Spring's first blooms call for gin, and summer’s desert heat pairs beautifully with tequila, but there’s no better way to embrace fall’s shiver than with a rocks glass filled with whiskey.
While any Austin bar worth its salt carries at least a few bourbons and Scotches, and others like Nickel City and Seven Grand even specialize in rare bottles, a few unexpected spots have established themselves on the whiskey map. No pun intended, but we think that’s pretty neat.
Tucked between the Hilton Austin’s lobby and its Cannon + Belle restaurant, this micro-bar has a singular focus, ignoring boozy distractions like beer, wine, and vodka. Instead, guests can try more than 60 whiskies, ranging from hard-to-find Japanese varieties like Yamizami to classic Kentucky brands like George T. Stagg. Turn any of them into an Old Fashioned, customized with a deep shelf of bitters in flavors such as black walnut, cinnamon, and plum.
The main bar is barely lit, the bathrooms are covered in graffiti, and the patio could double as a prison yard. Who could ask for anything more? Though decidedly a dive, this East Austin mainstay crowds an impressive array of more than 100 whiskey bottles on its makeshift shelves. With an intriguing selection of craft beers available on tap, boilermakers are de rigueur.
Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Known for its lavish brunch buffet and its family-friendly atmosphere, this chain may not be the most obvious place to steal a nip, but that didn’t stop beverage director David Toby from starting a barrel program in 2018. Currently, the collection includes selections from WhistlePig, George Dickel, and Elijah Craig, as well as some exclusive Texas pours keeping with the eatery’s locavore spirit. All are available neat or on the rocks. Guests can stir them into a Boulevardier, Old Fashioned, or Manhattan for $2 more.
Vince Young Steakhouse
Given whiskey’s longtime friendship with steak, it’s only natural that this downtown steakhouse would have space for a few prime bottles. Still, the bourbon selection raises the bar. From nationally famous brands like Maker’s Mark to local faves like Garrison Brothers, the restaurant boasts a wide variety of pours — and price points. Sip it plain or in a cocktail like the potent Marshall with rye and sweet vermouth.
Slightly overshadowed by its eternally red-hot neighbor Otoko, this South Congress Hotel lounge can be enjoyed even if patrons don’t have a seat for chef Yoshi Okai’s coveted omakase. In addition to hosting bartenders Whitney Hazelmyer and Ricky Cobia’s considerable talents, the shelves runneth over with Japanese whiskies from makers like Hakashu and Ichiro. Plus, the bar is unbearably chic with glittering mirrors and a subtle ‘70s vibe.
The Whiskey Bar at Pinballz Lake Creek
No, that’s not a typo. Hiding among a neon blur of 3D video games, laser tag arenas, and bumper cars is a long bar stocked with a hefty selection of American, Japanese, and Irish whiskies. Settle in for a classic Sazerac or Vieux Carre, accompanied by charcuterie and house-made focaccia. Better yet, buy a ticket to one of the entertainment complex’s regular tastings hosted by owners Darren and Mikki Spohn.