Blame it on the TV show Mad Men. Or perhaps credit goes to the rise of premium craft liquors, pent-up creativity or just boredom with “the usual.” Whatever the reason, craft cocktails are pouring into glasses all over town, from swanky lounges to dive bars. It’s hard to go wrong with a talented bartender wielding local spirits and creativity, but here are our five must-sip cocktails (and a few runners-up).
Melvin Mule, Jacoby's Restaurant
The Moscow Mule, a 1940s cocktail turning up everywhere these days, is a favorite of owner Adam Jacoby. The name reflects the Austin restaurant’s origins as a family café in Melvin, Texas. Bar Manager Alana Zanello mixes Ancho Reyes, an ancho chile liqueur made in Mexico, with lime and ginger beer and serves it in an enamel mug instead of the traditional copper one. The Ancho Reyes gives it just enough spicy heat to wake up your taste buds. Grab one for $5 at happy hour and use it to wash down a cheese plate or housemade pimento cheese and chips.
Press, Cover 3
Manager Jimmy Zumwalt designed this recipe for the establishment’s newest location on West Sixth Street. He wanted to create a drink that was enjoyable and transported imbibers to a place of tranquility, a “spa in a glass.” Made with Hendricks Gin, Monin Lemongrass Syrup, Sprite, soda, sliced cucumbers and a squeeze of lime, the drink is light, fresh and just a tad sweet. It's available for $8.75, $2 off during happy hour.
Blanche, Salty Sow
This specialty frozen margarita, made with gold tequila, triple sec, sweet and sour and blood orange puree, tastes slightly fruity and has an almost orange sherbet color. The beverage is named for the wife of Robert Shaw, an Austin jazz musician and the former owner of the house now occupied by Salty Sow. Grab a Blanche for $7. This East Austin joint also has a signature version of the Moscow Mule, the Moscow Sow, made with Prairie Cucumber Vodka, Grand Poppy Liqueur, ginger beer, lime and soda available for $8.
Fixe 75, Fixe
Served in a wine glass without ice, this refreshing 75 cocktail includes barrel-aged Nolets Gin, lemon juice, Agave and sparkling rose for $12. It’s one of six specialty cocktails dreamed up by Louisiana-born-and raised Chef James Robert. Fixe, too, has its own take on a Moscow Mule: the Mezcal Mule, made with Montolobos Mezcal, Fever Tree ginger beer and lime for $10.
Angry Red Planet, Sputnik
Made with Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda rum, lime, Campari and Gosling’s ginger beer, this tangy red drink is part of a line of cocktails designed for the space-themed dive bar on East Sixth Street. Think of it as a tropical getaway in a glass. Other worthy contestants include the Buzz Aldrin (Very Old Barton Bourbon, lemon, honey, bitters and orange) and 1957 (Monopolowa Dry Gin, house-made celery syrup, lime, soda, salt). And of course, a bar called Sputnik would mix a Moscow Mule — no name change needed. This one features Sobieski Vodka, lime and Gosling’s ginger beer.