Within its first month of opening, I quickly declared Contigo my new favorite place and visited multiple times with multiple people in tow. The word spread like wildfire about Austin’s newest dining (and drinking) gem. The space fills up nightly, with downtowners and neighborhood folks alike. The atmosphere, food and the drinks can be summed up in one word: greatness. So, just how does an already perfect place improve on that greatness?
Enter Houston Eaves, Contigo’s new bar manager and mixologist.
Classics, such as the margarita, will remain on menu, but Eaves is also crafting homemade bitters, syrups and liqueurs for innovative drinks.
Owner Ben Edgerton brought Eaves on board to bring the bar operation up to par with the stellar kitchen – where everything is made in house using fresh, quality, seasonal ingredients (see the Contigo story as told by CultureMap columnist Jessica Dupuy). Prior to his start at Contigo, Eaves was mixing craft cocktails at Eastside Showroom and Fino. He is also a member of the prestigious United States Bartenders’ Guild with other likeminded, mixology superstars like Lara Nixon, David Alan, Bill Norris and Ben Craven. Now, Eaves is excited to share his knowledge with the bartenders at Contigo. “I have a passion for cocktails and I'm excited to get these bartenders interested in the craft,” says Eaves. He believes that what you put into the cocktail--the care and the pride--comes through in the end product.
Classics, such as the margarita, will remain on menu, but Eaves is also crafting homemade bitters, syrups and liqueurs for innovative drinks. Most recently, he introduced a regular Daily Porch Cocktail that will be based upon seasonal ingredients. Even though Eaves is behind the bar on most evenings, he is often found poking around the kitchen to see what is fresh and available for his arsenal. The day I visited, he spied shiso leaves, a Japanese basil. For that day's Daily Porch Cocktail, he combined them with watermelon, gin, St. Germain liqueur and lemon and wittily named it That’s What Shiso.
Also aging behind the bar that day was his own version of Falernum, a sweet syrup used in Caribbean and tropical drinks. His recipe, which garnered him the winner of the “Don Q Rum 2011 Ultimate MixOff Challenge” earlier this year, contains fresh lime, ginger, star anise, cardamom and rum. After it sits for a day or two, he simply mixes it with soda water for a refined tiki-drink you won't be embarrassed about.
Eaves’ drinks are served in an atmosphere that is welcoming, casual and fun. Contigo was modeled after Edgerton’s family ranch of the same name in South Texas. The space is mostly outdoors and is outfitted with washer pits, a beer garden and a lounge area that begs you to sit back, relax and stay awhile as though you were at someone’s ranch. Natural materials like cedar woods, metals and leather were used to give the space a rustic, comfortable feel. Thus, Eaves is keeping the cocktails conducive to the easy-going atmosphere. Even though he constantly brings new flavors to the table, he keeps the drink menu approachable and without pretense; he wants his guests to appreciate new and unique flavors without feeling overwhelmed.
I’m excited to see what Eaves is brewing up next and am tempted to return everyday solely to sample the Daily Porch Cocktail.