Jeffrey’s Restaurant and Bar has been an Austin fine-dining staple for nearly 35 years. It has gone through its share of changes both in the front and back of the house. In the kitchen, new sous chef Bridget Bishop took over the reins after the departure of executive chef Deegan McClung; in the front of the house, a new cocktail lounge and bar area opened. However, it’s a place of slow change, and perhaps that is what has kept the Jeffrey's doors open for over three decades.
Another exciting change to Jeffrey’s is the recent addition of Anup Mistri as bar manager and lead mixologist. I first met Mistri when he was behind the bar at Townhouse, and you may have seen him pouring drinks at Kenichi or, most recently, Peché. I immediately fell for his warm hospitality. When I caught wind that he moved to Jeffrey’s, I chomped at the bit to return to this Clarksville-neighborhood gem to see what he was shaking up behind the bar.
There’s something to be said about being creative, and there’s something to be said about keeping the customer happy. A bartender should be helpful and slightly persuasive, but shouldn’t have control over what someone likes
Mistri explained that until about two years ago guests were mostly ordering wine and classic cocktails; that the craft cocktail trend is only recently, slowly catching on within the Jeffrey's walls. Wisely, he didn’t want to shake things up too much by completely overhauling the coctail menu. Jeffrey’s has been serving its loyal guests for decades, but it is also seeing a new clientele begin to visit. And these new guests have an appreciation for creative cocktails. You’ll find items that have kept guests happy for years (such as the Rosemary Martini, a simple mix of Tito’s Vodka, rosemary, lemon and Champagne) on the menu, but you’ll also see the addition of Mistri’s creations on the cocktail list (like the Lion’s Mane, a combination of Ardberg 10-year Scotch, Green Chartreuse, grapefruit and tamarind).
Though, Mistri isn’t one to push the craft cocktail trend onto a guest. He listens to what his patrons like and creates a drink that suits their tastes. “There’s something to be said about being creative, and there’s something to be said about keeping the customer happy. A bartender should be helpful and slightly persuasive, but shouldn’t have control over what someone likes,” says Mistri.
His cocktail philosophy is a play on classics with a garden-to-glass approach. He's found poking around the kitchen for ingredients so often that the line chefs prepare an offering of what they bring back from Boggy Creek Farm with Mistri's name on it. On the day I visited, he made a Benson Berry—his variation of the classic Bensonhurst martini—with farm fresh strawberries. Using micro-strained juice from the strawberries, he made an egg white foam, added lemon juice, tamarind, and Apersol, an Italian liquor similar to Campari and served it up martini-style. It was fabulous.
“A good bartender is a good conversationalist. Don’t look at the menu, that’s where I come in,” says Mistri.