Raucous rita party with the Tipsy Texan

David Allan

Taking a long drink from his margarita, David Alan, founder of the Tipsy Texan consultancy, cooed, “Tastes like childhood.” In one of the most spirited sessions of the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival, Alan described the history, ways to mess up and proper ways to make a margarita in “Rescue the Rita.”

A proper margarita has only three ingredients: tequila, orange liqueur such as Cointreau and lime juice. Oh, and perhaps a touch of sugar. According to Alan, there are “five ways to fuck up a margarita:”

  1. Bad tequila. Avoid anything that says “gold” or is does not say 100 percent agave on the label.
  2. Sweeten it. The trend of “skinny” margaritas takes out the sweetness of the classic by adding lots of water. Skip it.
  3. Margarita mix. The premade mixes are loaded with all kinds of unpronounceable ingredients, but absolutely no lime juice. Yuck.
  4. Not cold or diluted enough. Put it on ice and shake it like you mean it. Make sure that shaker makes noise.
  5. Crappy lime garnish. There is nothing worse than a hard lime that is brown around the edges. Throw it out.

The crowd was provided with a shaker, a juicer and all the ingredients to make their own classic rita. While they were shaking things up, a spirited mariachi band marched onto stage to end the festivities in style.

 

Related 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival Articles: 

What are you drinking? 

Garage wins Official Drink of Austin competition

Austin’s best cocktail bars battle for recognition and bragging rights.

Garage Wins

 

There are a lot of places to get a great cocktail in Austin, but only one bar gets to say it has the Official Cocktail of Austin. To earn that honor, the winners were one of six teams that had to run the cocktail gauntlet at the Official Drink of Austin 2015 event hosted by the Tipsy Texan to benefit the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. Teams from some of Austin’s best cocktail bars, including drink.well., Half Step, Odd Duck, Garage, Licha’s Cantina and the soon-to-open VOX Table, battled it out in front of a panel of judges to earn the title.

Teams from some of Austin’s best cocktail bars, including drink.well.Half StepOdd DuckGarageLicha’s Cantina and the soon-to-open VOX Table, battled it out in front of a panel of judges to earn the title.

The event has changed throughout the years and has grown with the rise of craft cocktails.

“We saw remarkable support for the event this year from the bars: Twenty-six venues submitted menus for the competition, a record for us,” says event originator and founder of Tipsy Texan, David Alan. “Furthermore, many of them were from restaurant bars, not just the usual-suspect cocktail bars you see in many competitions. As the scene matures, it becomes harder and harder each year to narrow it down to just six contestants. This was the best lineup we’ve ever had and we sold out of tickets, and could have sold a hundred more if we’d had them. My voice isn’t loud enough to sing the praises of this community.”

The competition not only shows off the talent of local bartenders, but it also shines a spotlight on Texas spirits. The thirsty crowd sampled drinks from each of the competing bars, as well as various cocktails from locally owned distilleries, including Balcones Distilling, Deep Eddy Vodka, Dripping Springs Gin, Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, Garrison Brothers, Genius Gin, Paula’s Texas Spirits, Revolution Spirits, Tequila 512, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Treaty Oak Distilling and White Hat Rum.

Rivers of booze were flowing and people voted for their favorites with the People’s Choice Award. A panel of drink experts, including Chef Jack Gilmore, Gina Chavez, Dan Gentile, Jason Stevens, Jason Kosmas and last year’s winner, Justin Elliott of Qui, cast a critical palate on each concoction.

Kosmas let us in on his judging criteria., “Of course it’s got to be a great drink,” he says. “The scrutiny is if it really represents Austin. We see some great cocktails here that don’t have an Austin feel. You can’t fake it.”

Led by Chauncy James, the team from Garage, the covert bar tucked inside the American National Bank parking garage, brought its A game. In so doing, they won the People’s Choice Award. However, the judges selected the Half Step team led by Chris Bostick as its winner. That set up an onstage shake-off between Garage, with its vodka-based drink, The Indian Paintbrush, against Half Step, with its smoky version of a michelada called the Don Brimstone.

Garage emerged victorious, earning The Indian Paintbrush the title of The Official Drink of Austin 2015.

The Indian Paintbrush Aka, The Official Drink of Austin

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Dripping Springs Vodka
  • 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • .5 ounce fresh lime juice
  • .5 ounce rosemary syrup
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Directions:

Pour all ingredients into a tin, shake over ice, double fine strain into a Tom Collins glass and add ice and garnish with rosemary.

While it is a ton of fun, the event also raises money for a good cause.

“The purpose of what we do is to raise money and reinvest it in the community,” says Mariam Parker, executive director of the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. “Proceeds from the event help provide money for culinary innovation grants. The event also highlights the incredible talent we have in town.”

This story was originally published by Austin Woman Magazine.

Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to the event. 

What Are You Drinking? 

Win tickets to “The Official Drink of Austin” cocktail competition

official drink of austin

What are you doing on Thursday night? Do you want to go watch some of the most talented bartenders in Austin mix amazing cocktails in hopes that their concoction is crowed “The Official Drink of Austin”? Do you want to taste everything they make? Do you want to do it for free?

Hell yeah!

Here is your chance. What are You Drinking is giving away a pair of tickets to this bad-ass event.

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance is once again in bed with Tipsy Texan to host the crazy fun Official Drink of Austin cocktail competition on Thursday, February 26 from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at Fair Market.  The insanely talented  bar teams from drink.well., Half Step, Odd Duck, Garage, Licha’s Cantina, and VOX Table will strut their stuff to see who is best.

Now, this’ll be a straight cocktail-off, old school rules. First bartender mixes; second bartender duplicates, then elaborates. Okay, boys – let’s go to work! … or something like that.

It won’t be David Bowie judging this competition. Nope. The esteemed judges include Jason Kosmas, co-founder of The 86 Company; Jack Gilmore, chef and owner of Jack Allen’s Kitchen; Justin Elliott, last year’s Official Drink of Austin winner and bartender at qui restaurant; Dan Gentile, writer for Thrillist; and Austin singer/songwriter Gina Chavez. Like Bowie, many of the judges will be wearing leather pants and excessive makeup and trying to make it with David Alan.

Did I mention the drinks? There will be gallons of delicious Texas booze poured from the generous distillers at Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, Treaty Oak Distilling, Balcones Distilling, Garrison Brothers, Deep Eddy Vodka, White Hat Rum, Dripping Springs Gin, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Genius Gin, Revolution Spirits, Paula’s Texas Spirits,Tequila 512, and more. Plus you can wiggle your tushy to the groovy cuts spun by DJ ulovei.

Its not just for braggin’ rights. These selfless bar heroes are raising money for culinary grants too. The Austin Food and Wine Alliance raises fat sacks of cash for culinary grants, giving away $75,000 since 2012.

Tickets are $55, but here is your chance to win a pair. All you have to do is answer the following question:

“What Texas spirit was included in the winning cocktail recipe from the 2014 Official Drink of Austin?”

Submit your answer in the comment section below. One winner will be chosen at random from all correct submissions.

_______

Updated Tuesday, Feb 24, 7:40 pm: Thanks to everyone who entered! Bryce Boltjes had the correct answer, Balcones Rumbles was the Texas spirit used in the Tepache. Many of you had the right answer, and Bryce’s response was chosen by drawing a random number. I hope to see you there on Thursday!

 What Are You Drinking? 

Daniel Barnes of Treaty Oak Distilling Awarded Distiller of the Year

Daniel Barnes, Distiller of the YearI had the privilege of hosting Treaty Oak Distilling’s first ever media event to announce that Daniel Barnes has received the prestigious 2014 Distiller of the Year award by MicroLiquor. He was selected among a field of more than 400 distinguished craft distiller entrants in the United States.

The event felt like a party with friends as a group of bloggers and journalists were greeted on the front porch with a refreshing La Mariquita cocktail made with Graham’s Texas Tea mixed by David Alan, the Tipsy Texan. The group then gathered in the cozy Lenoir dining room to nibble on incredible charcuterie, like octopus pastrami, prepared by Chef Todd Duplechan.

Barnes shared the news of a few more awards that Treaty Oak has collected. It has won:

1. Triple Gold medal in the MicroLiquor Spirit Awards competition for Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum. Treaty Oak Rum is made with molasses sourced from the last sugar mill in Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley that is brewed into rum beer with an initial fermentation that takes four days and then distilled. The Platinum Rum is aged for two years in 60 gallon new American white oak barrels to make the Barrel Reserve Rum.

2. Triple Gold medal in the MicroLiquor Spirit Awards for Waterloo Antique Gin, a barrel aged gin. Waterloo gin was one of the first modern Texas-made gins when it was released at the end of 2011. It’s made with 11 botanicals including juniper, lavender, rosemary, pecans, grapefruit, lemon, and orange zest, coriander, ginger root, licorice root and anise in is a juniper-forward London Dry style gin with a Texas twist. Waterloo Antique Gin is made by aging the original product for a full year in a first-use heavy-charred barrel, giving it rich whisky notes of cinnamon, clove and anise flavors, while letting the juniper and floral flavors come through.

3. The Fifty Best awarded a Double-Gold medal to Graham’s Texas Tea Vodka in the “Best Flavored Vodka” awards for 2014. Graham’s Texas Tea is made with premium Nilgiri tea blended with turbinado sugar, Hill Country water and vodka. Barnes tasted around 50 different teas before picking and Nilgiri because of its intense flavors, strong fragrance and balanced body. It’s starkly different from the American and English breakfast teas.

After describing the awards and how the spirits are made, we all had the opportunity to sip both the Platinum and Barrel Aged Rum side-by-side, followed by  the Waterloo Gin and the Waterloo Antique Gin. Good stuff.

Taste test of Treaty Oak Rum and Waterloo Gin

 

David Alan showed off his cocktail acumen by preparing a classic daiquiri with Treaty Oak Barrel Aged Rum and a twist on the Old Fashioned made with Waterloo Antique Gin. Both were fantastic.

Treaty Oak Distilling partner, Nate Powell, ended the evening by sharing a little glimpse at what’s next for the distillery.  The current Treaty Oak distillery in north Austin is bursting at the seams. To keep up with demand, Treaty Oak needs a lot more space and a lot more capacity. The company recently broke ground on new facilities that will be located on the 30-acre Ghost Hill Ranch near Dripping Springs right up the road from Jester King Brewery.  Its going to be quite the booze tourism destination featuring a state-of-the-art distillery capable of increasing production allowing the brand to continue to expand nationally, along with a brewery, tasting room and cocktail house.

Thanks Treaty Oak for a fun night of cocktails, nibbles and news.

Disclosure: Treaty Oak Distillery hired me to organize the media event and to provide PR consulting. They did not request this post and are not sponsoring it. 

What Are You Drinking?

Texas talent shines at the 2014 Austin Food & Wine Festival

In its third year, the Austin Food & Wine Festival drew some of the biggest names in the culinary world to demonstrate their talents. It wasn’t just the national celebrity chefs who drew applause. Homegrown beverage experts had the juice to attract crowds in Butler Park.

True Texas Spirits

David Alan Tipsy TexanAt mid-day Sunday, cocktail expert and author David Alan, aka the Tipsy Texan, hobbled on stage with a crutch and his foot in a medical boot. He swore the injury was from a skiing accident rather than a drink-induced mishap. A likely story.

He quickly changed the subject by offering a birthday toast to his sister with a mixed shot made with Treaty Oak barrel-aged gin for the crowd. It was a fantastic way to start his session.

Alan shared anecdotes about Texas spirits pioneers and cocktail recipes from his recently published book, Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State. The Texas spirits industry is just a baby. Despite prohibition ending in 1933, the state did not have a legal distillery until Tito Beveridge started Tito’s Handmade Vodka in 1996. When he applied for a distilling permit, there wasn’t even a process in place to get one. Beveridge had to work with state and federal regulatory bodies to get it going. Alan lauded Beveridge for inspiring other distilleries to follow.

“He is the one that got the industry started,” Alan said. “He is the reason we are here today. Independent distilling is one of the biggest movements in the beverage industry. There are now more than 50 licensed distilleries in Texas and business is booming. In 2013, Tito’s hit a milestone that few independents will ever hit. The distillery sold more than a million cases of vodka.”

Tito's Vodka, Treaty Oak RumTito’s was the lone distiller in the state for a decade. In 2006, Daniel Barnes started a distillery to make Treaty Oak Rum, which Alan described as “quintessentially Texan” because it is completely made in Texas, starting with the raw materials. Treaty Oak Distilling now makes rum, aged rum, Waterloo Gin and barrel-aged gin, and bottles of Red Handed Texas Bourbon.

With the rapidly growing thirst for local, independent distilleries, there are bound to be some corners cut to meet consumer demand.

“Some Texas spirits are all hat and no cattle,” Alan said in an impassioned discussion of the virtues of authenticity versus marketing shenanigans. “How many people believe that when you buy a product, you should know what the hell it is? Nobody wants to be misled.

“If a bottle says ‘Texas whiskey,’ we expect it to be from Texas. The problem is that about half the whiskeys on the shelf that say Texas aren’t from Texas. Balcones, Garrison Brothers and Ranger Creek are all made right here with Texas ingredients. We need to support the folks who are actually making a product here. To make sure its Texan, check the bottle to make sure it says ‘distilled in Texas’ rather than just ‘produced’ or ‘bottled.’ ”

Alan describes the cocktail culture in Texas as being very similar to our culinary influences in that it is a melting pot of Tex-Mex and Southern, with bold flavors, spice and smoke. He encouraged the crowd to be adventurous in their choice of drinks and to use local ingredients in season like grapefruit, homegrown mint and watermelon.

“You wouldn’t eat the same food every day or listen to the same music every day,” Alan said. “So why would you drink the same thing every day?”

To demonstrate fresh approaches to cocktails that feature Texas spirits and seasonably appropriate local ingredients, Alan created two refreshing summer cocktails.

Sangria Rosa

Ingredients:

  • 2 750-milileter bottles of sparkling rosé wine
  • 1/2 bottle Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • 2 cups St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 1 quart cut up melons (watermelon, honeydew) and seasonal fruit
  • Large block of ice
  • 1 cup of carbonated water

Directions:

Marinate the fruit in the booze for several hours, then it’s ready to serve.

Texas Watermelon MojitoWatermelon Mojito

Ingredients:

  • 4 large sprigs fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup cubed and seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1.5 ounces Treaty Oak Rum
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ounce carbonated water
  • Watermelon wedge for garnish

Directions:

Gently muddle three of the mint springs and the watermelon with the simple syrup. Add the rum and lime juice, and shake the hell out of it. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with carbonated water and garnish with mint and watermelon.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Devon Broglie, Vilma Mazaite, Craig CollinsThe final wine seminar of the Austin Food & Wine Festival featured Austin’s only Master Sommeliers, Devon Broglie and Craig Collins. In their third year presenting at the festival, the renowned wine experts chose to showcase a wine region that they feel is experimenting with non-traditional grapes and new methods in winemaking: California.

“California is one of the regions leading the charge for a new revolution in wine,” said Collins, the beverage director for Arro and ELM Restaurant Group. “In the 1960s and ’70s, Robert Mondavi and others were experimenting with making new wines but retaining European influences for making wine with balance and quality. In the 1990s, the region gained notoriety for pursing big, bold, fruity wines with high alcohol. Now we have pioneers in the industry making sophisticated wine with less prominent grapes with lower alcohol.”

The sweaty and slightly intoxicated crowd at the California Enlightenment session was treated to a tasting of six wines that were selected for new approaches to a well-known grape variety or unheralded grapes. There was one other factor in the wines’ selection.

“The criteria for wines in this tasting is they had to be wines that are loveable,” said Broglie, the Whole Foods Markets associate global beverage buyer. “We’re talking about wines that after you have slammed back half a glass, you stop and realize, holy shit, I love this wine. We wanted to present wines that are enjoyable and that are drinkable with food.”

California Enlightenment wine lineup2010 Seghesio Arneis

The Seghesio family settled in California from Italy in 1895 and has been producing wine ever since. Seghesio is well known as a pioneer and major producer of Sonoma County Zinfandel, but less known for its Italian white wine varieties. Arneis is a white grape from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy that makes clean, crisp wine that is high in minerals. Seghesio grows its grapes on small acreage in the Russian River Valley, which has a cool climate. The result is fresh, bright, medium-bodied wine with guava and tropical flavors that is perfect for a summer picnic. It’s available for about $23 at Austin Wine Merchant or Whole Foods Markets.

2012 Lioco Sonoma County Chardonnay

In 2008, Matt Licklider, a wine importer, and Kevin O’Connor, wine director at Spago Beverly Hills, partnered to start an urban winery to make pinot noir and chardonnay that reflect the terroir of California. They chose to break the mold of California wineries making overblown wines. Rather than age the wine with new oak barrels that can hide the flavor of the wine with vanilla flavors, Lioco uses stainless steel and neutral barrels to create a full yet crisp wine that lets fruit and acid shine through, for a citrusy wine with grapefruit and lemon flavors that pairs well with shellfish. The Sonoma County chardonnay is available for $22 on the Lioco website.

2012 Chappellet Chenin Blanc

“Cappellet is one of the founding fathers of the Napa Valley, starting the winery in 1967 in storied Pritchard Hill vineyards,” Collins said. “The area is considered a grand cru of Napa because the magical mountain makes the cream-of-the-crop wines.”

The volcanic soils stress the grape vines, and the high elevation allows for a large swing between nighttime versus daytime temperatures, which helps grapes ripen better. Not only is Chappellet making wine with a less popular grape, chenin blanc, it is also taking a non-traditional route to make the wine. It is fermented in a combination of neutral French oak barrels, stainless steel tanks and a concrete “egg” that gives the wine extra weight and richness while retaining high acid levels that give it massive zippiness. It has vivacious floral scents and honeydew, lemon zest and hazelnut flavors that bring roast quail to life. It goes for about $30 a bottle.

2012 Donkey and Goat Grenache Noir – El Dorado

Everything about Donkey and Goat is non-traditional. The winery got its start when Tracy and Jared Brandt decided to make natural, Rhône-style wines with minimal intervention.

“They put 50,000 miles on their Toyota Prius looking for the right grapes to make wine in an urban winery in a warehouse in Berkeley,” Broglie said. “This is an example of a new trend in California winemaking where the winery doesn’t need vineyards or a fancy château.”

The grenache was made with grapes grown in El Dorado County using natural yeast to ferment them, and it was left unfiltered, giving it a slight haze. The red berry flavors and earthiness will go well with grilled meat.

“This wine makes me want to bury a goat in the yard and roast it in the pit,” Broglie said.

The Food & Wine Festival was fortunate to land a handful of cases to serve, but the 246 cases made have sold out immediately.

2012 Broc Cellars Vine Starr Zinfandel

California zinfandel has earned a reputation for being inky dark with enough alcohol to give you a buzz by just smelling it. Broc Cellars throws that playbook out the window. The Vine Starr zinfandel is true to its intended character, a gorgeous translucent ruby color, bold aromas of ripe fruit, cream strawberry flavors and the zip of black pepper on the finish. And its only 12 percent alcohol.

“It’s all of the things I like about zin without the things I hate,” Collins said. “I like the bold aromatics and ripe fruit, but not the high alcohol.”

Broc is another one of the small-production urban wineries and only 800 cases of this juice were produced. It sells for about $30.


2010 Stony Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

The last taste of the day, which I’m sure some of the drunks in the tent downed in one lustful gulp, was Stony Hill Napa Valley cabernet 2010 from Spring Mountain. Stony Hill Vineyard has been making wine since 1952. They are predominantly a chardonnay producer. No matter the type of wine, they have not chased the big scores of some wine reviewers by making wines with big flavors, and instead have stayed true to their heritage of making refined, balanced wine. The 2010 cabernet is only the second vintage of cab Stony Hill has produced. It has blackberry, ripe, juicy red fruit, green pepper and herb flavors with a subtle earthiness. Less than 400 cases of this wine were made and only six of those cases made their way to Texas, one of which was poured at the festival. This was my favorite wine of the entire festival.

Whether you are in to obscure grapes, natural wine or inventive approaches to winemaking, Collins summed up a solid maxim for drinking wine (and maybe for life).

“What do you want to put into your mouth now?” he asked. “It’s not about what is right. It’s about what is going to make you happy.”

 

This story was originally published on Austin Man Magazine.

Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to attend the Festival at no charge. 

What are you drinking?

Win tickets to “Official Drink of Austin” cocktail competition and Texas spirit showcase

Official Drink of Austin What is better than a room full of skilled bartenders from the top bars in Austin mixing excellent cocktails for you? Getting free tickets to the Official Drink of Austin competition courtesy of Austin Food & Wine Alliance and What Are You Drinking! That’s what.

 The reincarnated booze bash returns this Thursday, February 20, after a two year nap to test the skills of six bar teams from drink.well., Four Seasons Hotel, Midnight Cowboy, qui, Weather Up, and Whisler’s to see who wins the title of the Official Drink of Austin. The cocktail competition, hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance and Tipsy Texan will be held 7–10 pm AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center to raise funds for culinary grants awarded by the Alliance.

AT&T Conference Center Map“We want to showcase the Texas spirits industry in this event,” said Austin Food & Wine Alliance executive director, Mariam Parker. “When the Official Drink of Austin contest was started by the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Tito’s Vodka about a decade ago, Tito’s was the primary distillery in the state. Now there are more than 40 distillers operating in the state and 13 participating in our event.”

Book your cab ride ahead of time, because tasting your way through this party could make you a tipsy Texan. The competitors will be set up in the middle of the room, showing off their skills and serving samples to guests. They will be surrounded by a phalanx of Texas distilleries and local chefs. Not only will you be able to taste the Official Drink of Austin contest entries, but you will be able to sample cocktails featuring Texas spirits including Deep Eddy Vodka, Dripping Springs Vodka, Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, Genius Gin, Paula Texas Spirits, Red River Whiskey, Tequila 512, Tito’s Vodka, Treaty Oak Distilling, White Hat Rum, and Z Tequila.

Bob your head to booty music provided DJ ulovei while noshing on nibbles served by some of the hottest chefs in town including Josh Watkins and Plinio Sandalio of The Carillon, Peter Maffei of Finn & Porter, Camden Stuerzenberger of Fork & Vine, Jean Pierre Lacoste of Frank, John Lichtenberger of Peche, Lawrence Kocurek of TRACE, Mat Clouser of Swift’s Attic, Kristine Kittrell of Weather Up, Eric Silverstein of The Peached Tortilla, Scott Higby of TRIO, and Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier of Lick’s Honest Ice Cream.

The format of the competition has changed a bit this year, with a change to a team competition rather than individual bartenders battling. The six participating a five-member bar teams were chosen from a field of twenty entrants who submitted three drink recipes made with at least one, one-ounce Texas spirit as the main ingredient.

David Alan, Tipsy Texan

The six finalist bars were chosen to compete in an intense process by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance executive director, Mariam Parker, Alliance board member, Michael Bepko, and professional bartender and drinks author, David Alan (aka the Tipsy Texan) who was instrumental in establishing the original Official Drink competition.

“It was not easy to pick the six finalists by any means,” said Parker. “To earn a spot in the competition, bar teams had to bring something unique. We wanted to see special cocktails. For example, one of the drinks the Drink.well team submitted featured a foam made with Jester King beer. We have such a creative community and many of the bartenders are artistic. It will be fun to see how their ideas translate into the cocktail. ”

At the Official Drink event, contestants will present a set of cocktails for each judge that are made with no more than six components including alcohol and non-alcohol elements like drops, rinses and dashes. They will be given 17 minutes to wow the judges with showmanship, creativity, craft and taste. The crowd will be in on the act awarding People’s Choice points to each team’s overall score. The two teams with the highest scores will throw it down in a drink off live on stage, mixing their best cocktails for the judges.

Jason KosmasThe judges will have their work cut out for them. The panel is packed with exceptional credentials. Jason Kosmas, has made his mark in the cocktail world as co-founder of the 86 Company and helped spark the classic cocktail scene New York City as co-founder of Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. He will be looking for touches of Austin when marking his ballot.

“It will be important that the cocktails represent the city by capturing the balance between the funkiness, the nerdiness, and the fun,” said Kosmas.

He is also looking for drinks that aren’t over done. “The cocktail scene has gotten into the place where drinks have gotten crazy with bold ingredients,” said Kosmas. “It’s been said that the greatest technique that any chef can exercise is restraint. The same is true for cocktails. Don’t make it too complicated. It doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to taste good. Sometimes bartenders just need to stop before they put their last ingredient in.”

That sounds like a recipe for success. The winners get the honor of touting the title of Austin’s Official Drink for the entire year. The official drink will be featured at Austin Food & Wine Alliance events throughout the year.

Win free tickets!

Tickets are $65 each to attend the event, but one lucky winner will receive two tickets. All you have to do is answer the following question:

“What two Texas spirits were included in the winning cocktail recipe from the 2011 Drink Local Night?”

Submit your answer in the comment section below. One winner will be chosen at random from all correct submissions.

What are you drinking? 

Photo of Jason Kosmas taken by Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer

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.

What are you drinking?

Fine time at Wine & Swine

Wine & SwineThis Sunday hundreds of people gathered in the sun to chow whole hog prepared in dozens of ways. The second annual Wine & Swine event hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance pitted 17 chefs against each other in a competition of unrationed rashers. It was a truly Texan event with more roast meat than you can imagine and plenty to drink.

Many of the chefs stayed up all night roasting whole pigs in various ways. Of course the chefs needed high octane fuel to keep themselves awake. John Bates of Nobel Pig drank plenty of Jester King beer. Josh Watkins of the Carrilon listed a litany of drinks including tequila and vodka. Fortunately the event had plenty of drinks on hand for guests like me to enjoy.

Before we get to what I was drinking, congratulations to the chef’s who won the Greenling Fan Favorite Award. The Grand Champion went to chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon with his Cuban pork dish. In second place was chef Jason Dady of Bin 555 and Jason Dady Restaurants with his maple bourbon-glazed whole pig (I understand it was a very close finish) and third place went to Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo with his pork with smoke tomatoes and arugula.

OK, back to the drinks. I strolled about the grounds of Pioneer Farms slugging back cocktails made by David Allen, the Tipsy Texan, local beers from Hops & Grain and Jester King, cider from Argus Cidery, Texas wine from Pedarnales Cellars and rum from White Hat. Here are a few photos of the wonderful things I enjoyed while there.

This event was a hell of a lot of fun. If you missed it, make plans to go next year to pig out and drink your fill. Where else can you see well-dressed beautiful women sucking the meat off a rib bone without a care in the world?

What are you drinking?

 

Discover local booze and brews at Edible Austin Eat Drink Local Week

 

The Edible Austin farm-to-table culinary tour de force kicks off its Eat Drink Local Week this Saturday, December 3, with more than 50 of our finest local restaurants preparing special dishes made with locally sourced ingredients and events each night designed to showcase the bounty of local farms, the farmers, brewers, distillers. The fifth annual event starts with a proclamation by the Mayor Leffingwell delivered in Republic Square Park and with its ever popular Urban Farm Bicycle Tour. The up to 50 mile round-trip jaunt takes bike riders to local farms where they can sample delectable food prepared by top local chefs using locally grown ingredients.   

Edible Austin, the quarterly magazine that organizes this week-long foodie fest, aims to raise $80,000 with the events, about double what they raised last year. They plan to do this incredible feat in a tough economy by offering more accessible events and by holding an Online Chef Dinner Auction, for people to bid on a prize of a private dinner for eight prepared in their home by one of eight of Austin’s hottest chefs. The starting bid is $2,000 for a chance to amaze your friends with the best dinner they’ll ever have at your place.

Proceeds from Eat Drink Local Week will go to the Sustainable Food Center (SFC) and Urban Roots, which has been a recipient since the first year. SFC was added this year to support their work in increasing access to local food through farmers markets, the Happy Kitchen cooking classes for low income individuals, and its farm to school program, Sprouting Healthy Kids.

 Smack in the middle of this gastronomic gala are two bacchanalian booze and brews bashes to make up the Drink portion of the week: “Drink Local Night” on Thursday, December 8 and “Local Brew Fest” on Saturday, December 10. To do these events justice, maybe we need to create and abide by a new bumper sticker reading “Drink Locally, Act Responsibly.” Get a ride home.

Drink Local Night showcasing Texas distillers

Drink Local Night has moved to larger digs this year and will be held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center Grand Ballroom. Jenna Noel, Edible Austin associate publisher, says they expect to have about 500 people in attendance sampling cocktails and tasting spirits from more than a dozen distilleries as well as noshing on scrumptious snacks from Swift’s Attic, BC Tavern, Lick Ice Creams and The Carillon.   

Drink Local Night is all about introducing local spirits to the community. It has also served to get the distillers themselves acquainted According to Noel, the first event held five years ago was the first time all the Texas distillers were in one room together. This year there are several new distillers introducing their sauce including Cypress Creek Reserve, Ranger Creek, Rebecca Creek Distillery, Republic Tequila, Tenneyson Absinthe and Wahaka Mezcal.

Experiencing new spirits is part of the fun. Graham Wasilition, founder of Tenneyson Absinthe Royale hopes Austinites discover his unique absinthe “Locally owned and produced spirits really can be top quality and create an experience that they will want to share with their friends, neighbors and visitors with pride. I want people to have a little bit better of an understanding of the absinthe category as a whole because it is something that is been misunderstood by many for a long time. We created an internationally acclaimed product and want to share it with our neighbors!”

Dan Garrison, proprietor of Garrison Brothers Distillery is confident in the quality of his whiskey and is putting his money where his mouth is. “The organizers, who I greatly admire and appreciate, requested a financial contribution from each distillery that would go toward a prize for the mixologist who created the best cocktail with their spirit. In addition to my participation fee, I will donate an additional money toward the mixologist award, but only if they promised not to mix my bourbon with anything.”

A highlight of the event is the “Official Drink of Austin Cocktail Contest” presented by Tipsy Texan and the “Crowd Favorite Award” sponsored by Google Places. Some new faces who have not previously competed in cocktail competitions are vying for this year’s prize. Finalists for the Official Drink of Austin Cocktail Contest were announced this week. Here are the finalists and cocktails:

  •  Josh Loving, Baby’s First Punch, FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar
  • Jessica Sanders, Hippie Harvest, Drink.Well.
  • Marcelo Nascimento, Texas Cup #9, Lucky 13 Cocktail Co.
  • Houston Eaves, Smokin’ Gypsy, Contigo
  • Justin Chamberlin, The Pinetop, Sagra

David Alan, aka Tipsy Texan, says finalists were selected by a three-member panel based on their adherence to the contest rules with drinks that featured local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. “Drinks had to demonstrate knowledge of cocktail mixology, and need to show some of the creator’s creativity. I want to see what bartenders do with the spirits and produce and flavors around us, not just what is prescribed in the pages of a magazine or in marketing collateral from some big national or international brand.” 

The winner will be selected at the event by a panel of judges including the Tipsy Texan and past winners, Lara Nixon (2009 winner) and Bill Norris (2010 winner). We get our say on the best cocktails too with the new People’s Choice Award. Bar stations will be set for attendees may taste the handiwork of the contestants. 

Local Brew Fest featuring Texas brewers

For beer lovers, Black Star Co-op and Wheatsville Food Co-op are hosting the Local Brew Fest with 15 of the states finest craft brewers on hand in a big tent outside Black Star Co-op.  Oh, and it’s not just beer. Start-up cider brewers, Austin Eastciders and Texas Sake Co., the first Texan sake producer, will both be on hand as well.  sample their wares at this popular event. The event draws some of the best craft brewers from Austin and the rest of the state, and will have more brewers than previous years including new breweries Austin Beerworks and Hops and Grains.

Participants will be able to sample 12 two ounce tastes while chatting up the local brewers. Each brewer will bring a few selections to try and will have brewmasters on hand to talk about their craft. Wheatsville Food Co-op will provide a fine selection of noshes including Windy Hill Farm, Pure Luck Farm & Dairy, Veldhuizen Cheese and Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery to accompany all of that delicious brew.

Whether you are a foodie, a cocktail connoisseur or a beer geek, Eat Drink Local Week is a great event for to discover local fare and meet the people that bring it to your table. Tickets for Drink Local Night and the Local Brew Fest are $35 and $20 respectively, and can be purchased at www.edibleaustin.com/eatdrinklocalweek.

 This article also appears on CultureMap Austin.

All photos were taken by Dustin Meyer at the 2010 Edible Austin Eat Drink Local Week, http://www.dustinmeyer.com/.

What are you drinking?

Participating Restaurants Include:

ASTI Trattoria                  

Barley Swine

Buenos Aires Café

Chez Nous

Cipollina

Contigo

East Side Pies

East Side Showroom

Eastside Café

Fabi + Rosi

Fête Accompli

Finn & Porter

FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar

Food 4 Fitness Cafe

Green Pastures Restaurant

Guero’s

Home Slice Pizza

Hopdoddy Burger Bar

Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Judge’s Hill Restaurant

Kerbey Lane Cafe (all locations)

La Condesa

Manuels

Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill

Olivia

Sagra

Shoreline Grill

Snack Bar

Tacodeli (all locations)

Tacos and Tequila

The Leaning Pear

TRACE

Uchi

Uchiko

Urban an American Grill

Wink

Participating Brewers Include:

[512] Brewing Company

Austin Beerworks

Black Star Coop

Buddha’s Brew

Circle Brewing

Hops and Grains

Independence Brewing Company

Jester King Craft Brewery

Live Oak Brewery

Rahr & Sons

Ranger Creek

Saint Arnold

Texas Sake Company

Thirsty Planet

 

Participating Distillers Include:

Balcones Distilling

Cypress Creek Reserve

Deep Eddy Vodka

Dripping Springs Vodka

Garrison Bros

Paula’s Texas Spirits

Ranger Creek

Rebecca Creek Distillery

Republic Tequila

Spirit of Texas

Tenneyson Absinthe

Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Treaty Oak Rum

Wahaka Mezcal