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?

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?

Tacos and Tequila

There are a lot of classic flavor combinations; you know two great tastes that go great together like chocolate and peanut butter, coffee and Krispy Kremes and Gin & Tonics. Tonight I’m trying out a true Texas combo, Tacos and Tequilla with my friend @ShowMeYourTaco (Nelson) at a new taco place Tacos and Tequila (TnT) on west 5th street in Austin. You can follow them on Twitter @TnTacosTequila.

Nelson is chronicling our adventure in video and reviewing the food on his blog ShowMeYourTaco.com. Check out his post to hear about the food. I’m going to focus on, you guessed it, the tequila.

This urban taco spot recently opened by the good folks at Blue Mesa Grill in Dallas and it has been in business for nine weeks now. Rumor has it that TnT has the 5th largest tequila list in the country with 95varieties and that list keeps growing. This massive list is organized by tequila types  designated by stlye of aging: Blanco, Reposado and Añejo.

It offers more than variety. TnT has a staff that is steeped in tequila knowledge and a passion to share that knowledge with the likes of you and me. If you want to sample a variety of tequila, they offer four different tequila flights to compare three types of tequila. TnT also has cold tequilas on tap – Milagros Silver, 1800 Silver and Cazadores Silver – have you ever seen tequila on tap? If your tastes skew to the higher end, there are currently seven extra ultra premiums ranging from $30 to $65 a shot.

If you like mixed drinks, this is your place. TnT bartenders have a fabulous bent for making creative, delicious drinks with this venerated liquor. And the drink menu changes on a monthly basis. They mix signature recipes with fresh, hand squeezed juices and organic, locally sourced produce. Bar manager and assistant GM, Shelby Lynne, loves her job and it shows. Her favorite thing about working at TnT is exercising her creative genius and artistry in cocktails, surrounded by like-minded people. She aims to dazzle guests with inventive drinks made up on the fly.  

Our waiter recommended that we start off with a flight of infused tequila shots. Shelby dreams up all the infusions herself and the team makes up all the concoctions fresh daily. Here is what they brought us:

  1. Corzo Reposado infused with Mexican chocolate and guajillo peppers
  2. 1800 infused with peach, apricot and organic green tea
  3. Cazadores Reposado infused with cantaloupe

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Qh8BO0trvc&hl=en_US&fs=1]

With the preamble complete, it’s time to start the margaritas.

Watermelon Smash

This refreshing summer of love is made with Milagro silver, fresh smashed up watermelon and lime juice. The watermelon pulp is fleshy in the glass and satisfying.

Look The aftermath of a July picnic. Abused watermelon takes solace in a pint glass.    
Smell Sweet like a watermelon Jolly Rancher on a bender.   
Taste  Well, hello fruit smoothie in dominatrix leather. I wasn’t expecting you, but now that you are here. . . I’m going to have to chew your melons. The lime may make you perky, but that tequila shows you who’s really in charge.
Price $9

 

Dirty Margarita

Dirty is the operative word for this margarita made with Cazadores Reposado, house-made caramelized simple sugar roasted fresh on the stove, tamarind nectar and fresh-squeezed lime juice. While it’s dirty, Shelby tells me it’s nowhere near as dirty as her thoughts. Oh how I’d like to keep talking to her on the subject. This is one of Shelby’s favorites because she likes the duality of sweet and dirty. It’s how she envisions herself. She wants you to tell her how pretty she is while spanking her.

Look Masquerading as a golden brown Hefeweizen with a thin head of creamy mousse.
Smell Understated honey and a lime mist at sunset.
Taste This is the bad kid on the playground that you think is your friend. “Oh come on. It’s only Coke with lime.” Don’t believe him. This drink might be sweet and tangy on the surface, but deep inside, he’s out to pick up your mom.
Price $10

 Cucumber jalapeño margarita

This one is made with 1800 Silver chopped fresh cucumber, jalapeño slivers and lime.

Look Lemon grass green with a salad swimming about.
Smell Agave, cucumber and lime hanging out at the spa.   
Taste Cool as a cucumber right from the start, accompanied by fruity lime tang followed by acidic  heat. The spice is enough to keep me in line, but not too much to spoil the mood. I was a little disappointed by the amount of floating jalapeño seeds. They detracted from the overall experience. I didn’t need to chew this drink beyond the actual pepper and cucumber slices and the seeds added more kick than needed on each chew.
Price $9.50

 

Shelby Lynne’s Special

This one isn’t on a menu. All we had to do was ask and Shelby was extremely happy to show off her creative skills. Watch the video clip to hear what she mixes.

Look Raucous laughter lemon yellow with orange and lime wedges skinny dipping below the salt snow pack rim.
Smell Perky citrus with a wry smile.
Taste A provocative come-on that’s not going to get you slapped in the face. The smoky, oaky tequila runs this show without being domineering or rude. Mellow orange and laid back lime in a ménage a trois with caramel steals the show midway through, but steps out of the way to let the guest of honor close out this party in style. Thank you. Thank you tequila. You are awesome.    
Price $13

 
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p98uMyLlY_E&hl=en_US&fs=1]

Nelson and I had a fantastic experience at TnT. The food was delicious – read about that on ShowMeYourTaco.com – the drinks were tasty and the service was stellar. We acknowledge that we were writing  a review, which in part accounts for the highly attentive service. However, this was actually my second visit and Beautiful Wife and I had an equally enjoyable time with prompt and helpful service. I’ll definitely go back.

To close out this post, the one thing I really want is a good tequila song. There’s that one instrumental that PeeWee Herman dances to, but that doesn’t quite cut it for me. Maybe we could alter the Doors song:

Well, show me the way
To the next tequila bar
Oh, don’t ask why
Oh, don’t ask why

 Nah. A friend on twitter suggests M.I.A. Teqkilla. Here it is.