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Best Bars and Bartenders (Mixologists?) for Serious cocktails

j
jgilfoil Mar 30, 2011 02:10 PM

What I really need for our family get together is some good watering holes, the kind with good classic cocktails and some good sampling of newer creative ones. Who are the best bartenders for that in town?

  1. Helind Mar 30, 2011 05:40 PM

    It's not exactly what you requested, but I really enjoyed the drink reviews in this thread:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/773852

    10 Replies
    1. re: Helind
      k
      kathryn Mar 30, 2011 06:29 PM

      Thanks! As author of that thread, I'll try to make it easier for the OP.

      From my experiences in Austin last week (and comparing to serious cocktail bars in Boston, NYC, Chicago, Milwaukee, DC, etc.) I'd say:

      Haddington's
      East Side Show Room
      Bar Congress (and its sister restaurant Second Bar + Kitchen, which has a separate cocktail list)
      Peche

      I've heard good things about the Good Knight and La Condesa. (Is Fino good any more?)

      I used to like Parkside's but they don't seem that great any more.

      The Driskill has a fabulous atmosphere but weaker cocktails (they try to do the creative thing but don't really succeed).

      -----
      La Condesa
      400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

      Peche
      208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

      East Side Show Room
      1100 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702

      1. re: kathryn
        j
        jgilfoil Apr 2, 2011 11:40 AM

        Kathryn,
        I loved your post on SXSW. I also have a couple of questions for you. Peche has by far the most interesting cocktail list by website. Since most of us are Louisiana boys, we're really into that Absinthe thing anyway. Do any of the other bars quite match Peche? I don't know about that duck fat thing in a Sazerac. Re: the last word--I was at the Rye House in New York last weekend. They have a fabulous bartender--Rosser--who made us what I thought he called the "last ward." It sounds like it was similar to what your husband got--rye for gin, but it also had lime, chartreuse, and maraschino liquer. It was outstanding.
        Too, we're scheduled to eat one meal at Uchi and one at the Odd Duck. The others we have booked are Perla's and El Sol y La Luna, mainly because we could get a table for 12 at the latter. What are your thoughts on those two? Anything you think would be better? Too, since we're over at the San Jose, we were planning to do breakfast at Polvo's. Anything in that area or nearby that you think is better? We were going to drive to Lockhart and Luling because we love Smitty's and City Market. Is Franklin anywhere near as good as those two? Thanks.

        -----
        Uchi Restaurant
        801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

        City Market
        633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

        Peche
        208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

        Odd Duck
        1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

        1. re: jgilfoil
          k
          kathryn Apr 2, 2011 11:54 AM

          I think in terms of execution Bar Congress and Haddington's were better than Peche, because some of the bartenders at Peche free-pour so it's not as exact.

          The Sazerac with duck fat infused rye at Haddington's didn't really taste of duck or fat. (If you're unfamiliar with the infusing process, typically the last step is to put the spirit in the freezer so that the fat solidifies and can be strained out--no floating fat globules in the final products.) I think it was just a really good Sazerac. If I hadn't known about the infusion beforehand, I wouldn't have guessed. If you're into more creative cocktails (less classic cocktails), Haddington's is a must. Really interesting stuff going on.

          BTW, you can make reservations for Uchi online via OpenTable (this is fairly new) so avoid the wait that way. And I'd definitely get to Odd Duck on the early side before they start running out of items.

          I don't think El Sol y La Luna is very good any more, unfortunately, and some people chalk it up to moving from South Congress to downtown. I had some not great breakfast tacos there last year, which saddened me.

          My experience with South Congress etc. is sadly limited (hard to get out there sometimes during SXSW) so I'm not sure I can really recommend something better nearby.

          If you're going on a BBQ pilgrimage, I might add in Opie's or Cooper's. Both are up there with Smitty's but different.

          I tried only to get to Franklin's once but they were out of meat so I haven't had the pleasure yet. My Austin friends tell me as it's as good as the hill country joints. Next year....

          -----
          Uchi Restaurant
          801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

          Peche
          208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

          Odd Duck
          1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

          1. re: kathryn
            j
            jgilfoil Apr 2, 2011 01:42 PM

            Thanks. That's very helpful. That is sad about El Sol because I loved it when it was on south Congress. Oh well. I already have reservations for Uchi and I appreciate the tip about the Odd Duck. We may do it in lieu of El Sol.

            -----
            Uchi Restaurant
            801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

            Odd Duck
            1219 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

          2. re: jgilfoil
            s
            sisundar Apr 2, 2011 05:18 PM

            I'd say that peche is definately a small(but notable in my mind) step down in terms of technical execution from places like haddington's, Bar Congress and The Tigress. Plus its right next to an outdoor music area, so it gets pretty loud with random thumping on the walls, especially during weekends. It has one of the largest liquor selections in the austin area (though haddington's and bar congress aren't far behind), if that's of interest to you. Food at peche is about the same price/more expensive as Second Bar+Congress/Haddingtons, and not as good, IMO. Plus don't feel restricted by the list at any of these places - the bartenders are great and if you tell them what you want (either a classic cocktail or what flavours you like), they'll whip up something good which may or may not be on the menu. BTW, the drink you had, is a classic cocktail called the Last Word, I believe. You should be able to ask for it at any of these bars, and they'll whip it up for you.

            The Tigress pub is probably one of my favourite spots to drink. It's great value for the quality of execution, the place has great charm and is in an interesting neighborhood. Pam doesn't go after the experimentative side of cocktails, and sticks with great execution of the classics. But it's TINY, so if you have a big group, especially on a weekend, its a no go. Plus, to the best of my knowledge, she stops serving at 11 pm.

            I haven't been to Eastside Showroom or Fino recenty. However, both bars have lost some of their leading talent in the recent few months to Haddington's and Bar Congress, so I'm not sure about their quality now.

            1. re: sisundar
              k
              kathryn Apr 2, 2011 10:46 PM

              I believe jgilfoil was referring to a variation on the Last Word.

              I had a variation on the Last Word at Peche where the bartender subbed rye for gin while I was visiting Austin from NYC, and jgilfoil coincidentally was visiting NYC and had the exact same variation (subbing rye for gin).

              -----
              Peche
              208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

              1. re: kathryn
                s
                sisundar Apr 3, 2011 02:04 AM

                you're right; I was just skimming the post, and I made a wrong statement.

                Funny how both of you ended up drinking the same cocktail variation in completely different bars and cities.

          3. re: kathryn
            a
            aliveandwell Apr 4, 2011 12:57 PM

            Fino's cocktail program was taken over by sommelier Josh Loving who I think used to be behind the bar at Eastside Showroom. Went in recently and cocktails were excellent.

            1. re: aliveandwell
              c
              Craenor Apr 7, 2011 01:06 PM

              Kind of surprised no one mentioned FINO earlier. Whether you are ordering off of their specialty menu, ordering a classic/currently trending cocktail or having them assemble your own concoction, the team at FINO slings a mean drink.

            2. re: kathryn
              a
              AustinPinUp Apr 5, 2011 04:28 PM

              All of those places listed are great! I love Crow Bar, it's a lot more laid back butt he bartenders do a great job of making some unique cocktails. They have a chalk board with some specialties that change monthly, I've sampled quite a few and have never been disappointed!

          4. m
            m3lissa Mar 30, 2011 06:10 PM

            East Side Showroom or Haddington's.

            3 Replies
            1. re: m3lissa
              m
              Modorecords2003 Mar 30, 2011 06:35 PM

              Tigress Pub is also great, and likely the cheapest.

              I like the concepts at Parkside, but all too often they don't measure their pours, and the drinks come off unbalanced.

              1. re: Modorecords2003
                c
                cpencis Mar 30, 2011 07:20 PM

                Second on the Tigress. It is wee tiny with no food service of its own. But the drinks Pam pours are first rate and feel absolutely classic - served up in fine glassware. I also second on Haddington's - bar food there is very very nice. If you're looking for good creativity in the drinks - try it out. He makes his own tonic, grenadine, makes a nice Blood and Sand, and the Duck Fat Sazerac is a favorite of mine.... yes, I said Duck Fat.

              2. re: m3lissa
                j
                jwynne2000 Apr 1, 2011 04:16 PM

                Second the East Side Showroom. They do 'em right.

              3. p
                pogo Apr 3, 2011 09:47 AM

                I love the Good Knight (too often overlooked!) and Peché the most, with the Tigress and La Condesa a close second.

                -----
                La Condesa
                400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

                1. c
                  conquer Apr 7, 2011 08:28 AM

                  The stiffest drinks I've ever had in Austin are at Oilcan Harry's. But not for your 'family get-together,' probably. Peche's strength's gone down, IMO. I don't usually go for 'specialty' cocktails, but I really liked El Cubico at Condesa. Brown Bar is good for strong classics, granted the scene is a little tired.

                  -----
                  Peche
                  208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

                  1. chispa_c Apr 15, 2011 02:12 PM

                    I think Jeff at El Arbol makes great cocktails.

                    Hunter at Fleming's is highly skilled as well.

                    Those are my favorite, most consistent bartenders in town.

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