It may seem cruel to tout the talents of these vaunted cocktail virtuosos during a time when Texas bars are closed, but not even a global pandemic can keep us from recognizing genius mixologists.
While we may have to wait a little while before again sampling the potions shaken (or stirred) by this year’s nominees for the Tastemaker Award for Best Bartender, we can still look forward to one day sidling up to their bars for a mind- and palate-expanding journey into boozy beatitude. Our hearts grow ever fonder for these firewater maestros in their absence, especially since now more than ever we could all use a proper drink.
Learn more about these master mixologists below and then tune in on Thursday, July 23, at 7 pm as we crown the winner during our first-ever Tastemaker Awards — Virtual Edition, hosted by Bun B. It's our way of celebrating the extraordinary spirit of the Austin restaurant and bar scene during this challenging time. Tickets to the virtual event are on sale now and include a Tasting Tote featuring bites, sips, and more to enjoy at home.
Ricky Cobia is a Best Bartenders nominee three years running, and the recognition is well-deserved. Though he's currently a free agent, Corbia's on adventurous palate and encyclopedic knowledge of esoteric spirits made him the perfect person to helm The Hollow in Georgetown and Watertrade, the bar hidden inside South Congress Hotel’s Otoko. His playful blending of Eastern flavors with seasonal Texas ingredients is also highlighted on new Korean favorite Oseyo’s bold cocktail menu.
Laura Maddox — Small Victory
Anyone steeped in Austin’s cocktail culture has likely enjoyed a concoction or two by the talented Laura Maddox. Since Small Victory opened in 2014, Maddox has steadily gained a loyal following among Austin’s most discerning drinkers. Her bench of both classic and new cocktails is deep, but it’s her uncanny ability to improvise a perfect, just-for-you sipper that makes her one of the very best in town.
Terance Robson — Here Nor There
Terance Robson is no stranger to being called “the best.” Last year, after making it through several rounds of competition and beating out dozens of other bartenders from all over the state, he won the coveted title of Best Bartender in Texas from Garrison Brothers Distillery. He drew on his Irish roots to create winning cocktails like “Straight Outta Dublin” (his take on an Irish coffee) and “Mo Bhaile” (Gaelic for “my home”). It takes some sleuthing to find your way into downtown speakeasy Here Nor There, but once in, Robson is sure to make your efforts worthwhile.
Robert Bjorn Taylor — ARRIVE Austin
If you don't personally know Bjorn, then you certainly know his drinks. He’s been behind one high-end Austin bar or another for most of the last decade, putting his signature spin on cocktails at heavy-hitters like Emmer & Rye and Otoko. These days, the infectiously gracious barman is back in his old neighborhood on East Sixth (he was an early and influential cocktail artist at Qui), running the beverage show at Vixen's Wedding, Lefty's Brick Bar, and Gin Bar, all located at ARRIVE Austin hotel.
Sharon Yeung — The Roosevelt Room
Sharon Yeung is bar manager at The Roosevelt Room, the epic downtown cocktail destination famous for its expansive mix of classics and innovative originals. Her drinks are precise but full of whimsy, complex while maintaining a lighthearted accessibility. Throughout the past year, she and collaborator Caer Maiko Ferguson debuted Daijoubu, a traveling cocktail pop-up showcasing their Asian heritage with drinks like the Tom Kha Collins and the Year of the Pig Old Fashioned.