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Great cocktail bar in Austin?

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I'm headed to Austin to visit family for Christmas and I'd love to check out any really good cocktail bars in the city. Are there any places that excel at mixology or just mix really great classic cocktails?

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  1. The more expensive hotels, for starters. If staying there would cost more than $300 a night, or if they have a fancy restaurant, they'll at least have the spirits. I've had some great drinks mixed for me at a couple of these hotels. I've also had bartenders who messed up basic things (not knowing what a gibson is, for instance, let alone a silver bullet or french 75). Mileage varies because staff varies at these venues. The one thing that won't vary: prices will be high.

    Club deVille continues to mix on the heavy side. The lines are intolerable, and the prices nearly usurious, but the drinks are mixed well and generously. Assuming one of the better bartenders is working. And assuming you don't annoy them. Really, that is a lot to assume. Still, if it isn't Friday or Saturday night, this isn't too annoying of a venue for drinks.

    The Peacock doesn't do a bad job mixing drinks, and is an interesting place to get a beverage. Recommended. I've had all sorts of things here. They have ouzo.

    On SoCo, I've had delicious martinis at Enoteca and Vespaio, and fantastic bloody maries at the otherwise forgettable South Congress Cafe. Of the three, Enoteca is preferred for atmosphere and noise level. Vespaio is more of a scene but probably has a wider selection of spirits. SoCo Cafe's home-infused Tito's takes the cake for rock sauce vodka -- maybe the best in town if you're wanting a spicy vodka.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tom in austin

      In my limited experience,I would vote for the Vespaio/Enoteca bartenders. When we go out I usually order a Negroni or Kir, for SWMBO. Most of the places we go have not known how to make the former and screw up the latter. The bald headed guy at Vespaio, if he is still there, is a real professional.

    2. The bartender inside Driskall Hotel makes one of the very best potato vodka martinis I've ever had outside my home.

      1 Reply
      1. re: amysuehere

        I also head to the Driskill when I want a good martini. Another plus is it's a good destination for an out-of-towner. It's a historic hotel in downtown Austin and has great Texas themed decor- western bronze statutes, large leather couches, etc. You also won't have to deal with loud music (although some evenings they have a live pianist and/or singer) and drunken college students.

      2. Fino.

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        Fino Restaurant
        2905 San Gabriel, Austin, TX 78705

        1 Reply
        1. re: ilbranzino

          i was JUST about to say that, because we went to Fino happy hour tonight. they have some cool, creative cocktails. i tried the Pear Gin Drop martini, and it was tasty. the half-price goat cheese w/ honey and onion jam is delicious.

          http://www.astiaustin.com/

        2. There's numerous places one could point out, but I'd like to mention two: The Brown Bar made me a few Old-Fashioneds, which were delightful. Upscale singles bar, dressy. Downscale wise, I find the bartenders at Room 710 outstanding, and surprisingly knowledgeable. Atmosphere: ear-splitting rock and roll, tattoos, piercings, leather, fishnet stockings. Much the same for Lovejoys, which is a bit friendlier and less intimidating to novices than Room 710.

          3 Replies
          1. re: taliesin15

            I second the Brown Bar suggestion. it's one of my favorite places. i don't necessary like most of the martinis on their drink menu, but the bartenders can come up with some other drinks for you. just let 'em know what you like...

            1. re: abidonfood

              I'll go the other way: Brown Bar is an upper class, commercial, and weak version of the Cloakroom. Go to the Brown Bar if you wanna see some fancy people dressed in fancy clothes drinking fancy drinks. But don't go for experienced bar skills. They mismix drinks there due to their weak hiring filter.

              1. re: tom in austin

                hehe, yeah, that's another way to look at the place. and not an inaccurate depiction. i must clarify though, that i usually go there on off nights and order from the same bartender that can come up with her own drinks. so not really sure about overall bar skills at the place, just sure about one of 'em... ;)
                but i like the place enough to keep going back... and yes, i like the fancy people dressed in fancy clothes bit... ;)

          2. I highly recommend Starlight. They have delicious, creative martinis made with premium liquors and ingredients. On Saturday night I had the Laurel, which included Cranberry vodka and mulled spices, among other ingredients. it was served with a few fresh cranberries. It was the best holiday drink I've ever had. My friend couldn't stop raving about their Appletini (which was not made with cheap/nasty Schnapps or Sweet and Sour mix unlike most Appletinis). Another winner is Hudson's on the Bend restaurant's Hot Spiked Spiced Wine (also delicious), although I'm not certain if that is offered on their regular Winter menu.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ls29

              Hey ls29 -

              I'll be visiting Austin over the Christmas hols and have flagged Starlite as a fun, casual-ish dining destination... can you tell me anything about the food? Recommended?

              Oh, actually I have another question... I'm assuming that you're talking about Starlite (www.starliteaustin.net) vs. Starlight (http://www.oasis-austin.com/starlight...)... is that right?

              Thanks -
              Rab-bit!

              1. re: Rabbit

                I really like the food at Starlite, and I love their intimate size and modern but cozy decor. They also have a great low-key brunch. And yes, their website is (www.starliteaustin.net). They have an excellent pastry chef and delicious homemade ice creams and desserts. Their pumpkin cheesecake and candy cane ice cream are amazing (separate desserts, not served together!).

                They serve lovely upscale dishes with a slightly homey/comfort touch. We have reservations at Starlite for New Year's and they have a beautiful menu, and an option for 4 or 6 course meal. The 6 course meal can be accompanied by wine pairings.

                1. re: ls29

                  Thanks, ls29... we did get to Starlite, and had a really great meal. I'll write more on my Austin trip report, but I'm glad you encouraged us not to miss this spot (veal chop was fantastic!).

            2. Don't forget Vin BIstro, they have a new mexatini with orange and cinnamon infused tequilla