Two Stories of Tipple
South Austin cocktail scene gets a boost with new bar from local dream team
For over three years, North Loop’s drink.well. has shown a sure, steady hand in serving craft beers, wines, pub food, and (especially) high-end cocktails in a low-key neighborhood environment. After several internal updates and revisions to the bar’s physical space and menu, co-owners Jessica and Michael Sanders are ready for their next big challenge. This winter, they’ll unveil a second concept — this time in 78704’s busy South Lamar corridor.
When asked about the differences between their first bar and the second, Michael is quick with one key difference: "It’s going to be nice to have a rooftop patio. We’ve never been able to do that."
Backbeat, the pair’s latest venture, will offer a bigger general canvas to work from. With over 2,000 square feet of space on two floors, the venue will allow for several things that simply weren’t possible at drink.well.
"If somebody wants to rent the patio for a party, for example, we’d like to accommodate that," says Michael. "We won’t do table reservations — it will flow very much like other bars — but we can do more to work with large groups and private events."
They are also happy to have more general seating for guests.
"It was a nice complaint to have, but sometimes we’d hear that guests couldn’t find a spot at drink.well. because it was so busy. It’s small — we have 34 seats. So overall, the larger space lets us serve more people and give them a great experience," Michael says.
The project is being designed by Chioco Design, who has also done recognizable Austin projects like Winflo Osteria, Perla’s, and the Mueller location of Torchy’s.
While drink.well.’s draft beer selection was limited by space, the bar carries a reputation as one of the most thoughtful tap walls in Austin. This will continue at Backbeat.
"We’ll have 10 taps [at Backbeat]. We haven’t finalized the plan yet, but we’ll likely have a few standards from places we have great relationships with like Austin Beerworks and Hops & Grain. We’ll then do rotating taps from our other favorite breweries like Stone from California. At drink.well., everything has to be rotational — that’s not necessarily the case here," Michael says.
A limited food menu will be served at Backbeat, but the core focus will be on the bar component — expect snacks rather than hearty fare.
As with beer, the Sanders are big wine enthusiasts and now have the opportunity to curate a larger wine selection than the 15 to 20 on drink.well.’s list.
"Jessica will do more of the wine side than I will, but we do know that the patio space will likely mean a good deal of wine being sold by the bottle," comments Michael. "We’d like to have bottles and perhaps larger formats we can serve to groups and then leave them alone to socialize for a while. We’ve also discussed that since the nearby spots like [Ramen] Tatsu-Ya and Odd Duck have big, bold flavors, we’ll likely lean toward refreshing selections for a pre- or post-meal drink."
As one might expect, the bar will serve a mix of classic cocktails, but continue drink.well.’s practice of a seasonal menu of original cocktail creations.
The city’s booming construction and permitting and inspection delays mean that pinning down a concrete opening date is difficult, but the Sanders hope to open Backbeat this winter.