Cocktail culture has flourished in Austin, and we are lucky to have a multitude of talented, award-winning barmen and women to provide us with a refreshing bevvy or boozy nightcap.
The nominees for CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Bartender of the Year are pouring the best drinks in the city. Aficionados are no doubt familiar with these names, but for those of you who are not, we encourage you to pay a visit and get yourself acquainted with these drink experts before our big event on April 19.
Jeff Boley, The Townsend
If you’ve had cocktails at some of Austin’s best lounges in the last few years, you’ve likely encountered Boley. After entering the world of craft cocktails at Peché, the affable barman went on to hone his skills as the bar manager at Parkside and Paggi House. He returned to Midnight Cowboy, after a brief absence from Austin, then created the cocktail program at Tapasitas, and held court behind the bar at The Townsend, where you can find him now, and Garage. Boley is also a partner in the highly anticipated opening of an Austin branch of New York favorite Employees Only.
Dennis Gobis, The Roosevelt Room
Co-owner and head barman at The Roosevelt Room, this German native has competed in and won numerous cocktail competitions. He was named a 2014 U.S. winner in the Domaine de Canton Global Bartender of the Year competition, as well as one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30 the same year. But you'd never know it based on his humble demeanor.
Billy Hankey, King Bee Lounge
Aside from his encyclopedic knowledge of all things spirits and his passion for innovation, Hankey has got to be the nicest, most genuine man in the business. Alongside wife, Collette, he has enlivened the corner of East 12th Street in a way that does not exclude, but rather welcomes, longtime neighborhood residents, a refreshing approach given the ongoing gentrification trend. His passion for mezcal has led him to amass the most astounding collection in town, and that is no small feat.
Whitney Hazelmyer, Otoko
Upon entering Otoko’s intimate lounge, you know you are in a special place. And when you sit in front of Hazelmyer and hear her latest cocktail selections, it will be confirmed tenfold. Her calm and friendly demeanor and her knowledge of ingredients and her curiosity to experiment with them are the perfect match for one of Austin’s most exclusive food and drink experiences.
Jennifer Keyser, Geraldine's
This lady has been rocking Austin behind the bar for years, starting at the old Highball, moving on to Contigo, and now as the creator of all things boozy at Geraldine’s. The bar currently boasts the title of Official Drink of Austin winner with an offbeat creation that includes Keyser’s own recipe for pecan orgeat. She has represented Austin in numerous competitions, and she is always a joy to watch at work.
Josh Loving, Small Victory
Loving has worn many hats in the Austin beverage scene, from his days as the wine buyer and bar manager at Fino to bartending at Midnight Cowboy, opening Weather Up and pioneering the trend of using high-quality house-cut ice. At his own venture, Small Victory, he continues his commitment to using the best possible ingredients, spirits, and ice to create memorable cocktails that break the mold while respecting the classics.
Bill Norris, Midnight Cowboy
Although he technically doesn’t work behind the bar anymore, Norris is the man behind the successful cocktail program at all Alamo Drafthouse properties, which include the Highball, 400 Rabbits, and Midnight Cowboy. His approach balances classic cocktail knowledge with modern trends and exotic ingredients to create beverages that encapsulate a feeling, a story, a movie, or a state of mind.
Ania Robbins, Backbeat, drink.well.
Robbins became a local favorite while slinging drinks at the beloved North Loop bar and South Lamar’s newest beauty. The bartender recently moved on to a new position as spirits educator for the House of Agricole.