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.
It’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 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.
This 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.
With 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
This 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.
- 3 ounces Casa Noble Single Barrel Reposado Tequila
- 2.5 ounces lime juice
- 1.5 ounces agave nectar
- 1 ounce soda water (I used Topo Chico)
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.
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.