Where to drink now

Where to drink in Austin right now: 7 cocktail bars for fresh spring sippers

Where to drink in Austin right now: 7 cocktail bars for spring sippers

Whisler's Sweet Pea cocktail
Whisler's Sweet Pea cocktail tastes like it just came out of the garden. Photo by Mark Weatherford

Clean out your closets and store those throw blankets — it’s time to lighten up. And while you are at it, we would like to suggest another sort of spring cleaning. While you spent the winter drinking red wine and whiskey, the lighter spirits have been gathering dust. This month, do these local bars a solid and order one of these easygoing sippers instead.

Sure, we all drank enough Cosmos after Sex and the City made it a national obsession. But now that Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York and it’s acceptable again to wear Juicy Couture, consider giving the aughts staple another try — especially since downtown’s Academia has reworked the formula with house-pressed cranberry juice and orange oil. It's perfect for drowning your sorrows over the fact that there will never be a third Sex and the City movie.

Back Lot
The explosion of upscale cocktail bars over the last few years has definitely given Austinites a whole new vocabulary with which to order their drinks. But when the warm weather hits, sometimes you want to forget about all the cordials and shrubs and just order a dang frozen margarita. Back Lot has a classic one, a perfectly balanced mix of tequila, Paula’s Texas Orange, agave nectar, and lime. It also makes a surprisingly good pairing with a Reuben from resident food truck Other Side Deli.

Better Half 
With its shaded large back patio, friendly staff, and elevated comfort food menu, this charmer has quickly become the place for West Austinites to hang. The affordable draft cocktails might play a part in that, too. On a sunny day you can’t go wrong with a Chili Parlor, a mixture of Guyanese rum, lime, and pineapple juice with just a little spice from toasted Thai chili syrup.

Boiler Nine Bar + Grill
Kick off patio season at one of the best in town — the observatory bar atop Seaholm’s Boiler Nine. Most of the drinks offered allow you to customize with your choice of spirit, but on balmy days we tend to opt for the frozen Rio Verde, an citrusy pounder with some herbal character from Chartreuse and fresh basil. Whether you are getting dinner below or just having a few snacks for happy hour, it’s a taste of the good life.

The Cavalier
Zombies may be more at home on menus that offer pu pu platters and poke, but this new east side hot spot proves they also go pretty good with Southern cuisine. The Cavalier's is a particularly potent mix of grapefruit, lime, simple syrup, Cruzan aged rums (yes, rums) and an overproof rum topper. Down a couple and you’ll be feeling Southern hospitality in no time. (And bless Cavalier’s heart for limiting the number of Zombies per guest to two.)

Las Perlas
Warmer weather calls for Mexican spirits and this Seventh Street has one of the best selections in town. You can always get tequila, mezcal, or sotol straight up, but we recommend drinking a cocktail on the back patio the bar shares with Seven Grand. The Poblano Escobar is especially refreshing with a blend of pineapple and mild pepper flavored with cumin and shaken with Vida mezcal.

This new restaurant from Odd Duck/Barley Swine vet Sam Hellman-Mass is getting a lot of attention for its Mexican fare using masa made from local heirloom corn, but the inspired cocktail program also deserves a shout out. You’ll find garden ingredients like thyme and beet used throughout, but to really get into the spirit of the season, order a Campesino made with Tapatio blanco tequila, Chareau aloe liqueur, carrot, lemon, white pepper, and dill tincture.

If eating vegetables is important, drinking them has to be healthy, too. Or at least that’s the excuse you can tell yourself when you order off Whisler’s spring menu. As with all of its menus, the team has played with ingredients like fenugreek, oregano, and sesame seed that are not often found at a bar. Any of them will wet your whistle, but the delicate Sweet Pea (we bet you can guess the taste profile) really sings.