Austin While some drink trends are just really, really bad ideas (looking at you, "vodka eyeballing"), cocktails that have spent some time in an oak barrel have the dual benefit of being delicious and not causing vision loss. The aging technique works best with spirit-based cocktails, which don't have components that spoil -- sorry, berry mojito fans. Spending weeks or longer in a wood barrel adds character and helps meld ingredients into one smooth flavor with soft layers. Here are five prime examples to get your hands on:
Mettle's current barrel-aged beauty, hiding out at the far end of East Sixth, is the Tequila Negroni, a perfectly balanced mix of Republic Tequila Plata, Casoni 1814, Campari, and Carpano Antica sweet vermouth. Grab a drink and stay for their happy hour which includes bites like fried Cotija cheese, because fried cheese is timeless.
Try the Urban Cowboy, made with locally made Waterloo Antique gin (this is the barrel-aged component), sugar, and five-spice bitters. It's spicy, Summery, and will spark a fun debate about John Travolta's best work. Hint: it's not the one with the talking baby.
With a rotating barrel-aging program, The Bonneville's Bloody Mary, made with barrel-aged vodka (infused with pepper, chili, and basil), is already getting attention -- they now have a citrus-based cocktail called the Muddy Waters made with aged, local 512 tequila. Stay tuned for a Manhattan, coming very soon!
The cocktail program at Odd Duck is curated by GM Jason James along with the rest of the Odd Duck crew, with a section of the menu specially dedicated to barrel-aged cocktails, including a classic Negroni, Manhattan, and our favorite, The 12 Year Itch -- El Dorado 12-Year rum, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca.
Come to Swift's Attic for the Je Ne Sais Quoi, with Hennessy VSOP, Sacred Rosehip Cup Liqueur, Carpano Punt e Mes sweet vermouth, and apple bitters all aged in, and pulled straight from, a charred barrel. There's something really special about this drink, we just can't put our finger on it…
From Bridget "Make It Rainey" Dunlap and a chef who did time at Olivia and Napa's French Laundry, Mettle's got a metal-heavy interior and and delicious eats like a flat iron steak sided with freshly fried potato chips with cheesy Mornay sauce.
The dishes at High Tower -- a friendly neighborhood spot in East Austin -- run the gamut from Tex-Mex to Asian, and though their flavor and presentation could compete with the best of Austin's white-hot culinary scene, they're still affordable enough to order any night of the week, not just for special occasions. Grab a spot on the outdoor patio and try the ever-popular and comforting roasted pork jowl, a Korean hot pot filled with rice, egg yolk, cucumber, pickled shallots, and house Sriracha. Another favorite? Grilled scallops with avocado and grapefruit.
The husband/wife Boston expats behind Bonneville are dishing serious eats and twists on classic cocktails in a succulent-festooned, whitewashed brick space that's so lakeside, it's worth a fantastic voyage.
Communal seating, an expansive patio, and an open kitchen (the view is best from the bar) abet in the casual atmosphere at Odd Duck -- a second concept from the team behind Barley Swine -- on South Lamar Boulevard. Antithetical to its atmosphere, Odd Duck's menu features upscale, intricate dishes inspired by the daily pick at the local farmer's market, and thus the menu shifts with the Texan seasons. Odd Duck features craft cocktails, craft beer, and wine to pair with its flavor- and ingredient-forward dishes. If you happen upon the pimento cheeseburger, get it.
Located the second floor of the historic (and now defunct grocery store) Swift's Premium Food Co. building on Congress Avenue, the appropriately named Swift's Attic serves up eclectic small plates and creative cocktails for hipstered out Austinites. Among a brunch Bloody Mar bar and generous daily happy hour deals, Swift's offers sophisticated meats, seafood, snacks, and cocktails. Must trys are Korean BBQ flank steak, squid "fries," and the Pop Rocks charred edamame.