There is something about summer that makes you want to hit up the local bar, kick your feet up and sip a drink or two (or three) on a patio. Though there isn't much beauty to be found in a summer as sweltering as this one, there is abundant beauty in the cocktails and drinks the season inspires, such as watermelon margaritas, tangy mojitos, spiked lemonades and agua frescas.
As most mixologists and bartenders know, concocting the perfect summer cocktail is all about utilizing fresh seasonal ingredients while incorporating a number of light, fragrant spirits. Five spots around town recently caught our eye owing to their unique summer cocktails, and all were kind enough to share the recipes and stories behind their signature drinks.
La Condesa's Watermelon Martini mixes quintessential summer ingredients, such as watermelon and citrus, with vodka, elderflower liqueur and agave nectar. The restaurant's popular cocktail even won the title of The Official Drink of Austin in 2009, making it a drink almost every die hard Austinite is obligated to try.
The frothy elderflower cloud on top is what transforms the drink into something heavenly. "It reminds me of drilling a hole in a watermelon, dripping a bottle of vodka in it, and letting it soak in," Nate Wales, mixologist of La Condesa, says. "It's almost like floating the river or swimming in a pool and munching on watermelon chunks."
La Condesa's Watermelon Martini
2 oz Tito's Vodka
3/4 oz St~Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 1/2 oz fresh watermelon juice
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz organic agave nectar
Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin with ice. Shake hard. Strain into a martini glass with the elderflower cloud on top. Garnish with a skewer of watermelon rounds.
1 liter chilled filtered water
1 tablespoon gelatin powder
2 oz St~Germain Elderflower Liqueur
In a wide bowl, sprinkle gelatin powder onto chilled water and allow to "bloom" for five to ten minutes over low heat. Warm the water until the gelatin is dissolved. Add the St~Germain. Pour contents into an iSi canister and charge with NO2 cartridge. Chill and shake before dispensing,
Francisco Terrazas, bar manager of FINO, took over the restaurant's bar shortly after former bar manager Josh Loving left to work at Weather Up. Although he is still breaking in his leadership status, Terrazas is getting ready to introduce new drinks to the menu following the Fourth of July holiday.
He personally recommends the Devil's Garden Party as a great summer cocktail, specifically because of the drink's subtle awkwardness. "I think it's great that people don't quite understand it," Terrazas says. "I wanted to come up with something that I could introduce to people and surprise them with." Though it comes in a small glass vessel, the Devil's Garden Party captures vast bitter, floral and earthy flavors.
FINO's Devil's Garden Party
1 1/2 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1 oz Siembra Azul Tequila blanco
3/4 oz Salers Gentiane
1 dash hopped grapefruit bitters
Serve [ingredient contents] in a rocks glass over a large ice cube and garnish with a grapefruit swath.
The small neighborhood bar drink.well. opened shortly after the New Year, but has quickly gathered a number of devoted thirsty followers. The bar's drinks are unconventional and creatively refined, which is exactly what Austin cocktails and cuisine are all about.
Lead bartender, Tacy Rowland, is the brainchild behind drink.well.'s refreshing beer cocktail, Pearl Snap Shandy. "Tacy knocked it out of the park with the Pearl Snap Shandy," Michael Sanders, owner of drink.well., says. "Beer cocktails have experienced an exciting renaissance in recent years and we were excited to craft one with a little local flavor in it."
drink.well.'s Pearl Snap Shandy
1 1/2 oz Tempus Fugit Gran Classico Bitter
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
2 drops of Bittermen's Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
A splash (about 1 oz) of Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon Soda
Top (2-3) ounces of Austin Beerworks' Pearl Snap Pilsner
grapefruit wedge, garnish
Shake all the ingredients (except the soda and beer) with ice in a cocktail tin. Fine-strain into an ice-filled pint glass. Add lemon soda followed by a top-off of the Austin Beerworks' Pearl Snap Pilsner. Garnish the drink with a grapefruit wedge and serve alongside the remaining can of Pearl Snap.
Péché has become one of the city's favorite cocktail lounges, and it comes as no surprise why. Péché draws inspiration from renowned cocktails classics from the pre-Prohibition era while adding an impressive signature Péché flare through the process. The French 77 has been at the bar for three-and-a-half years, but the cocktail's fresh citrus, pear-and-pineapple flavor is what keeps it modern.
"The French 77 is a variation on an old drink called the French 75," Robe Pate, head bartender and owner of Péché, says. "We basically sub the St~Germaine for Gin in the French 75 [to make the French 77]. We took an old classic and did our own variation on it, which is what we like to do here."
Péché's French 77
1 1/2 oz St~Germain Elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 oz champagne
1/2 oz simple syrup
Pour the first two ingredients into chilled champagne flute or martini glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.
Jason Stevens has invigorated the creative spirit at Bar Congress with his more-than-eager embracement of Tiki Nights."Most major cities have Tiki Nights," Stevens says. "East Side Show Room did it for a while, but eventually stopped. I felt that the town needed a good, consistent Tiki Nights, and [Bar Congress] has the passion and drive to do it. We use fresh ingredients and recreate drinks from the old Tiki masters."
The Polynesian Julep is a cocktail Stevens personally recommended on behalf of Bar Congress for the summer season. The rum-driven drink captures an array of various tart and molasses flavors, making it a subtly sweet Austin favorite.
Bar Congress' Polynesian Julep
3/4 oz Zaya 12-Year Rum
1/2 oz Smith & Cross Rum
1 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz quality Tawny port
1/2 oz vanilla-infused maple syrup
1/2 oz lime juice
1 tsp. Allspice Dram
1 dash Bittermens Tiki Bitters
Combine the ingredients in a julep cup or double old-fashioned glass. Cover with finely crushed ice. Stir and cover with more finely crushed ice until you create a "dome" of ice on top of the cup. Lavishly garnish the "dome" with several sprigs of fresh mint, one freshly crushed allspice berry, cinnamon stick [run through a Microplane] and a rum-soaked, brûléed pineapple cherry spear.
Rum-soaked Pineapple Cherry Spear
1 pineapple, skinned, cored and chopped into one-inch chunks
15 Luxardo Maraschino cherries
1 1/2 oz Batavia Arrack
1 1/2 oz Cruzan Blackstrap Rum
1 cinnamon stick
few dashes of Bittermens Tiki Bitters
Place pineapple and cherries on a flat plate. Pour both rums and dash bitters on top of fruit, making sure to soak all of the fruit. Grate fresh cinnamon and clove on top (just enough to season). Allow to sit for two hours or more. When finished soaking, spear pineapple and cherry on a short bamboo skewer. Using a kitchen torch, small grill or open flame, quickly sear the pineapple skewer until hot and slightly caramelized. Use as garnish immediately for steam effect.