Where to Drink Right Now: 9 Austin Bars Celebrating Bourbon Heritage Month

Bourbon selection at Drink.well.Sometimes our government gets it right. On August 2, 2007 the U.S. Senate declared September as National Bourbon Heritage Month in a unanimous decision. This came years after Congress pronounced bourbon as “America’s Native Spirit” in 1964. It makes sipping bourbon feel downright patriotic.

The Scots and Irish argue over who invented whiskey (or whisky as the Scots, Canadians and Japanese spell it), but bourbon is a completely American spirit. If the whiskey bottle says bourbon, it must be made in the U.S. By regulation, bourbon is made from fermented grains including at least 51 percent corn, it must be aged in new oak barrels and cannot contain any additives, colors or flavors.

There may be a lot of rules for how it’s made, but there aren’t many rules on how to enjoy it.  Jessica Sanders, co-owner of the American cocktail bar, Drink.well., recently returned from her second visit to a week-long whiskey camp in Kentucky full of insight on bourbon.

She shared a few tips for selecting a good bourbon, “Look for whiskies that have been aged for six to eight years. That’s the sweet spot. Love takes time. The younger the whiskey, the rougher the flavor and the more aggressive it will taste. Try whiskey from the old iconic distilleries like Weller 12, Makers Mark, and Old Granddad to get an appreciation for the quality that comes with the heritage of distilling year after year after year.”

Austin bars are pulling out all the stops to celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month. Here are some of the best bourbon drink specials you’ll find around town.

The Blackheart
The Gentleman Caller

Old Grand Dad 114, Antica Sweet Vermouth, Brothers Black Walnut Bitters  

“Big bourbon, high proof meets black walnut in this a unique twist on a classic Manhattan,” said Jeremy Murray, general manager of the Blackheart. “We serve this in an old fashioned glass with a single large cube.”

The back bar of The Blackheart is studded with more than 100 types of whiskey. Amber sunshine brightens the smile of customers with a stellar selection of bourbons including Pappy Van Winkle 20 and 23 year old and a solid selection of Texas whiskey including Garrison BrothersRed River Texas Bourbon Treaty Oak Red Handed Bourbon and Balcones Whisky.

Bourbon selection at The Blackheart

Drink.well
Reverend’s Reprieve

Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon, cinnamon syrup, fresh lemon, PAMA pomegranate liqueur, baked apple Bitters, Fever Tree Sparkling Lemon Soda, apple slice

“This is an ‘Indian summer’-inspired Highball cocktail,” said Jessica Sanders. “Elijah Craig 12 Year is a small batch Bourbon with a nose and flavor profile that begs for fall — baked apples, toffee, nuttiness—but the anise and mint finish are just bright enough to let the feel of summer linger. The cocktail is long, refreshing and fizzy, but with the warmth and spice of a cooler-weather drink.”

Drink.well. is taking Bourbon Heritage month seriously with a different whiskey offered for half price every day. It’s an impressive list with whiskeys like Four Roses Single Barrel, Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Old, Eagle Rare 17 year old and Stag Jr. from Buffalo Trace.

If you want to sample several bourbons paired with food, Drink.well. will be hosting a five course dinner prepared by chef Travis Bennet on Monday, September 15 featuring cocktails and a rare bourbon from the Heaven Hill distillery.

Due Forni
The Drunken Gaucho

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, house made Limoncello, Aperol, Amaro Montenegro, egg whites

This bourbon cocktail with an Italian twist is the perfect way to whet your appetite for a traditional Neapolitan pizza. A perfect balance of booze, bitter and citrus bite with a frothy bit of fun will transport you from the Kentucky hills to the Tyrrhenian coast.

Half Step
Kentucky Colonel

Bonded bourbon, angostura bitters, Benedictine  

Barman, Florian Minier, mixes a variation of an Old Fashioned using 100 proof bourbon and served with a huge, hand-cut old fashioned ice cube. The bonded whiskey gives the drink little more heat to cut through the sweetness of the Benedictine in the cocktail. That huge hunk of ice melts slowly letting the drink mellow as you go.

Half Step has a well selected line up of whiskeys including Michter’s 20 Year Single Barrel Bourbon and Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 year.

Kentucky Colonel at Half Step

Péché
High West Double Rye Old Fashioned

High West rye, lemon peel, JT bitters 

An Old Fashioned is a whiskey lover’s go-to cocktail. This recipe packs a bit of spice to keep you smiling.

Péché may be known for its absinthe, but it has an impressive selection of whiskey including Angel’s Envy Cask Strength, Jefferson Presidential 21 Year Bourbon and Willett 12 Year.

Searsucker
New Fashioned 

Angel Envy bourbon, orange curacao, orange rind, a mixture of Angostura and Peychudes bitters

“We make a ‘New Fashioned’ with our very own Searsucker blend of Angel’s Envy Bourbon that we call the Suckers Blend,” said bar manager Robin Ozaki. “Angel’s Envy blended a specific batch based on three different styles that they let me experiment with. When I dialed in the recipe that I felt best as a base for a cocktail, they bottled 120 specially branded ‘Searsucker’ Angel Envy Bottles, and sent them to Texas!”

The Tigress Pub
Beggar’s Banquet

Treaty Oak Red Handed Bourbon, maple syrup, lemon juice, Old Speckled Hen ale

“The Tigress loves bourbon,” said owner Pamela Pritchard. “We have just change the menu for September to feature some Bourbon cocktails. The three Bourbon cocktails on the menu are The Scofflaw, The Black Demure and Beggar’s banquet which is our on Tap cocktail. In addition I have some bourbons I don’t normally have on hand like Prichards Double Barreled bourbon, Angels Envy, Elijah Craig 12 year, Willet Pot Still Reserve and Wild Turkey 81.”

You might not get lost in this cozy bar, but it’s highly possible to get lost in thought sipping on one of Pritchard’s elegantly crafted drinks. Stay for a second.

W Austin
The Brother’s Quarrel

St Germain and Canton Ginger, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Laphroaig scotch

The folks at the W Austin share story about the creation of this cocktail. Legend has it that the maker of Chambord liquor challenged his two sons make a liqueur better than his, and better than each other’s. The result of the completion was one made St. Germaine and the other Canton. This drink is an homage to their quarrel with Bourbon and Scotch vying for affection in one glass.

Dustin Courtright, libationist at the W, recommends drinking the layered cocktail with a straw to let ingredients’ flavors evolve as you sip. “The scotch will come down into drink and fuse into it, then you’re left with a bourbon-Scotch marriage.”

While you are there, try the single barrel Eagle Rare that chosen and bottled specifically for the W Austin.

The Brother's Quarrel at the W Austin

Whisler’s
Lion’s Tail  

Bourbon, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, lime juice, demerara syrup, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, lime wheel  

“This is not your typical citrus-driven cocktail,” said general manager Cesar Aguilar. “By adding dram and angostura bitters, it makes a bright bourbon cocktail, where the bourbon’s sweetness is highlighted and accented with notes of all spice and clove, and it pairs well with the oaky character of the bourbon.”

Kick back with one of three featured bourbon cocktails at this easy going east side hot spot. The nights are cooling off just enough to enjoy whiskey on the patio.

A version of this story was originally published on CultureMap

What Are You Drinking? 

What Are You Drinking During the F1 Grand Prix?

COTA F1 Race Cocktail The roar of the engines at the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix is about to obliterate the bucolic peace at the Circuits of The Americas (COTA) racetrack this weekend in Austin, TX. For the second time, F1 race fans from around the world will descend on the city to see the most sophisticated motor sports on the planet and to party until the wee hours.

There will be plenty of parties to be had. In addition to converting several downtown blocks into a giant party with the Austin Fan Fest, many Austin bars and restaurants will cater to F1 fans.

The W Austin has created a signature drink for for Circuit of The Americas and all of the F1 fans. With the intention to rev up for the big race weekend, the W Austin is featuring the COTA Flame as a $5 S.I.P. of the Day. If you order the cocktail between 3-6:30 p.m. today you will also get a W Austin signature COTA Flame souvenir glass. The COTA Flame will also be for sale in the souvenir glasses throughout the weekend at the racetrack beginning Friday, Nov. 15.

The cocktail features  Texas-made ingredients, including Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Paula’s Texas Orange and Bad Dog Barcraft’s Fire and Damnation Bitters, so fans will get a little taste of Texas.

COTA Flame Official Recipe from the W Austin

  • 2 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • .75 oz. Paula’s Texas Orange
  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • .5 oz. lemon juice (fresh squeezed from ½ lemon)
  • .5 oz. orange juice (fresh squeezed from ¼ orange)
  • 4-5 dashes of Bad Dog Fire & Damnation Bitters
  • Bar spoon of blood orange puree

COTA Flame F1 cocktail Fill large pint glass with ice, pour all liquors, juices and bitters over ice and shake. Strain into fresh glass with a few ice cubes and top with sprite and drizzle of blood orange puree. For a little pizzazz, flame an orange peel.

If you aren’t headed to the track, the Liberty Tavern, in the Hilton Austin, will host a race watch party with live coverage on nine HD TVs. During the Austin F1 race on November 17, the tavern will offer specials on local favorites including cocktails on tap like the Tito’s Kick’n Mule and the Texas Sipper, as well as local beers from Austin Beerworks, Circle Brewing, Adelbert’s and Hops & Grain.  In addition, there will be half-priced bar bites such as Fried Green Tomatoes, Stuffed Roasted Jalapeños and Fish Tacos.  As always, bar specials include $3 domestics, $4 imports and the $5 Tito’s Bloody Mary Bar.

Its a great weekend to have Texas-made drinks during the F1 Grand Prix.

Photos courtesy of  Reagan Hackleman for W Austin.

What are you drinking?

 

10 Austin Cocktails to Warm Your Autumn Nights

Recently the mercury has been plummeting to a chilly 60 degrees, and frostbitten Austinites are scrambling to find their woolen sweaters and scarves. It’s that time of year. Now that the sun is going down earlier in the evening and that nip is in the air, it’s time to switch out of the light and breezy and slip into something more substantial.

Bars and restaurants around Austin are rolling out their autumn cocktail menus, featuring bolder, boozier and spicier drinks. Stop suffering through the merciless chill and fortify yourself against the shivers with these hearty drinks.

Bar Congress

Bar manager Jason Stevens welcomes the chance to pour bourbon, rye and applejack into seasonal drinks despite the limited cold spells that we get in Austin. He likes playing around with eaux-de-vie and stone fruits to create a little fall magic, and he just updated the Bar Congress menu with three autumn drinks on the menu.

Stevens gets a little misty and nostalgic while preparing his fall menu. “When I look to make a new autumn cocktail, I try to capture elements of my autumns growing up in Oregon and combine them with flavors I’ve grown to love in Texas. Maple, date and winter spice combine with port and molé, rounded out by bourbon’s heat and age.” He sees the Roundabout as a straightforward fall cocktail.

The Roundabout

  • 1.25 oz. Eagle Rare 10 year Bourbon
  • 1.5 oz. Dows 10 year Port
  • .5 oz. house made date syrup
  • .5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon
  • 2 heavy dashes Bittermans Molé Bitters
  • Egg white

Shake it vigorously with little to no ice.  Final touch is five drops of Angostura on the egg-white froth and garnish with a cherry.

This is a complex drink that isn’t fussy. It’s sweet and spicy in a smooth, cuddly way. It makes me want to light a fire and snuggle on a bearskin rug.

BungalowDeviled Apple

This drink is great for fall in Austin; it’s warm but with a nice kick.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Blue Nectar Silver Tequila
  • 1/2 oz. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Sour Apple Schnapps
  • 4 oz. cider

Drink.Well.

Drink.well. owner Jessica Sanders and bartender Dennis Gobis are retiring the tiki section of their menu and replacing it with cocktails more suited for the ski lodge than the beach. The autumn menu has six new boozy cocktails with spices that include cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. They are shooting for cocktails that stick with you with you, creating lush, velvety textures by swapping out simple syrup for gomme syrup in drinks like the Sazerac.

 A Shephard’s Holiday

Gobis created a simple, delicious negroni-style drink suited for chillier weather. It has a lovely layering of orange, cinnamon and clove to warm your heart.

  • 1 ounces Blanco Tequila (Siembra Azul)
  • 1 ounces Amaro CioCiaro
  • 1 ounces Punt e Mes
  • 2 dashes Old Fashioned Bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice and pour over a large-format ice cube in a rocks glass or serve up in a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with an expressed orange peel.

Jack Allen’s KitchenRound Rock Bee Keeper

In shaker tin, add the following:

  • 1 small scoop of ice
  • 1.5 oz. Rebecca Creek Texas Spirit Whiskey
  • .25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1 oz. house made Round Rock Honey-Fig syrup
  • 2 dashes of apple bitters

Shake and strain over ice in a 9-ounce rocks glass, add straw and garnish with sliced dried fig.

Lucy’s Fried ChickenGone a’Rye

Courtesy of William Schulte

  • 1.5 oz. Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
  • .5 oz. Campari
  • .25 oz. Luxardo Cherry Liqueur
  • .25 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice. Shake well. Stir until well chilled and strain into a cocktail (or highball) glass.

No Va Kitchen & Bar

Lead bartender Tacy Rowland is introducing six new autumn cocktails to the NoVa menu. The new upscale restaurant and bar is fitting in with its Rainey Street location by introducing a cocktail menu that uses beer, wine and cider. While the wine-based sangria is a top seller, Rowland is excited to create drinks with beer, too. She finds it an approachable way to introduce new ingredients.

One of the signature cocktails, Thunderstruck, mixes Austin Beerworks Black Thunder, which recently won the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival and coffee. Rowland says, “I’m a huge coffee lover. I’ve been playing around with coffee infusions at home and came up with this delicious Cynar coffee infusion.”

Thunderstruck

  • 1.5 oz. coffee Cynar
  • 1 oz. coconut milk
  • .5 oz. Chameleon cold brew
  • .5 oz. five spice syrup
  • 2-3 oz. Austin Beerworks Black Thunder

Shake all ingredients except beer, fine strain into glass and top with beer. Garnish with three coffee beans and serve it in a coupe.

This drink is dangerously delicious. It’s both sweet and bitter, with a sneaky punch. It is perfect for after dinner, brunch or end of the night.

Searsucker, Jack Manhattan

The bar crew at Searsucker has created a Jack-o-Lantern play on the classic Manhattan cocktail, using housemade pumpkin, all-spice, Clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla-bean-infused whiskey.

  • 2.5 oz. infused whiskey
  • .5 oz. Cocci
  • 5 dashes Jerry Thomas Own Decanter Bitters

Stir and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Sullivan’sSalted Caramel Apple Martini

  • 1.5 oz. Pinnacle Whipped Vodka
  • 1.5 oz. DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker
  • 2 oz.  Caramel Lemon Sour (dash of lemon sour in caramel sauce)

Place all ingredients into a Boston Shaker and shake approximately 10-15 times to combine. Strain into a chilled martini glass with a lightly salted rim.

Qui

Celebrity chef Paul Qui has a talented bar crew that has created six signature cocktails for autumn.

Compadre

  • 1 ounce Rittenhouse Rye
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce Amontillado sherry
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s

Stir the ingredients and serve it straight up in a coupe glass garnished with a lemon peel.

W Austin

Libationist Joyce Garrison believes whiskey drinks are great in the fall and has created one with a shadow of summer with the honey bourbon syrup, made with the just-released Red Handed Bourbon from the Treaty Oak Distillery.

Nefariously Red Handed

  • 1.5 oz. Red Handed Bourbon
  • 4 basil leaves
  • .5 oz.  blackberry honey syrup
  • .5 oz. blood orange bitters

Shaken and strained into a coupe glass and garnished with a flamed orange peel.

No matter what part of town you are in, you can take the edge off of those cold autumn nights with a bracing cocktail.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

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6 tequila cocktails to try for Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo tequila cocktailsCinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, but the date actually marks the Mexican army’s improbable trouncing of the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Similar to St. Patrick’s Day, most people aren’t concerned with the reason why it’s celebrated, and see it as a great excuse to down alcoholic concoctions inspired by the country. And what’s more appropriate to drink than tequila?

With nearly 1,000 brands of tequila to choose from in the U.S. (not too long ago, not that many could be found), we’ve gathered a few stand-out tequilas and recipes that are bound to tilt your sombrero.

Drinking in the area code

Tequila 512 hit town last November and is quickly gaining notoriety. It picked up a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in March and was recognized as “Best Blanco Tequila in Austin” by the Austin Tequila Society last fall. Not bad for a tequila created by one man, Scott Willis, who has boot-strapped the entire operation on his own.

Willis was inspired by the local distilling trail-blazer, Tito Beverage, and decided to follow his passion for the art of craft tequila. He has spent six years perfecting a specific recipe that has a prominent agave flavor, and is smooth enough to be accessible to the American palate. Tequila 512 is made with 24 hour filtration to mellow it out and an oxygenation process for a silky mouth feel.

While Willis named after Austin’s area code, it is made at the La Cofradia distillery in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico.

“I traveled to Mexico to find a distiller that would make my tequila. Most distilleries won’t do custom recipes,” said Willins. “I was also interested in finding a distillery that sourced its agave from a specific region. Where the agave is grown matters a lot to the flavor.”

Tequila 512 is starting on a small scale and Willis hopes to sell 1,000 cases in the first year. You can find it at retail shops for under $30 and at restaurants like Shady Grove.

Willis prefers to drink his tequila straight, but when he is in the mood for a cocktail he mixes a classic skinny margarita.

Organic 512 Skinny Margarita

  • 2 ounces Tequila 512 Blanco
  • 1.5 ounces orange juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • .5 ounce agave nectar (light)

Shake well and serve over ice in a brandy snifter.

Keep it in la Famila

The Camarena’s have been making Familia Camarena Tequila in the Los Altos Highlands of Jalisco Mexico for six generations and entered the U.S. market in 2010. The approachable, easy drinking tequila is made from 100 percent blue agave and is one of the better value tequila’s around for $20 or under. This tequila is a solid base for excellent cocktails. The website has a huge list of recipes and they sell a nice “Tipple Toolkit” with everything you need to make them at home. Here is a delicious drink from mixologist Joel Black, of Tinga in Los Angeles, CA.

Camarena Grand Slam

  • 1.5 ounces Camarena Reposado Tequila
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • .75 ounce  agave nectar
  • 1-2 slices fresh jalapeño
  • 2 cubes fresh pineapple
  • 1 pinch fresh cilantro

Muddle all ingredients, except tequila in a shaker tin. Add tequila and ice, shake nice & easy and strain over fresh ice in a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with a pineapple square, jalapeno slice and fresh cilantro.

See unicorns with Sparkle Donkey  

Legend has it that people have been drinking Sparkle Donkey Tequila in Mexico for more than 100 years, but it just found its way into the U.S. last fall.  Made in the Jalisco region, Sparkle Donkey Silver, which won a Gold Medal at the 2012 BTI International Spirits Competition and  the Reposado tequilas are available around Austin for just north of $20. Try this simple mix with a kick, but don’t have too many or you may be seeing unicorns.

The Mule Driver

  • 1 part Sparkle Donkey Silver
  • 3 parts orange juice

Combine in a shaker over ice, shake well, and strain into a rocks glass.

Spice it up

If you like a little zip in each sip, Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila is worth a try. This 100 percent Blue Weber Agave blanco tequila is infused with locally grown organic jalapeños. It will put a fire in your eye straight up, or you can try it in a tangy twist on the margarita.

Mexican Spiced Apples

  • 1.5 ounce Tanteo  Jalapeño Tequila
  • 2 ounces apple juice
  • .5 ounce fresh lime jice
  • .25 ounce agave nectar

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice Shake well and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

Get out of the house

There are several bars in Austin restaurants celebrating Cinco de Mayo, with excellent tequila-based cocktails. The energetic matron of Drink.Well, Jessica Sanders, will convert the bar from Derby Day festivities to Cinco de Mayo overnight. In addition to their creative cocktails, their standard margarita will knock your socks off.

Drink.Well. House Margarita

  • 1.5 ounce Siete Leguas Blanco Tequila
  • .75 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • .5 ounce Paula’s Texas Orange

Add all ingredients to a cocktail tin with a scoop of ice. Shake well. Strain into a glass with ice. Garnish with Lime. *For those who like a little extra oomph, Jessica recommends adding four drops of Bittermens Hellfire Shrub, which makes the drink nice and smoky/spicy.

Here is what Jessica suggests for those who want to celebrate in a more “elegant” manner.

Agave Old Fashioned 

2 oz Siembra Azul Anejo Tequila
.5 oz Cacao-Chai Infused Agave Syrup (I use cacao-chai tea from ZHI tea)
2 dashes of orange bitters
2 orange peels

Add the infused agave syrup and bitters with ice to a double old-fashioned glass. Add the tequila and stir until chilled and properly diluted. Express an orange peel over the cocktail and garnish with the expressed peel.

Libationist Joyce Garrison at the W Austin is mixing up a few amazing specialty cocktails for Cinco de Mayo including a classic Paloma.

W Austin Paloma for Cinco de Mayo Paloma from Joyce Garrison at W Austin

  • 1.5 ounces Don Julio Reposado
  • 3 ounces grapefruit soda
  • 1.5 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • .5 ounces lime juice

Build in a tall glass and garnish with lime.

Whether you stay in or head out on the town to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, you won’t go wrong with these ideas.

Disclosure: Samples were provided by Tequila 512, Familia Camarena Tequila, Sparkle Donkey and Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila

This story was previously published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?

Trick-or-treat for adults: The spookiest Halloween cocktails in Austin

The older I’ve gotten, the more selective my sweet tooth has gotten. Gone are the days when I can plunder an overflowing candy bowl with the reckless abandon of Charlie Sheen in a hot tub full of hotties. Don’t get me wrong. I still like a treat every now and again. This Halloween I’ll opt for Halloween Cocktails.

Grab your trick-or-treat sack and traipse around Austin’s to try out some spooky libations at the bars that are in the ghoulish spirit. Let’s start our do it yourself haunted bar hop downtown.

Péché: Corpse Reviver #2Halloween Cocktails Corpse Reviver #2

Our first stop is Péché on West Fourth St. for a classic cocktail that is rumored to have the ability to bring the dead (or at least the hungover zombies) back to life.

Corpse Reviver #2

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce Lillet Blanc
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 dash absinthe
  • ice cubes
  • Shake all ingredients in a shaker, strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse: Dracula’s Kiss

Next we’ll walk around the corner to Sullivan’s Steakhouse on Colorado St. for a vampire drink that doesn’t suck.

Dracula’s Kiss  

  • Halloween Cocktails Dracula's Kiss.5 ounce Grenadine
  • 1.5 ounce Effen Black Cherry Vodka
  • Fill with Coke
  • In a highball glass add grenadine then ice, vodka and Coke in order to create a distinct red layer at the bottom of the glass

W Austin: Pumpkin Spice Martini 

Down the street, Joyce Garrison at W Austin Hotel just released her new fall cocktail menu with updates on classics and a little something that is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Pumpkin Spice Martini

  • 1.5 ounce vanilla vodka
  • .5 ounce Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka
  • .5 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • .5 ounce pumpkin spice liqueur
  • 1 tsp vodka whipped cream

HandleBar’s Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

Now we’re going to walk a little bit east to try another jack-o-lantern-inspired cocktail at HandleBar on Fifth St.

Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

 

  • House-made simple syrup — made with pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, sugar and vanilla extract
  • Halloween Cocktails Candy Corn Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine, a corn-based, un-aged whiskey with hints of vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon

Icenhauer’s: Infused Candy Corn

Let’s continue heading east to Icenhauer’s on Rainey Street for a completely adult approach to candy.

Infused Candy Corn

  • A shot of vodka (or mixed with club soda) infused with house-made candy corn

drink.well.: The Devils Tritone

We’ll end the night at North Loop’s drink.well. with a devilish nightcap.

The Devil’s Tritone

Named for an unstable musical interval between two pitches that is a full three “whole tones” apart, this cocktail mixed by Michael Sanders is alchemy of smoke, sweet, spice flavors.

Halloween Cocktails the Devil's Tritone

  • 2 ounce Balcones Brimstone Smoked TX whiskey
  • 1 ounce Jester King Black Metal syrup fortified with mezcal
  • 1 dash Bitterman’s Hellfire Bitters
  • This bad boy is set on fire with a spray of Bad Dog Fire and Brimstone bitters, Lemonhart 151 and an orange twist.

Despite being far too old to actually go trick-or-treating, you now have a viable Halloween treat option. Whether or not you wear a sexy costume is totally up to you.

A version of this story previously appeared on CultureMap.

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Three summer cocktails for Memorial Day Weekend

Get WET

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
  • Shake
  • 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.

Sandia SipperSandia Sipper

  • 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.

Get WET

  • Hendrick’s gin 1.5 ounces
  • St. germane .5 ounce
  • Lemon juice .5 ounce
  • Simple syrup  .5 ounce
  • Grapefruit juice 1.5 ounce
  • Bubbles
  • 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.

Sharing the Passion for the Perfect Pairing: Somms Under Fire

She leaned in close with a gleam in her eye and confided her plan in a conspiratorial tone. “But you can’t write that before the event.” Conversation topics bubbled up, over-lapped and blended like a complex cocktail, like a well-orchestrated mix tape. Exquisite wines flowed with the conversation and became integral to the conversation. We shared stories about wines and learned from each other. This is a pretty typical thing among friends. The only thing anomalous about this is that we had just met.

Diane Dixon, founder of Keeper Collection, an online resource for food, wine and travel, and her husband Earl invited Beautiful Wife and me to their home to tell us about their upcoming food and wine event called Somms Under Fire. The Dixons are passionate about sharing tips on enjoying all things culinary and have made it their lives work.

Thank god for people like the Dixons that love to share knowledge about wine. Let’s face it; wine can be a daunting subject to both newcomers and seasoned pros alike. There are thousands of brands, dozens of varietals and blends and the complexity grows exponentially when attempting to pair wine well with food. Sure the old rules of white with chicken and red with meat can be a good starting point, but sheesh things can go nuts from there.

I’m a fairly savvy wine buyer, but I always seek advice from friends that know wine, from trusted wine merchants and definitely from sommeliers. I’m excited to go to the inaugural Somms Under Fire, because it’s all about introducing people to brilliant sommeliers and to show off expert food and wine pairings.

The event takes place on May 1, 2011 at the W Austin with food from its signature restaurant, Trace. The event challenges Scott Barber, Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits in Dallas, Chris McFall, Paggi House, and June Rodil, Congress Austin to make impeccable pairings from food that is not on their own menus and wines that aren’t on their lists. They’ll hear the wine and food choices at the same time the audience does and will have to perform under pressure in front of a panel of international celebrity food and wine judges. The judges, Drew Hendricks, Peter Wasserman and Matt Reiser will score the somms and the audience also gets to pick their favorite. Now that’s under fire.

This is a perfect venue to show off their passion for food and wine and to demystify what sommeliers do for a living. Their entire purpose is to enhance our dining experience. What better way to understand the value of a sommelier than to see them make decisions on the fly in a completely neutral setting?  What could be better than watching three pros compete to match the complex flavors of exquisite cuisine with the perfect wines and then eating and drinking the results?

If you want to see this for yourself, you can get tickets here.

This is the third event from Keep Collection. Diane and team created Chefs Under Fire two years ago pitting Iron Chef contestants against each other. This year they introduced the Wine Ride with five sommeliers competing to match wine and food at various locations around town. And now Somms Under Fire. Each of these events mirror the Dixons’ passion to share epicurean knowledge and experiences in inventive, fun and friendly settings. Keep Collection also hosts Somms Chat each Wednesday on Twitter and Facebook, where sommeliers answer questions about wine. I got my Easter wine selection idea from last week’s chat with Drew Hendricks. Like  food and wine, friendship also goes well with wine. The Dixons have a knack for building relationships as they spread their knowledge.

There are a lots of ways to learn about wine. What influences your decisions for wine and food purchases and pairings? Friends? Blogs? Wine Merchants? Sommeliers? Share with me, because I’m still learning.

What are you drinking?