The venerable Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin will light its new blade sign today to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The new 50 foot tall sign is an exact replica of the original one that was removed in the 1960s.
In honor of the sign lighting, The Townsend, located at 718 Congress Avenue, which is located directly across the street in the glow of the Theatre marquee, has created the Blade Reviver #2 cocktail. The drink is served with a short fact sheet detailing the 100 year history of the Paramount Theatre in honor of this historic event.
The Townsend is hosting a private event after the relighting tonight, Wednesday, September 23. The Blade Reviver #2 will be served at the bar and available nightly (open 4:00 p.m. to 2 a.m.) through Sunday the 27th.
“The Blade Reviver #2 is refreshing, but with an spicy earthiness and an old-world funk that I think really beautifully connects this drink to a mythical Austin of generations past,” says Justin Elliott, food and beverage wrangler, The Townsend
The Paramount will be celebrating with multiple parties tonight with prime views of the relighting ceremony, including a street party on Congress Avenue in front of the Theatre. After the vertical sign and the glowing flame is relit, the party will continue inside the Paramount with a special Patty Griffin CD release show. Tickets to the celebration are available at www.austintheatre.org.
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
At 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 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.
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
Marinate the fruit in the booze for several hours, then it’s ready to serve.
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
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.
The 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.”
2010 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
The 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.
Memorial Day has morphed from just a solemn day of remembrance for the men and women who fought for our country and died in war into the official kickoff of summer. It’s a perfect weekend to salute our heroes and to kickback with a summery cocktail.
If you like to have someone else do the work for you so you can truly relax, try some new summer cocktails at the W Austin. The W’s libationist, Joyce Garrison is mixing breezy drinks with a kick of Texas-style heat.
If you are intrepid enough to match your mixology skills against one of Austin’s “Best Mixologist” as recognized in 2010 by the Austin Chronicle, you’re in luck. She has graciously provided three recipes to play along at home.
Garrison’s first drink uses Austin’s Tito’s Handmade Vodka with refreshing lemonade and a bite of jalapeño.
Jalapeno Cucumber Lemonade
1.5 ounces Tito’s Vodka
2.5 ounces cucumber water
1 ounce jalapeño infused simple syrup
1 ounce lemon juice
Build in pint glass
Strain into glass with Kold draft ice
Garnish with cucumber spear
It just isn’t a summer holiday without watermelon. Skip spitting the seeds and sip on this tequila martini instead.
1.5 ounces Cazadores Respoda Tequila
.5 ounce lime juice
3 cubes watermelon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/8 ounce agave nectar
Muddle watermelon with lime juice in shaker glass. Add all ingredients with ice and shake. Strain into rocks glass with ice and half rim of salt. Garnish with watermelon cube and lime wedge.
Garrison says her third drink is inspired by W Austin’s WET Deck, and will have you feeling like you’re sitting poolside. I think she may have had something else in mind.
Hendrick’s gin 1.5 ounces
St. germane .5 ounce
Lemon juice .5 ounce
Simple syrup .5 ounce
Grapefruit juice 1.5 ounce
Shake all without bubbles and pour over fresh ice then top with bubbles
There you have it; your recipe for summer relaxation on Memorial Day weekend.
This weekend marks the 10th anniversary for one of the biggest and best destination music festivals in the country, the 2011 Austin City Limits Music Festival. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to all but the first one and have even been fortunate enough to do PR for it. Yeah, I have a love affair with my hometown party. It’s fair to say that I like to party like a rock star.
Have you ever wondered what all of the rock stars drink back-stage? Luckily for you, I’ve got the inside track. Lisa Hickey, marketing director, reminisced about the early days of the ACL Fest. “The concoction of sweet tea and vodka was made widely popular at the first ACL Festival. Tito’s Vodka and Sweet Leaf Tea joined forces and created the Sweet-o-Tito. We didn’t have many mixer options, but thanks to these two sponsors we had plenty of both. It was a match made in heaven… and the rest is history! We still serve up tons of these drinks each year at the festival in the VIP and Artist Lounges.”
They will be serving the Sweet-o-Tito again this year in the VIP and Artist Lounges along with a Tito’s bloody Mary happy hour every morning. A big hit last year was the Ambhar Tequila margarita and it will be back again this year.
We all know that the rock stars don’t stay at Zilker Park all night after the music ends. What are they drinking around town? I asked a couple of prominent bartenders at local hot-spots what they would make for artists that mosey into their bar. What does their persona inspire in a craft cocktail?
Shane Fischer at the whisky den, tenOak, has created signature cocktails for a smattering of artists playing at the festival this weekend. Here are the drinks he’s inspired to prepare.
Houston Eaves, the bar manager at East-side destination, Contigo, said he would make Stevie Wonder “any damn thing he wanted.” He has more specific ideas for Jim James from Louisville-based My Morning Jacket. He would make his version of a Louisville Cocktail with Black Maple Hill Bourbon, sweet vermouth and house aromatic herbs.
What will I be drinking at this year’s ACL Fest? You can find me ducking into the hospitality area behind the AMD stage between sets to cool off with the cold beer they have on tap under the tent.
Do you have a favorite drink at the ACL Fest? If you were going to make a drink for any of the musicians, what would you make?
Booze and bawdiness. Intoxication and innuendo. Sauce and sex. The two are inextricably linked. It’s not that you can’t have one without the other, but let’s face it alcohol and action are hot bedfellows.
Not only is drink used as a social lubricant, but we also give drinks provocative names like Sex on the Beach, the Screaming Orgasm and the Buttery Nipple. These drinks might sound clever when you first sneak into a bar when you are 19, but they are a bit hard to order with a straight face once you pass the age of 25.
There is one drink that has managed to subtly invoke notions of nooky without compromising its sophistication: the Dirty Martini. Martinis are the epitome of an erudite drink, but give it the name “dirty” and it opens the door to intimation. So, what is it?
A classic martini has two main ingredients: chilled vodka or gin, and dry vermouth. The International Bartenders Association specifies that a martini has 2 ounces of gin, half an ounce of dry vermouth. I’m not going to get into the whole gin vs. vodka debate because they both have their own merits. Because I live in Texas I often choose Tito’s Handmade Vodka or Dripping Springs Vodka. Here are some tips on making a damned fine martini.
Start off by misting the outside of the glasses with water, and put them in the freezer until frosty
Pour gin or vodka into a cocktail shaker with cracked ice
Shake the hell out of the liquor until it feels like your hands are going to freeze to the shaker like Ralphie’s friend Flick’s tongue froze to the pole in a Christmas Story
Rinse the inside of the glass with the vermouth by swirling it around a few times. Then toss the majority of it down the drain
Pour the shaken vodka or gin into the chilled and vermouth bathed glass through the shaker strainer to remove any chunks of ice, but allow it to get a fine sheen of frozen crystalline glamour
So what makes it dirty? Pop in 2 large, firm olives and a measure of olive brine. How dirty do you want it? Some recipes call for a tablespoon, but you can get downright filthy if you like. Now it’s sophisticated and sexy.
The conversion to dirty happens right from the start. Drinking from a martini glass is putting your lips on the hem of an inverted A-line skirt. Next the salty brine mixes with the alkaline alcohol like the sweat on a lover’s lip. Fleshy olives stand their ground for a moment, and then yield to the bite. I don’t know who bit whose lip, but I taste a little blood. And I like it. A good dirty martini is as cloudy as you are when you are finished, relaxing in the warmth of its memory. Ready for a second round?