Situated in the small hill country town of Hye, Garrison Brothers Distillery is leading the craft whiskey charge in Texas.
'Texas' on Serious Eats
Our guide to great Austin happy hours that you may not have visited yet.
When diners arrive at Paul Qui's long awaited formal restaurant, simply named qui, they are first escorted to the bar, where bar manager Michael Simon and his team shake up pre-dinner beverages that can also be sipped on the restaurant's spacious patio. "There are lots of savory elements to the drinks," said Simon. "They're boozy but balanced; salty, sweet, and sour, so they can pair well with food."
On a trip to New York City, veteran Austin bartender Scranton Twohey visited 27 bars in 4 days, and after returning, he lamented the lack of creativity in Austin's cocktail scene. Twohey softly opened Whisler's in the old Rabbit Lounge on East 6th in mid-May, and allowed the word to spread organically.
A few weeks ago, head bartender Phil Vuong and his team launched a brand new beer cocktail menu at Brew Exchange in Austin. Shandies may dot beer menus around Austin, but this is the first complete beer cocktail menu that I've found in the city.
Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin recently collaborated with local brewery Thirsty Planet to create Franklin Smoked Porter (apparently he's a big porter fan). He tells the tale in the video, as well as chatting a bit about the local Austin craft brewery scene, plus sharing his recommendations for the best beers to drink with barbecue.
At the recently-opened Craft Pride on Rainey Street in Austin, Brandy and J.T. Egli serve Texas-brewed beer, and only Texas-brewed beer. They're serving beers from 23 Texas breweries out of 54 draughts and 2 casks.
For those who plan to spend their trip to SXSW—or any trip to Austin, really—staying up late and, maybe, possibly, consuming lots of tacos and booze: a solid morning (or afternoon or even evening) coffee is going to be of the utmost importance. Thus, we offer a quick guide to some of the finest cafes in this land of sensory indulgence.
There's nothing on the menu at the several branches of Torchy's that wouldn't send a hangover back to the depths from whence it came, but might I make a few suggestions? We've already told you about The Dirty Sanchez, with its fried poblano, scrambled eggs, and guacamole, but the Independent is another strong contender for best-in-show: a slab of deep-fried breaded portobello mushroom perched not-so-daintily on a pile of fresh corn kernels, piled with pickled carrots, avocado, queso fresco, and a squirt of ancho chili aioli. Did I say "perched not-so-daintily"? What I meant was "slammed raunchily".
It's rare to find a bar menu in Austin that doesn't have at least one margarita on it, and it's no wonder that this simple concoction is so well loved under the Texas sun. The combination of lime, tequila, and orange liqueur has the ability to quench thirst and make even the worst heat more bearable. We drank our way around Austin to find the best examples possible.
Growing up in Texas, the state where experienced my first hangover, you learn, eventually, that some of the best foods when you are sober are also the best for your hangover. Nothing better sums up Texas eats for me than these three items: brisket, queso*, and Fritos. The first two I only recommend eating in Texas and the third, while nationally available, is a Texas original.
They shake them, strain them, and pour them, but where do they drink 'em? Austin is home to many great bartenders who can make a mean drink. They also listen to guests ramble on about their problems, break up bar fights, and clean up spilled beers. After a long shift, it's their turn to unwind. We asked 8 bartenders about their favorite watering holes, whether they're looking for craft beer, calm outdoor space, or classy cocktails.
A few weeks back I was sitting at the Anvil Bar in Houston, picking at a few well-seasoned, tender lamb meatballs and sipping on a Sazerac—my drink of choice whenever I check out a new craft cocktail bar. It's my yardstick. One I'm intimately familiar with. A classic drink simple enough that any bartender should have its recipe down to muscle memory, but complex enough that the difference between a perfect one and a just ok one comes down to the fine points of finesse.
The newly designed space suggests a Victorian-era brothel, with antique mirrors, plush leather booths, and lush wallpapers. A sultry vibe lingers in the private rooms in the back. Flick on the signal light switch and someone will come to your service. Here's our first look at the cocktails they're serving.
This retro diner is so tiny that you'll inevitably wait for a table. Standing outside when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees is excruciating with a pounding headache and an empty stomach. The things we're willing to do do for an all-day breakfast menu packed with Texas favorites like breakfast tacos and a pimento cheese sandwich...
Vegetarian boozers are lucky in Austin. They can't rely on bacon and egg breakfast tacos to cure their hangovers, but at least they have Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse and Café. This combination coffee shop and restaurant serves fresh vegetarian sandwiches, tacos, and other satisfying fare at bargain prices. There's no need to drag yourself out of bed too early because breakfast is served all day. You'll enjoy your meal in a bright and inviting space among a quirky crowd of aging hippies and young hipsters.
Bar manager Jeff Hammett brings humor and a bit of snark to the approachable cocktail menu. While he's all for the the fine craft cocktail movement, he doesn't like to take himself too seriously. "Never call me a mixologist", he warned. Fun and flavor are on the forefront of his creations and each quirky name has a story to tell.
The menu showcases a pretty wide range of classic and modern cocktails, but their collection of creative whiskey libations is particularly impressive. On chillier evenings (by Texas standards), you'll want to unwind with a Duck Fat Sazerac (and an order of the velvety truffle egg custard on crusty bread.) Not in Texas? You can still enjoy Brandon Burkart's drinks, since he was kind enough to share the recipes with us.
As just about any drinker of soda in certain parts of Texas could tell you, Dublin Dr. Pepper is the cane-sugar equivalent of the version you'll find in the rest of the country. It's marketed much as Mexican Coke is, preferred by many for its lack of corn syrup and its old-fashioned glass bottles. Or, at least, it was, until last week.
"This was where we'd come for breakfast after big nights out," said a Houston-native friend as we stood in line to order at Goode Company Taqueria. And I could see why.