Hush-hush

Stylish reservations-only speakeasy debuts in historic downtown Austin hotel

Stylish reservations-only speakeasy debuts in historic downtown hotel

Whisper Room Austin interior
Velvet curtains set the scene at the stylish new speakeasy. Photo by Kirsten Kaiser
Whisper Room Austin couches
Comfy seating creates an intimate setting at The Whisper Room. Photo by Kirsten Kaiser
Whisper Room Austin bar cart
Drinks are made tableside on a vintage bar cart. Photo by Kirsten Kaiser
Whisper Room Austin olives
Small bites like charred olives give guests something to snack on. Photo by Kirsten Kaiser
Whisper Room Austin Old Fashioned
The drink menu features unique takes on classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds. Photo by Kirsten Kaiser
Whisper Room Austin interior
Whisper Room Austin couches
Whisper Room Austin bar cart
Whisper Room Austin olives
Whisper Room Austin Old Fashioned

Despite the grown-up cocktail revolution that has hit Austin this decade, much of the local drinking culture is still stuck in its early twenties. For every watering hole offering cushy sofas and curated sips, there’s many more whose circus-like environments disguise a host of bad decisions.

But increasingly, the city’s bar professionals have been carving out more space for adults, offering intimate environments, lower decibels, and — most importantly — drinks that don’t resemble anything that can be found on a grocery store candy aisle.

The latest concept to provide a little hush to the Capital City’s deafening party comes courtesy of the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel at 701 Congress Ave. On October 26, the historic property will debut The Whisper Room, a tiny, reservations-only cocktail lounge tucked away in the hotel’s bar and restaurant.

According to a release, the bar will take inspiration from the hotel's heritage, which opened during the height of Prohibition on May 19, 1924. To help set the scene, the designers have brought in swanky details like a vintage crystal sconce, ornate glassware, and Limoges porcelain.

That’s not to say that the designers took a wholly period approach. With dark contemporary sofas, pops of white, and heavy crimson curtains, the space gives off some serious Red Room vibes. But unlike in Twin Peak’s famous extradimensional lounge, the only spirits you are likely to encounter are safely poured in a glass.

Those spirits were chosen in partnership with renowned mixologist Justin Elliot, whose career has included stints at The Townsend, Juniper, and now Southern Glazer’s. They will be given a pride of place on a bar cart from Aldo Tura — a highly coveted midcentury Italian furniture designer — which will be used to build drinks tableside.

In keeping with the speakeasy theme, the curated menu reworks classics like the Old Fashioned, Sazerac, and Manhattan. All can be made with selections from The Whisper Room’s extensive whiskey list, featuring bottles from Texas and across the globe. Whiskey’s natural pairing, cigars, will also be available from Bobalu Cigar Co.

For snacks, executive chef Brian Gibson used a 1929 hotel restaurant menu as inspiration for canapés and bites like roasted garlic charred olives, guajillo hominy crisps, shrimp and chorizo arancini, deviled eggs, and bacon wrapped figs. (If all that sound entirely modern, check out this sophisticated Stephen F. Austin menu posted in the University of North Texas’ digital archives.)

As easy as it might be to hide in the bar’s ‘20s glamour, the lounge will offer at least one portal to the party beyond the walls. A private terrace looks out to the hubbub on Congress Avenue, where guests can peer down on downtown nightlife and perhaps get a glimpse of one of the Hollywood stars scheduled to appear at the Austin Film Festival during The Whisper Room’s opening weekend.

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Reservations for The Whisper Room can be made by calling the hotel at 512-721-4230.