Where to Drink Right Now: Top 5 Places to Celebrate National Tequila Day in Austin

La Condesa tequila shot

Mexico is a land graced with amazing treasures including thousands of miles of stunning coastline, majestic mountains, rich oil reserves and abundant agricultural products. But one of its most prized exports is tequila.  It’s such a national treasure that its worthy of the protection provided by the Appellation of Origin Tequila, which delineates the location of production and sets the standards for how tequila is made.

Tequila’s stature is certainly not ignored in the U.S. That Mexican treasure is honored with National Tequila Day on Thursday, July 24. Several Austin restaurants and bars will celebrate with special cocktails. Enjoy the What Are You Drinking guide to where to drink tequila in Austin — and what to sip.

Benji’s Cantina, 716 W. 6th St.

Benji's Cantina tequilaIt’s only been in business for about a year, but Benji’s is shooting to be a top tequila destination in Austin. The Tex-Mex restaurant and bar serves more than 80 labels of tequila and will run drink specials for National Tequila Day.

“We have a knowledgeable staff that can guide people to try new types of tequila,” said Geoff Freeman, operating partner.  “With this big selection, it’s easy to find a tequila you like. We have the best price on Don Julio 1942 in town, so it sells really well. I’ve tried almost every tequila on the shelf, and usually at least a bottle of each. I fell in love with Casa Noble Tequila.  It’s an especially smooth sipping tequila that is aged in French oak barrels.

What to sip: Try Benji’s tequila twist on a cocktail classic, Benji’s Cantina’s Tequila Old Fashioned.

  • 2 dashes of angostura bitters on lemon
  • 2 dashes of rhubarb bitters on lemon
  • .5 ounces of simple
  • 2 ounces of Herradura Reposado

Rinse a pint glass with mescal, add lemon slice to the bottom of glass, add ice, stir and then strain over fresh ice with julep strainer. Garnish with orange peel.

La Condesa, 400 W 2nd St.

La Condesa tequilaLa Condesa is a cocktail mecca with more than 80 tequilas available in the cozy bar and the street-side patio, which is perfect for a little people watching. This Mexican restaurant draws locals and tourists alike for its ever-changing line-up of distinctive and small batch tequilas.

To celebrate National Tequila Day, La Condesa is hosting a competition between its bartenders to create a specialty Cazadores Tequila cocktail, and the winning drink will be featured on July 24th for $10. All of our tequila flights will be $2 off and they will also pour custom curated flights. If you’re not game for a full flight of four, try a tequila board with a shot of tequila, a shot of sangrita, a dash of salt and lime.

If you can’t wait for July 24 for tequila, La Condesa hosts happy hour every day from 5 – 7 pm, where all drinks are half price — even the ridiculously high-end tequilas like Herradura Seleccion Suprema, which sells for $65 and Gran Patron Burdeos Anejo Tequila, which will set you back $75. For an exclusive tequila without sticker shock, try the Herradura Double Barrel Reserve Reposado that was made just for La Condesa for $14.

What to sip: The Alma Blanca is one of La Condesa’s most unique and popular drinks, packing a punch in a small package with a hint of spice and velvety texture derived from muddled sweet corn

  • 2 ounces habanero-infused Siembra Azul Blanco
  • .5 ounce Domain de Canton ginger liqueur
  • 2 ounces fresh pineapple juice combined with agave nectar and lemon juice
  • Fresh corn muddled and double strained

It is served in a dainty saucer, finished with a spritz of hoja de hierba santa and hibiscus-rose-infused salt on the rim.

Tacos and Tequila, 507 Pressler St.

Tacos and TequilaThis tequila powerhouse has the largest selection of tequila in town with more than 160 kinds of tequila, including four poured cold on tap. In addition to many exotic tequilas, TNT also has a great selection of locally owned brands including Ambhar, Dulce Vida, Man in Black, Republic Tequila, Tequila 512 and Z Tequila.  On National Tequila Day, TNT will feature Happy Hour specials all day.

Mixologist Amanda Castro says, “Dulce Vida tequila is our top seller because people like its 100 proof kick. We have some amazing high-end tequilas like Casa Dragones, Man In Black Extra Añejo and Partida Elegante, but I’m partial to Casamigos.  I really like highland tequilas because they are smoother and sweeter.”

What to sip: If you like your tequila without anything else, try one of the monthly featured distilleries neat in a snifter or one of its flights of three tequilas. If you prefer a cocktail, TNT has several classic and signature margaritas and tequila drinks. The Orange Noir is a fresh taste of summer.

  • 2 ounces Partida Añejo tequila
  • .5 ounce Cointreau Noir
  • muddled oranges
  • fresh squeezed lime juice
  • agave nectar

Takoba, 1411 East 7th St.

Takoba margaritaWith two full bars and a large outdoor seating area, Takoba pours more than 25 kinds of tequila. While it specializes in mezcal (more than 60 available), this is a great place to celebrate National Tequila Day. The unpretentious setting, the authentic Mexican eats and the specialty margaritas are all a big draw. On July 24, Takoba will have happy hour specials in the cantina from 5-9 pm.

The house margarita is always a hit. While you can order a super-premium tequila like Abandonado Extra Añejo Tequila, the folks at Takoba say that many people pick the tried and true basics like Herradura, Patron and Don Julio. Give one of those a toss with a house-made sangrita to follow.

What to sip: If you like your tequila with an extra kick, try the Mango-Habanero Margarita on for size.

  • 1.5 ounces El Jimador Reposado
  • .5 ounce fresh mango puree
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce of habanero simple syrup

Garnish with lime and salt rim

508 Tequila Bar and Pelons Tex-Mex, 802 Red River St.

Pelons and 508 Tequila BarThis sister restaurant and bar combo situated on Red River Street pours more than 50 types of tequila and several tequila cocktails. The once sleepy cottages wear festive red paint outside and harbor a chill, dimly lit vibe inside — a perfect atmosphere to sip a snifter of añejo. On National Tequila Day, 508 Tequila Bar will have feature la hora feliz (happy hour) specials from 2-7 pm.

What to sip: One of the cocktails that should be high are your list is the Cuernos Largos. It’s a hearty margarita made with Dulce Vida 100 proof tequila. It packs a punch, so customers are only allowed to order two.

For the DIY Crowd

If you don’t want to venture out on National Tequila Day, here are some excellent cocktails to try at home.

Casa Noble MargaritaSignature Margarita from SOL Cocina Kitchen, Phoenix, AZ

Shake and strain over fresh ice.

This is a classic style margarita, incredibly easy to make and ridiculously delicious. Put it in your repertoire. Casa Noble is an excellent tequila and gives it a smooth, vanilla flavor.

If you are a Casa Noble fan, try the Añejo neat in a snifter.

Casa Noble Anejo

 

Republic Pineapple Salsa Margarita

  • 1.5 ounces Republic Plata Tequila
  • 4 ounces Sweet and Sour Mix
  • .5ounce Pineapple Juice
  • ¼ ounce Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 ounce Organic Agave Nectar
  • 3 Small Pineapple cubes
  • 1 Slice of Jalapeño
  • 1 teaspoon Cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon Chopped White Onion

Muddle pineapple, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño in shaker. Pour all ingredients into a shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a margarita glass over ice. Garnish with a lime wedge and slice of pineapple. May also be served as a martini.

A version of this story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: Samples of Casa Noble tequila were provided.

What are you drinking?

What Are You Drinking in Spring? 31 Spring Drink Ideas

Spring is a time of renewal and the rebirth of all things that are shiny and new. That means a rebirth in my interest in light, crisp drinks. I often reach for rosé, white wine and icy cocktails like caipirinhas at El Arbol or “The Passenger” at Perla’s.

I sometimes get stuck in a rut, drinking the same old thing day after day,  so I asked a bunch of wine and cocktail experts and friends what they like to drink in the warm spring weather. I got some great suggestions and cocktail recipes to pass on to you. Let me know what you think of these:

  •  “ROSÉ, ROSÉ AND ROSÉ, AND ALIGOTE at the terrasse of a sidewalk cafe with tones of friends if possible.” – Peter Wasserman, global wine consultant for Selection Becky Wasserman  
  •  “El Cubico is one of my favorite cocktails at La Condesa, and bar manager Nate Wales was sweet enough to give us a few. I can’t say enough good things to say about this drink. This cocktail is a great Spring drink — the smoky mezcal and tobacco contrast with the bright sweet pineapple, achieving a refreshing balance. If you need more convincing, I will take you out for one. Or seven.” – Emma Janzen, Liquid Austin blogger at  Austin360.com and Multimedia Producer at the Austin American-Statesman
  •  “The Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal with Honey Liqueur, cream, and house-made Froberg Farm strawberry soda at La Condesa.” – Jennie Chen, food aficionado and MisoHungry blogger, as described in her post “Sustainable Food Center’s Spring Bounty Dinner 2011
  • “Though there are several places I like to visit for casual sipping during the beautiful spring months, nothing beats relaxing on my own back deck in the open breeze with a drink prepared exactly as I like it. I prefer my Mojito with lots of fresh mint. Too many bars skimp by using just a token two or three leaves. Then they drown it with too much club soda or Sprite. I like my Mojito without the topper. It’s just easy breezy sipping.

 Minty MojitoCheri Loughlin version

  • 20 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 1/2 to 3/4 ounce Simple Syrup
  • Half Fresh Lime – Squeezed
  • 2 ounces Light Rum
  • Mint Sprig Garnish

Muddle mint leaves, simple syrup and lime in mixing glass. Add ice and rum. Shake thoroughly to blend. Strain into tall glass over fresh ice. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.” – Respected cocktail resource for drink enthusiasts, Cheri Loughlin, The Intoxicologist

  •  “My favorite springtime drink is the Z Tequila Margarita served at Trace at the W Hotel Austin.  I especially like it during their S.I.P. happy hour and enjoy it out on their patio.   A very close second is Perla’s daily frozen cocktail on their outdoor deck.” – Nicole Carbon, Writer Cocktails. Travel. All Things Fabulous. Fabulous Drinks Austin
  •  “The Austintini at the Hula Hut – made with Republic Tequila and Paula’s Texas Orange. Any margaritas made with our Spirit Blends – Classic Lime, Prickly Pear, Pineapple Basil or Jalapeño Lime. Republic Spirit Blends are now available in the dairy section of Central Market stores.

 Republic Rancho Ancho – this uses our Classic Lime Spirit Blends as a base with muddled watermelon and ancho chili powder!

  • 1.5 oz Republic Plata Tequila
  • 1/3  cup cubed seedless organic watermelon
  • 3 oz Republic Classic Lime Spirit Blends
  • 3 pinches of ancho chili powder

Add the watermelon and chili powder to a pint glass and muddle into juice. Add the tequila and Spirit Blends and top with ice. Cover and shake well. Strain over fresh ice in a pint glass and garnish with a slice of lime and a pinch of chili powder.” – Theresa Gebhardt, Brand Manager, Republic Tequila

  • Duchman Vermentino (TX), Chateau Bonnet, Chateau Magence and Inwood’s (TX) Segundo Palomino and Chardonnay blend are favorites now. I like drinking the Duchman Vermentino at Whole Foods Market’s Bar Lamar where it’s on tap, or at the beautiful Duchman winery across from Salt Lick. The Chateau Bonnet and Chateau Magence are beautiful white Bordeaux from Whole Foods…..under $20 and delicious. I enjoy sipping them in my backyard. The Inwood Segundo Palomino and Chardonnay is really lovely. Great Texas winemaker and the wine is a blend from TX and other American vineyards.” – Denise Fraser, Texas wine gal who loves wine and is a PR consultant for Texas wines and Whole Foods Market’s wine program
  •  “Spring drink ideas from the past. The first 2 are from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, 1947:

Spring Cocktail

  • 3/4 oz dry gin
  • 1/4 oz quinquina (modern form: Lillet Blanc)
  • 1/4 oz Benedictine
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake with cracked ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass. Serve with an olive.

Spring Feeling Cocktail

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz green chartreuse
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice

Shake with cracked ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass.

This one is from Difford’s Guide #6

April Shower

  • 2 shots cognac
  • 1/2 shot Benedictine
  • 2 shots Orange Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with and orange twist.” – Greg Priebe, Spirits and Cocktail Editor, A History of Drinking

  • “The Heirloom at The Highball. One of my favorite smells is an on the vine fresh tomato and this grabs that, shakes it up with some smoked salt and sets it down right where i want it — in my mouth!” – Kelly Stocker, Yelp Austin Community Manager
  •  “TNT has this REEDONCULOUS drink called the Cucumber Jalapeño Margarita. Seriously. It’s like napping in a hammock with the aroma of freshly cut grass. Seriously. Before you know it, you’ve had 10 of them.” –  Jeff McMillioan, Design Director at Dialog Studio
  • “Shitty Lemonade at The Hole in the Wall :-)” – Leslie Nichols, bad-ass producer for Austin City Limits
  • “My dad made pitchers of whiskey sours on hot spring days when I was a kid, so I have a soft spot in my heart and in my tummy for those. I also absolutely adore the frozen mojitos that my friend Hili blends to enjoy under her sprawling Live Oak trees in her yard.” – Beautiful Wife, creative director and partner ThreeDefined
  •  “A delicious, crisp champassion (or three) under the blooming wisteria at the Hotel San Jose around 5 on a lovely Saturday afternoon.  Love saving the raspberry drink accessories for last, after they’re nice and marinated by the bubbles.” – Cotton Candy, my favorite drinking buddy
  •  “Just finished mowing. Having a Glissade Golden Bock from Sierra Nevada. On the front porch. Shoes off, feet up. Miles Davis on the stereo. It doesn’t get much better than this. It’s my new favorite beer.” – William Price, the professor
  •  “Bacardi Dragon Berry rum.” – Chris Christian, technical marketing dude, gamer, kitty lover
  •   “At the moment I am sipping a Maker’s Mark with muddled ginger and soda with a little raw sugar. Spin on the Maker’s Mark Press. Try it! The ginger gives it some nice heat.” – Cliff Hieronymus
  •  “What spring sun?” – Kim Ponto, Grumpy Graphic Designer, TenFour in Portland
  •  “A classic: a Tall Tanqueray & Tonic made by my dear friend, Teresa.” –  Abbie McCarthy Kendall, PR genius
  •  “Mojito” Laura Pevehouse Thomas, social media smarty  
  •  “Sangria!” – Lindsey Weinberg Tishgart, Strategic PR and Communications Consultant at FOLIO Communications
  •  “Bulleit bourbon over crushed ice.” – John Wade Moody, not to be confused with a temperamental Western film star  
  •  “French rose, mojito, or Mexican beer… kinda depends on the vibe and if there is food.” – Garrett Beauvais, money guy and bon vivant
  •  “Skinny Margaritas: Marg minus about 500 of the calories…so good & fresh. (Calorie reduction claim not validated, but it’s what I like to think)” – Stacy Hower, marketing genius

This is an incredible list of drink that will keep me busy for several spring nights in the backyard and gorgeous patio bars around Austin. Thanks so much to all the contributors for sharing your favorite spring drinks.

Try a few of these and let me know what you think. What is your new favorite spring drink?  

What are you drinking?