocktail Corpse Reviver No. 2 is sure to put the color back in your cheeks the morning after a long night. “I took the traditional Corpse Reviver, which is a classic gin cocktail, and I switched the gin for Tenneyson Absinthe,” said Alan. “Tenneyson is kind of gin-like. Instead of Lillet I used St. Germaine.”

  • ¾ ounce Tenneyson Absinthe Royale or other blanche absinthe
  • ¾ ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • ¾ ounce Paula’s Texas Orange or other orange liqueur like Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Orange “coin” for garnish

Combine the absinthe, St. Germain, orange liqueur and lemon juice in a mixing glass and shake vigorously with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the orange “coin.”

Abbeville Daiquiri
Alan’s partner, Joe Eifler, is fond of mixing this Louisiana-inspired sugar and spice rimmed variation of a Hemingway Daiquiri. Named for the town in Louisiana where the C.S. Steen sugar refinery makes its Pure Cane Syrup, it’s a refreshing cocktail to make when Texas Ruby Reds are in season.

“I discovered Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup when I was in New Orleans for the Tales of the Cocktail conference,” said Alan. “When I came home, I wanted to work with it. I like this daiquiri a lot because it’s really balanced and really delicious. It doesn’t work well with other rums, but it’s great with Treaty Oak Platinum because it’s pretty funky.”

  • 1 ½ ounces Treaty Oak rum
  • ¾ ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ ounce Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • Dash of Peychaud’s Bitters, for floater
  • Cinnamon-sugar-cayenne rim

Combine the rum, maraschino liqueur, lime juice, syrup and grapefruit juice in a mixing glass and shake vigorously with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with a cinnamon-sugar-cayenne. Finish with the dash of Peychaud’s Bitters floated on top of the cocktail.

Watermelon Whiskey Sour
The easy sway of a porch swing, a lazy dog at your feet, and a slice of cold Texas watermelon are great ways to glide through a hot summer day. A cold drink made with that in-season watermelon makes the day better. Alan concocted this revitalizing cross between a sour and a julep to put summer in your hand. “Texas watermelons are definitely rockin’,” he said. “Mint, watermelon and bourbon are great together.”

  • 1 cup watermelon chunks, or 2 ounces pressed watermelon juice
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 2 springs fresh basil
  • ¾ ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 1 ½ ounces bourbon
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a mixing glass, muddle the watermelon with one of the mint springs, one of the basil sprigs and the St. Germain. Add the bourbon and lemon juice. Shake vigorously with ice to chill. Strain onto crushed ice in a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with the remaining sprigs of mint and basil.

David Alan’s serious passion for a proper cocktail and his mischievous wit both come to life in this book. Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State is a fantastic collection of cocktail ideas to erase drinker’s block, whether you have a preference for simple drinks or want to make use of an elaborate home bar.

This story originally posted on CultureMapThe Tipsy Texan cocktail book photo courtesy of Tipsy Texan.

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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.

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Winning Cocktails at Edible Austin Drink Local Night

Edible Austin held the fifth annual Drink Local night as part of its Eat Drink Local Week on Thursday night at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. Guests milled about the Grand Ballroom sipping vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, mezcal and cocktails from 14 Texas-based distillers. That sounds like one step away from Heaven for local spirits fans, but that was just the start.

The highlight of the event was the “Official Drink of Austin Cocktail Contest” presented by Tipsy Texan and the “Crowd Favorite Award” sponsored by Google Places. Judges David Alan, the host from the Tipsy Texan, Bill Norris, last year’s winner, Lara Nixon, the 2009 winner, Emma Janzen, Austin 360 Liquid Blogger, Joe Eifler, of the Tipsy Texan, and Jeret Pena, of the Esquire Tavern, struggled to pick a winner among seven talented finalists.

Here are the fantastic craft cocktails made with local spirits and ingredients that the judges and the crowd eagerly sampled.

Madelyn Kay, Péché, made Lie to Me

  • 1 egg
  • 2 ounces Tito’s,
  • 3/4 ounces Amaro Nonino
  • 3/4 ounces Maple Pecan Syrup a

This was like Christmas eggnog, all creamy, sweet and smooth. She was inspired by Texas pecans, and made her own syrup. She used Tito’s because it is her mom’s favorite spirit and chose Amaro Nonino because it is an Italian bitter just like her. Madelyn is a busy UT student and dreamt this one up just under the deadline for the submission to the contest. I’m glad she did. Deelish. Oh, now I know why so many men spend hours at the Péché bar. She’s damn good looking.

Houston Eaves, Contigo, made Smokin Gypsy

  • 1.75 ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • .75 ounces Benedictine
  • .5 ounces Balcones Brimstone
  • Dash of Bad dog Smoke and Damnation bitters
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Zest of Rio Valley Red grapefruit

He got his inspiration from a pre-prohibition cocktail, the Gypsy. He loves Balcones Brimstone and was eager to make a cocktail featuring it. Houston displayed great showmanship, dropping a chip of dry ice into a beaker to mix his drink, letting it smoke mysteriously. The ladies swooned.

Chauncey James, east Side Showroom, made Kinship

  • Dripping Springs Vodka
  • Mathilde peche liqueur
  • Local aromatics
  • Orange oil, cinnamon, Texas wild flower honey, lemon and peach, sarsaparilla

The cocktail had a nice crème after vigorous shaking and oodles of aromatics. He double strained it to get the spice, but none of the veggie and herb bits. It was garnished with orange letting orange oil brighten the flavors, and finished with micro-planned cinnamon over the top. This was by far the most visually appealing presentation of the evening. Chauncey is a master presenter, describing how each element of his potion and how they influence the scent and flavor. I have a man crush.

Justin Chamberlin, Sagra, made The Pinetop

  • Start with a rinse of Balcones Brimstone to prep the glass
  • 1.5 ounces Balcones Rumbles
  • .25 ounces Paula’s Texas Orange Liqueor
  • .5 ounces house made Sagra greenhouse grown rosemary fig syrup
  • .75 ounces Rio Grande Red grapefruit juice
  • Garnish with rosemary

Justin honed his craft in Chicago before moving to a new home in Austin, just like Pinetop Perkins did. He mixed this drink with flair. I loved the rinse to give the drink just a hint of smokiness. Justin, we’re glad you made Austin home.

Marcelo Nascimento, Lucky 13 Cocktail Co. , made Texas Cup #9

  • 1.5 ounces Waterloo #9 Gin
  • .5 ounces domain de Canton
  • .75 ounces Fresh Lemon juice
  • .5 Texas honey syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Texas balsamic
  • Garnished with Texas cucumber

Marcelo made a modern, Texan twist on the ever popular British cocktail, the Pimms Cup. I’m a sucker for gin and a big fan of Waterloo Gin, so Marcelo only needed to bat his eyes at me to get me to sample this fantastic concoction. Crowd favorite indeed! He was so busy all night, I didn’t even get a chance to talk him until the event ended. It was worth the wait.

Jessica Sanders from Drink.Well, made Hippie Harvest

  • 1.5 ounces Rosemary infused Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • .75 ounces Paula’s Texas Lemon Liqueur
  • .5 ounces apple cider reduction
  • .5 ounces local grapefruit juice
  • Shaken over ice and then strained into rocks filled glass
  • Topped with Argus Cider
  • Garnish with rosemary 

The fresh apple cider reduction and local alcoholic Argus Cider gave this the taste of a fall harvest. Jessica’s husband, Mike, mixed one for me as Jessica competed on stage. The spritz of Argus Cider made this come alive. I can’t wait for Drink.Well to open this winter. This talented husband and wife team are going to make a lot of people happy.

Josh Loving, FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar, made Baby’s First Punch

  • 750ml Balcones Baby Blue
  • Two 12 ounces bottles Real Pale Moon Rye
  • 24 ounces bergamot blossom tea from Tea Embassy
  • 6 ounces lemon juice
  • ~8 ounces of Round Rock honey
  • Muddled lemon peel with turbinado sugar (oleo saccharum))
  • .75 ounces Angostura Bitters
  • Topped with grated nutmeg

Upscale punch is definitely a hot trend. Josh was inspired by reading Punch by David Wondrich, and realized that necessity really is the mother of invention. He had never used beer as a cocktail ingredient and wanted to challenge himself. Big thumbs up to Josh for serving a low alcohol cocktail at an event where people are tasting multiple drinks. This is a perfect approach to serving cocktails at a party.

I chose not to vote in the Crowd Favorite submissions because I loved them all so much.  

Envelope please! And the winners are:

  • The Crowd Favorite Award was won by Marcelo Nascimento, Lucky 13 Cocktail Co., for the Texas Cup #9
  • The second place Official Drink of Austin Cocktail Contest prize went to Justin Chamberlin, of Sagra for his The Pinetop
  • And the first place award, scoring 253 points out of 300, went to Houston Eves of Contigo for his Smokin Gypsy.

Now you have each of the award winning recipes. If you think you are as good as the top mixologist in the state, go ahead and try and replicate these drinks at home. If you are more realistic, go on out and order these fantastic drinks. You’ll be glad you can drink local.

The photo of Houston receiving the award is courtesy of  Dustin Meyer, This article was also published on CultureMap Austin.

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