They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and that counts double when it comes to the patron saints of the weekend: Austin bartenders. To help you get acquainted with the folks manning the bars at your favorite drinking destinations, we’ve rounded up 17 of Austin’s top cocktail crafters and asked them a few questions about slinging drinks in the capital city. Be sure to remember these names and faces -- and, of course, tip.
Located on West Fifth, The Roosevelt Room is an industrial space -- fitting for the Warehouse District -- dominated on one side by a long, stool-lined bar, and on the other by swanky wood-and-velvet booths. (There’s also a lounge upstairs if you want to escape the crowd.) In terms of imbibing options, the cocktail bar boasts 70+ mixed drinks, guaranteeing there’s something for everyone.
Specialty cocktail: "De Rigueur: bonded bourbon, grapefruit juice, honey, Balvenie 12 Year, Lagavulin 16 Year. This is our flagship cocktail at The Roosevelt Room, and one that I think is a perfect drink, good for any time of year. This cocktail dates back to the 1920s and originally contained Scotch as its base. Then, in the mid-1930s, a club in Downtown LA called the Vendome switched the Scotch for bourbon and named the new cocktail after its neighbor, The Brown Derby. Our version combines the two cocktails and uses bonded bourbon as its base, then finishes it with a few sprays of Balvenie 12 Year and Lagavulin 16 Year, which makes for an elegant and seductive aroma."
His favorite part of working at The Roosevelt Room: "Since I began my career as a craft bartender, I have maintained a constant thirst for knowledge, and I've always enjoyed the journey to find new information that will help me grow, both personally and professionally. I found a home at The Roosevelt Room because everyone that works there shares that same passion. The work environment is one of constant learning and progression. The bar evolves with its staff, and we all make daily improvements to better serve our guests."
Where he drinks when he’s not working: "Whisler's on East 6th. This is a great bar that appeals to every type of drinker. Its staff is welcoming and warm, brilliant yet humble, and a pleasure to interact with. And it has one of the best food trucks on earth [Thai-Kun] serving up bites to keep its patrons bellies full and smiles wide. Who doesn't want delicious Thai food while enjoying a bomb-ass Old Fashioned? Nobody... that's who."
What he loves about Austin: "Simply put, Austin has everything. There are not many cities where, all in the same day, you can enjoy amazing BBQ, go on a hike, hit the river for some kayaking or paddleboarding, dine at a James Beard Award-winning sushi joint (Sup, Uchi/Uchiko!), go to a movie, and simultaneously enjoy some drinks (Sup, Alamo!), and finish off the night at a concert at one the city's many incredible music venues."
From the mixology dream team at drink.well. comes this South Lamar spot, which opened its doors this year. Think unsurprisingly excellent cocktails (given the bar’s heritage), a sweet rooftop patio with a Downtown view, and way-better-than-typical bar food like charcuterie, seasoned olives, and oysters, along with sweet options, such as the chocolate flight (note: every bar should offer a chocolate flight).
Specialty cocktail: "Bee’s Kiss made with my house-made spiced rhum. The rhum is infused with pineapple, orange, cloves, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and a couple more secret ingredients. It is a dessert cocktail made with the rhum, cream, and honey water. It is not overly sweet, but creamy and satisfying."
Her favorite part of working at Backbeat: "The diversity of customers and the opportunity to flex my creative muscles in a fast-paced environment that encourages everyone’s growth."
Where she drinks when she’s not working: "Half Step. They make excellent cocktails and have a nice patio. Plus my husband is the bar manager."
What she loves about Austin: "All the swimming holes in the middle of the city. With all the recent rain, they are very full, and I am taking full advantage of that!"
A self-described “Ambiguous Everybody place,” this Red River favorite welcomes everyone with open arms -- and kickass drinks. Sample one of its unique fresh juice cocktails (kale margarita, for instance), or opt for kombucha on tap while being deafened -- in a good way -- by music indoors or while chilling outside under the parachute-shaded patio. As a bonus, the bar is also home to Arlo's, one of the best food trucks in Austin. As if you needed a bonus.
Specialty cocktail: "I’d have to say, my favorite is the Banana Hammock. It was a few summers ago we had already started making our fresh-pressed fruit juice cocktails, and we were having our annual end-of-summer party. We tried to make fresh piña coladas, but couldn’t find a place for a frozen machine or blender in our tiny old space. I came up with a recipe inspired from a drink my mother made me as a kid called a 'platanada,' which is fresh bananas, fresh pineapple, and vanilla ice cream. I put a little twist on it -- being a vegan bar and all -- subbed the ice cream with coconut milk, and added an agricole white rum to mimic a piña colada. The name of it just kind of fit perfectly."
His favorite part of working at Cheer Ups: "I’ve always found that different friends love Cheer Ups for completely different aspects; whether it be the live music, the fresh fruit juice cocktails, the pairing of a vegan bar with a vegan food trailer, the idea that everyone is welcome, beyond race, sexual orientation, or political beliefs… the only thing not tolerated is intolerance. I personally love the aesthetics of Cheer Ups, from the pink parachute, to the space ladies on the wall walking inside, to the stray cats. Rather than being just a bar or music venue, it feels like I get to work in a curated art space. Not to mention the staff: the core bartenders have been together at Cheer Ups for over five years, and that’s not particularly common in the service industry. There’s a lot of love here, and I think it shows."
Where he drinks when he’s not working: "I do spend a lot of my off hours at Cheer Ups, but when I’m not there, I do tend to find myself at Yellow Jacket, by far my favorite East Side daytime spot. They have a magical crepe myrtle patio and daily frozens alongside a nice selection of cider that can turn my Wednesday noon to a Wednesday night real quick."
What he loves about Austin: "I’ve been in Austin for eight or nine years, and one thing I've always loved other than live music is the ever-expanding selection of local businesses to support. I love to eat, and the food scene has exploded over the last five years. I love that I get to be a part of the local live music scene on a daily basis, and I love how small businesses thrive in this ever-expanding city."
East Cesar Chavez
Prosecco on tap, a beautiful space, and tetherball are a few of the distinguishing factors that make this East Side establishment a natural choice for happy hour, day drinking, or anything in between. The bar hosts live music and an array of events throughout the week -- from $2 taco-and-tallboy Tuesday to karaoke and yoga-brunch hybrids -- and every drink on the ever-evolving menu tastes pretty excellent during all of the above.
Specialty cocktail: "My favorite cocktail is the 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' made with St. George Green Chile vodka, Guajiro Honey Rum, ginger syrup, and lime juice. It blends a little sweet, and some spice, to create a refreshing cocktail to cool you down on a hot, humid summer day. We get a lot of those in Austin."
Favorite part of working at Craftsman: "I enjoyed working on East 6th and Rainey St as they were just starting to thrive. I see that happening for East Cesar Chavez as well. Being on the cusp means we have a lot of room for all of the staff to help build up Craftsman. We are very lucky to have owners that are eager to listen to our ideas -- even the bad ones."
Where he drinks when he’s not working: "Grackle, because you will see just the right number of familiar faces on both sides of the bar, you always feel like you can relax there, and they have amazing beer and whiskey selections."
What he loves about Austin: "I’m from South Florida, but nowhere there really felt as much like home as it does here -- and that is because of the people. There are folks In Florida I am related to, but Austin is where my family is."
You’d be hard-pressed to find bartenders willing to come back to your place and whip up drinks in your living room. Fortunately, enjoying cocktails in the warm and inviting atmosphere of CU29 is the next best thing. Order a handcrafted cocktail, sit back in a leather booth, and relax in the copper-surrounded “cocktail lab” located in the heart of Downtown. (Just be sure to leave your pants on… this isn’t actually your living room.)
Specialty cocktail: "Serenata: ¼oz house-made chocolate mint/grapefruit blended juice, ¾oz aperitif wine, 2oz mezcal. Shake and fine strain into mini coup, zest grapefruit peel, and garnish. It's a delicate balance that serenades your tastebuds, simplicity and complexity in one. Sometimes you need to clear your mind and let your senses do the work. Mezcal can be exciting and challenging because you don’t want to take away or hide that beautiful smoke. You need to fully embrace what it has to offer. I could make a similar comparison to our guests as well."
Her favorite part of working at CU29: "One of the reasons I love what I do is because each person has something unique to offer and has distinctive likes and dislikes. In order to serve them something they’ll enjoy, it’s important to take the time to understand each individual. It’s fantastic getting to know the person on the other side of the bar and give them an experience they’ll remember in a positive way. We really take pride in delivering our customers something they can 'wow' about! That always puts a smile on our faces. We have a lot to offer on our menu, including all types of craft cocktails, along with local Austin beer. We also have an 'off the menu' list that we often recommend, or we'll come up with drinks on the spot and make something perfect, just for that customer."
Where she drinks when she’s not working: "Radio Coffee for some bluegrass on Mondays with a great beer or coffee, Firehouse for a delicious cocktail and positive high energy from the staff, Bender Bar for great wings and a little attitude."
What she loves about Austin: "I really enjoy being active, and Austin offers so much for a lifestyle filled with yoga, biking, and hiking. I love being able to go to the water or meet up for a yoga event. The art is awesome here too... it's everywhere you look! The bartenders in this town have a great community and mostly help and support each other; I love that!"
Ben Seay and Jason Ducharme
Whether you’re a rabid fan of ruby reds, a lover of lemonade, a sucker for sweet tea, or partial to peach, Deep Eddy has you covered with vodkas featuring legit ingredients like real fruit juices, essential oils, and local honey. (For the record, it also has your cranberry cravings covered.) While a bit out of town, the distillery is a drinking destination that’s worth the trip for both facility tours, mixed drinks, and vodka flights. Just be sure you arrange for a ride back.
Ben: "So, I like spicy stuff. We have a Ruby Mule on our list that is essentially a Moscow mule using our Ruby vodka. Whenever anyone asks, 'What's good?' I always suggest what I call the Bucking Mule. The old-school drink, Moscow mule, now recently being made popular again, like Paul McCartney in a Kanye West video, was originally called a Buck. I simply throw some jalapeños in the mix and muddle in with the lime juice and build the rest of the drink (ruby red vodka, ginger beer) around it. Very refreshing drink with a kick."
Jason: "My specialty cocktail isn’t even a cocktail at all. It’s serving our barrel-aged, infused vodkas. I started the Deep Eddy: Age Of Vodka program a short two months ago with the idea that we can change people's perception on what vodka’s limitations are. Our barrel-aged Peach Vodka tastes like a fresh slice of peach cobbler after sitting in a charred new American oak barrel for a few short weeks."
Their favorite part of working at Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery:
Ben: "I have worked in bars ranging from speed bars in Little Rock, AR to fine dining in Dubai, UAE. What I appreciate about Deep Eddy is how everyone genuinely cares for each other, the customer and the product. We are slinging vodka. It's not a crazy horse we have to tame. But, it's not made by a guy in a lab coat who's manipulating acids to make chlorine taste like a strawberry. Our peach vodka tastes like peach because there's a peach in it."
Jason: "I love working at the Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery because it has this almost seamless transition from nature to someone's home. The fun that is cultivated here is by both guests and staff alike… and it’s contagious. You can’t help but notice someone enjoying food from one of our many local food trucks, or the excitement in someone's eye when they learn about how their favorite vodka is created."
Where they drink when they’re not working:
Ben: "I have only been back in the States for about a month and a half, so have been hitting up as many places as possible in the time I've had… I have a very strong top three, but I don't think I'm ready to throw out my favorite."
Jason: "I am a sucker for classic cocktails and a good conversation. I find both at Firehouse Lounge & Hostel -- the most obvious secret bar in Austin, right next to Sixth Street and hidden behind a sliding bookshelf. This staff mixes up exact measures of well-made drinks and hilarity. Ask for Carolyn, Bradley, or Quincy. Tell them Jason from Deep Eddy sent you."
What they love about Austin:
Ben: "Austin is great because of tacos."
Jason: "This is a town that thrives on creativity and isn’t afraid to give credit to those creating it. If you are looking for the city dubbed the Live Music Capital of the World, then be prepared to meet its alter ego, Cocktail Mecca of Texas."
Whether you’re in the market for a perfect rendition of a classic concoction, or want to summon vacation vibes with a Tiki cocktail, this cool little gastropub, usually buzzing with enthusiastic imbibers, has you covered. As if the drinks weren’t enough, the bar ups the experience ante with its kitchen, which offers you the unique opportunity to enjoy your drink(s) with a homemade Twinkie. (Trust us: take advantage of this opportunity.)
Specialty cocktail: "My favorite cocktail is hands down a Sazerac made with Cognac. The Sazerac was the first drink I learned to make really well, and I always get excited when someone orders it. When I first learned to make it, I was taught to flame the lemon peel, something I don't do now, but the look on people's faces when that flame bursts out is priceless."
Her favorite part of working at drink.well.: "Working behind the bar at drink.well. has been the best job I have ever had. I love that we are a small neighborhood bar and the sense of community is strong. When there is a local event, a storm, or even if the power goes out in the neighborhood, we are the safe haven. We have some of the most incredible regulars, and it gives the whole place a sense of family."
Where she drinks when she’s not working: "I love going to Whisler’s after a long day. Gorgeous porch, kickass bartenders, awesome music, great food that is served late (critical for bartenders pulling late shifts), and always amazing drinks. I especially love the frozen daiquiri they have at the moment. So refreshing on a hot summer day."
What she loves about Austin: "My favorite part of Austin is the swimming! At any given point in time, you have a million gorgeous places to cool off, lots of which are within minutes of where you are. One of the many things that makes Austin unique."
One of Rainey Street’s most established bars, Icenhauer’s offers an extensive drink menu featuring infused liquors and a refreshing selection of seasonal drinks. All the cocktails are named after important females -- or in some cases, um, ex-females -- in the employees’ lives, including the Allison, a twist on sangria that’s a special during the bar's packed Sunday Fundays.
Specialty cocktail: “The Avery: grilled pineapple and jalapeño-infused tequila mixed with lime juice and coconut water, garnished with a lime and coconut flakes. It’s a fun drink to make, but has a little bit of a long prep time due to the grilled pineapple and infusion process. I slice up pineapple and grill it with a little bit of coconut oil to bring out the natural sugars in the fruit. This also gives the tequila a little bit of a sweet 'char' flavor. Add the jalapeños and pineapple to silver tequila and let it infuse for about 24 hours. It comes out with a nice grilled sweetness as well as a mild spiciness."
His favorite part of working at Icenhauer’s: "My favorite part is working with a staff that truly cares about the work they do and the effort they put into it. Working behind a bar is also like working in a lab. I have the tools to experiment with different drinks and always have a great test audience (bar patrons) who can taste test. We take pride in keeping our bar clean and providing a fun, relaxing atmosphere for ourselves as well as the most important people: the guests. I’d take working in the bar over a cubicle/office building any day!"
Where he drinks when he’s not working: "I tend to hang out at places that aren’t so busy. When I’m off, I want to relax and unwind with a nice cocktail or glass of wine. I have a few places I tend to hang out at, but I want to keep that a secret."
What he loves about Austin: "Austin is an amazing town with lots of diversity and options for fun! The food and drink scene is awesome. Even though it might get a little hot during the summer, there are plenty of places to go to cool off. If I want to get out of the city, I don’t have to go very far to feel like I’m many miles away. If I feel like grabbing a nice meal with good drinks, there are many options close to home."
One of Austin’s newest haunts, this “1970s Palm Beach rebel-woman-inspired patio bar” features walls adorned with palm trees and pink flamingos, dishes filled with Dum Dums, and a shallow pool out back that will persuade even the stuffiest patron to slip off their shoes, roll up their skinny jeans, and get their feet wet (remember: no running). Throw in a few frozen drinks, a giant crystal bowl full of Key Punch, and a selection of kickass cocktails, and you’re officially on vacation -- even though, technically, you never left the city.
Specialty cocktail: "Kitty Cohen's has a bunch of iconic cocktails that are really fun to make, but for me, I loved perfecting the art of the Damn Good Bloody Mary back in Denton, TX at good ol' 2 Charlies! I like to start with tomato juice, add fresh black pepper, and go crazy from there with a wheat or potato vodka base. Served in a big ol' pint coated with salt, lime, and celery, it's a snack and a cocktail. So simple, yet so enjoyable. Kitty was definitely a Bloody Mary gal."
Her favorite part of working at Kitty Cohen’s: "It's new, different, and just so beautiful. It doesn't hurt having my buddy Jeremy Murray as a boss, either. The bar takes you back to when things were a lot more simple; we play records, have classic cocktails, and of course have Dum Dum suckers on top of the bar for everyone's enjoyment. The patio is an oasis of umbrellas and a sitting pool, and yes, you can take a small dip if you want."
Where she drinks when she’s not working: "I have a great home bar and love hanging there with my lady and friends. When I feel like being out and about, I love Workhorse and Dive Bar. They both have great neighborhood atmospheres."
What she loves about Austin: "I love the water; if I could hike and play in water every day, I would. There is just so much to explore in town and within a few miles of city limits."
One of the best hidden bars in Austin, Midnight Cowboy is a classy, beautifully decorated bar that serves as a refreshing alternative to the rowdy, sticky-floored Sixth Street bars surrounding it, both in ambience and cocktail quality. Book a reservation or try your luck at the door. As for how to find the speakeasy? Don’t worry -- we’ve got you covered.
Specialty cocktail: "Gin-Soaked Goy: a dry, savory gin julep. Ingredients: 2oz London dry-style gin, infused with a bit of pink peppercorn for 24 hours; sage gastrique, basically a reduced sage syrup cut with a bit of white wine vinegar. Combine 2oz gin, ½oz sage gastrique into a julep cup. Stir with plenty of crushed ice, then pack tightly with more crushed ice. Stick a straw in it and call it a day."
His favorite part of working at Midnight Cowboy: "Location, location, location. We’re tucked away in a nondescript building in the middle of the 'Dirty Sixth' portion of historic Sixth Street in Downtown Austin. Basically, we’re a modern cocktail bar in the middle of our version of Bourbon Street. We’re surrounded by shot bars, college bars, and general drunk chaos, so it’s always a pleasure to see the surprise on our guests’ faces when they walk through the door for the first time. The contrast in ambience couldn’t be more unexpected."
Where he drinks when he’s not working: "King Bee for the rad frozen drinks and the massive mezcal list. Barfly’s for the casual atmosphere and some of my favorite bartenders in town."
What he loves about Austin: "I feel like Central Austin is one of the biggest towns in the country. That is, there’s only a few degrees of separation between myself and any new acquaintance. In a 10-mile radius you’re sure to bump into friends at every turn, which can be hard if you’re running on a tight schedule, but it surely makes get-togethers a snap."
Given the barely marked entry, simply finding Small Victory -- a speakeasy of sorts -- can feel like a small victory in and of itself. After entering one of Austin’s newer haunts, simply climb the stairs, sidle up to the long bar, and examine your elixir options, which include martinis, both traditional and reworked cocktails, and punch bowls that are big enough to share. (And seriously, you should probably share. You’re going to have to go down those stairs too, after all.)
Specialty cocktail: "Harry The Hunter: Puerto Rican and Demerara rum, Velvet Falernum, allspice dram, bitters, absinthe, grenadine, and fresh lime juice... over crushed ice."
His favorite part of working Small Victory: "One of the things I appreciate most about Small Victory is the attention to detail. The staff is extremely experienced and trained in the proper technique, the correct proportions are used, the selection in the back bar is impressive, and juice is prepared daily. This can also be seen in the décor as well as the state-of-the-art ice program and wide variety of syrups made in-house, including orgeat, coconut, and passion fruit syrup. All of the cocktails on the menu are stellar, not to mention the compendium of hundreds of classic cocktails the staff has been trained in making to specifications."
Where he drinks when he’s not working: "I really like what Steven Robbins is doing over at Half Step. Midnight Cowboy is another favorite. Also, I’m a sucker for a good frozen cocktail, and King Bee always has a new one on the menu. They also have an awesome mezcal selection, and my wife loves the Sketches of Yucatan pizza."
What he loves about Austin: "I love going to one of the many great, dog-friendly parks to go hiking and swimming with my family. Cooling off at Barton Springs before I go to work is another favorite thing that is unique to living here. And having a big, private backyard to hang out in is pretty awesome, too."
While Domain Northside might be viewed by many as a spot to shop, the area is exploding with entertainment options, and St. Genevieve is a pilgrimage-worthy drinking and dining destination, whether you live five minutes away or all the way across Austin. Along with a solid wine list, beers, and innovative cocktail options, the spot up north also features an excellent selection of “divine dishes for the devout drinker,” guaranteeing all your consumption bases are totally covered.
Specialty cocktail: "My favorite cocktail at St. Genevieve is the Audrey. It is a flavorful blend of herbs and fruit, mixed with pisco -- it is so refreshing. You simply muddle fig with a bit of thyme syrup and lime, mix with pisco, St-Germain, and a dab of vermouth, shake and strain, top with mineral water, and enjoy. Delicious!"
Favorite part of working at St. Genevieve: "St. Genevieve is such a beautiful and charming place to be. The cocktails are inventive and fun, the food is scrumptious, and the people friendly and inviting. There is always a great energy in the air, and there are so many combinations and flavors to try, it is really a no-brainer on a fun night out."
Where she drinks when she’s not working: "Being situated among lots of other new and exciting places on Rock Rose in the Domain [means] there is always somewhere to go. I like 77 Degrees, Jack & Ginger's, Dogwood, and I am excited about the opening of Rose Room."
What she loves about Austin: "Austin is one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the world. There is a bit of something for everyone, and there are fun and exciting surprises around every corner. As much as we complain about construction and traffic, there is always something new happening -- as if we are constantly rewarded for our patience."
Though you might live in Austin, you should probably consider a staycation at the Hotel Van Zandt, purely for proximity to the in-house restaurant, Geraldine’s. Not only does the eatery offer an amazing take on breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, but when it comes to cocktails, its bar team has mad skills -- and the accolades to prove it.
Specialty cocktail: "We recently won a competition called The Official Drink of Austin. We're very proud of this cocktail because it shows the ties we have to Austin and Texas as a locale. We wanted to use ingredients that come from the area and remind drinkers of where they are. We start by using two locally produced liquors, Treaty Oak Rum and Paula's Texas Orange. We then use pecan orgeat, apple juice, and lime juice -- kind of a Texas Mai Tai, if you will. With all of the tree references (oak, pecan, apple), and the riff of a classic, we called it Far From the Tree. This is a true Texas drink."
Her favorite part about working at Geraldine’s: "Geraldine's is a unique space. We are on the fourth floor of the Hotel Van Zandt, located steps away from the Rainey Street entertainment district. We have live music every day of the week, and stellar sunset views off our adjoining pool deck. Geraldine's provides the perfect line between elevated dining and a laid-back attitude that I love. The food is some of the best in the city, and we've worked really hard to create a bar program that's award-winning. We don't skimp on quality or creativity, but leave all the pretension, ego, and bravado that typically come along with those things. If you're not having fun at our bar, then we aren't doing something right!"
Where she drinks when she’s not working: "There are plenty of great options for drinks in Austin. I could name a ton, but you will frequently find me at the same few spots. Half Step on Rainey with its super-crafty ice program and great people. King Bee is a fantastic craft-dive bar that makes the most amazing pizza in town and has a very envious selection of mezcal! VOX Table has a bar team that knows how to have fun and a kitchen that knows how to wow. Small Victory is quaint, quiet, and delicious. A perfect place to unwind and have a great conversation. Again, I could go on and on…"
What she loves about Austin: "Austin has been my home for almost 19 years. It's very unique in that people from everywhere have chosen Austin as their home. The city wins people over daily, I've witnessed countless times in my years here. There is a certain laid-back attitude that Austin has that I think people are attracted to. There's no lack of sophistication, quality, or options; just a more relaxed mindset to it all."
Located in the middle of Congress Ave, The Townsend serves as a natural go-to happy hour spot for Downtown nine-to-fivers of all walks of life. The bar has the bustling, upscale vibe, impressive drink menu, and elegant small bites to attract suit-wearing clientele, while the lack of pretentiousness makes the spot equally attractive to the hoodie-wearing tech startup set. (If there’s one thing that brings people together, clearly it’s kickass cocktails.)
Specialty cocktail: "All spring and summer for me it's gonna be all about the Canopy Cocktail. Old Highborn Gin, Becherovka, lime juice, sugar, and a wee dash of Tempus Fugit Creme de Menthe. It's just super-lean and refreshing, and the balance of the warming spice in the Becherovka with the cooling notes of the Old Highborn is really rewarding. And it's adorably garnished with a sprig of Mexican oregano (also called rosemary-mint) from the garden at my house."
Favorite part of working at The Townsend: "There's something really liberating and rewarding about knowing that no matter what is going on with a guest's preferences, we're going to be able to scratch that itch. It takes a lot of the scramble out of the experience, and so we have the chance to really focus on the hospitality side of things. 'Go out and make some friends,' I always say at pre-shift. I love this team. I love these guests. It's such a thrill to be able to watch over the course of this first year as we cultivate relationships with our community. That's what drives me the most. I love being in this weird corner of Downtown. This couple of blocks was such a vibrant hub of nightlife 70, 80 years ago, and I really want to do all I can to speak to that and work with our neighbors to bring that back."
Where he drinks when he’s not working: "I always have to show love to my neighbors at Garage and Small Victory and Roosevelt Room and Midnight Cowboy and Firehouse. Those crews are all homies from way back, and I love that we're all kind of throwing everything we've got at making some noise Downtown."
What he loves about Austin: "This town has been unbelievably kind to me. The weather may be a little punishing this time of year, but in every other way this town is just so kind. They used to joke that it was where the rednecks and the hippies got together and made peace over a joint, and the same is still kinda awesomely true, even if it's expanded in scope. People from every walk of life, every subculture, with every possible sensibility, just all seem to get along, bouncing around the same bars and restaurants and taco trucks and coffee shops."
East Cesar Chavez
The Austin outpost of the Weather Up bar trio (the others are in New York) is hidden in plain sight in a house on the East Side. On breezy evenings, the backyard serves as an amazing oasis, while the immaculate interior -- with its luxe leather booths and a shiny copper bar -- serves as the perfect place to put back a few and escape happy-hour heat. While the bar is known for its ice (seriously), what’s even better is the selection of cocktails it's pouring over that ice.
Specialty Cocktail: "The Arraquiri: made with Batavia arrack, lime, grapefruit, sugar, and Peychaud's Bitters. Batavia arrack is a 100-proof Indonesian red rice and sugar cane spirit. Strong, funky, and not for the faint of heart, arrack nevertheless pairs amazingly with grapefruit. A play on the classic daiquiri, the Arraquiri is a great way to get acquainted with this formidable yet interesting spirit."
His favorite part of working at Weather Up: "One of my favorite parts about working at Weather Up is that it is a destination spot. Not having a sign, and being several blocks east of Downtown, we don't get a whole lot of random drunk walk-up traffic. People come here for a reason and therefore are excited to be here. This leads to a greater amount of mutual respect between guest and bartender/server that also I think lets both parties relax and let their guard down a bit. The staff here is alright, too."
Where he drinks when he’s not working: "When I'm not drinking Smith & Cross under the bridge across the street from my house, I like to go to bars where I can get a shot of tequila and a cold can of beer with little formality, but also get a La Louisiane or a Vieux Carre if I’m feeling fancy or Cajun for some reason. King Bee is a great example. Also, it's patio season. Hard Luck Lounge and Shangri-La have great patios and usually a good soundtrack to drink to."
What he loves most about Austin: "Mostly the winters... This city is changing so rapidly, which in spite of the inevitable mistreatments and tribulations that come with that growth, make it a ripe time for folks with good ideas to put themselves out there and make those ideas reality. This goes for bars as well as venues, bands, and small studios and labels. Most of the folks I know in the service industry also play music, so there is a lot of really great crossover and interaction/networking happening between those inevitably coexisting worlds, which is a cool thing to be a part of."
Located essentially at the tail end of the string of bars lining East Sixth, Whisler’s is in a league of its own, with a staff stacked with friendly and skilled bartenders who mix and muddle both indoors and out. While there are bar stools and a few tables inside, the real draw is the expansive patio dotted with patio furniture and lined with picnic tables ideal for devouring dishes from the highly acclaimed Thai-Kun truck parked on-site.
Specialty cocktail: "Angel Eyes, named for Lee Van Cleef's character in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, since it combines Italian influences (Cocchi Americano) with the Western frontier (tequila). Tequila, blueberry sage syrup, Cocchi Americano, lime."
Her favorite part of working at Whisler’s: "At Whisler's the space is great, the staff is great... it has such a laid-back feeling, and high-quality products. It's almost like working in fine dining without the dress code."
Where she drinks when she’s not working: "I'm a big fan of The Grackle, it’s such a low-key spot. Corner Bar, too. I'll do the Roosevelt Room or VOX Table or maybe even Winebelly if I feel like cocktails or really nice wine."
What she loves about Austin: "I was born here and grew up here and continue to love how we have natural spots like the Greenbelt or Barton Springs that you can go to, and then go sit down for steak or pizza or tacos or Tex-Mex, or oysters, or pasta right after, and most of the time [my dog] Barracuda can go too!"
Sign up here for our daily Austin email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
1. The Roosevelt Room307 W 5th St, Austin
2. Backbeat1300 South Lamar, Austin
3. Cheer Up Charlie's900 Red River St, Austin
4. Craftsman2000 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin
5. CU29 Cocktail Bar720 Brazos St, Austin
6. Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery2250 E Highway 290, Dripping Springs
7. drink.well.207 E 53rd St, Austin
8. Icenhauer's83 Rainey St, Austin
9. Kitty Cohen's2211 Webberville Rd, Austin
10. Midnight Cowboy313 E 6th St, Austin
11. Small Victory108 E 7th St, Austin
12. St Genevieve11500 Rock Rose Avenue, Austin
13. Geraldine's605 Davis St Ste 400, Austin
14. The Townsend718 Congress Ave Ste 100, Austin
15. Weather Up1808 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin
16. Whisler's1816 East 6th St, Austin
Drinking at The Roosevelt Room is like a history lesson in liquor. The giant cocktail menu over the bar is broken into classic cocktails and the corresponding eras in which they were created. Travel through time via Sazeracs, Mai Tais, and Paper Planes, or try one of Roosevelt's signature drinks. The Roosevelt Room is an industrial space in the Warehouse District that is dominated by a long, stool-lined bar and wood-and-velvet booths.
Backbeat is a lush space that oozes mid-century modern cool. A rooftop deck provides gorgeous views of South Austin and the cocktail menu is fresh and inventive. You can also enjoy fresh East Coast oysters and charcuterie plates while sipping on any of the delicious drinks.
This Red River favorite welcomes all walks of life to its lodgelike indoor space and spacious outdoor patio. The unique cocktails are made from fresh juices and vegan ingredients, and the artistic decor makes you feel like you're at an art exhibition. Live music brings the crowds in addition to drag shows and special events.
This East Cesar Chavez bar, housed in the former Cap’s Gameroom, set up shop amongst fellow bars Stay Gold and Drinks Lounge. The concept is simple: maintain a casual "house-party vibe" with live DJs, draft cocktails, and cheap tallboys & wells. Come to expect events like yoga brunch and tetherball games.
A cocktailery obviously named after copper's description in the periodic table, CU29's got delicious and inventive boozy treats served up in a space as comfortable as your living room. Cozy leather booths and dim lighting create a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy artfully crafted cocktails you definitely wouldn't be mixing on your own.
Deep Eddy in Dripping Springs distills vodka with real fruit juices, essential oils, and local honey, creating a wealth of unique spirit flavors. You can take a tour of the facilities, try vodka flights and drink craft cocktails. All of the bartenders and distillers are passionate about their brand and happy to customize something unique for you.
This American gastropub specializes in craft cocktails with fresh ingredients, boasting more than 75 different whiskeys and a whole section of the menu devoted to tiki cocktails. Though imbibing is the main event here, the food does not suffer because of it. You'll want to check out the homemade twinkies that change flavors weekly.
Icenhauer's is a casual Rainy Street suds spot, a two-roomed affair given a living-room vibe via wood walls, a chandelier made out of wine glasses, and vintage lime-green/cream-colored furniture. There's an extensive drink menu featuring infused liquors and seasonal drinks. Look out for live music nights and chicken and waffles on Sundays.
This Webberville bar brings a 1970s Palm Beach bungalow vibe to the neighborhood, serving plenty of fruity punches and tiki drinks. You'll find plastic palm trees, pink flamingos and even a shallow wading pool. The place is equal parts tropical and trashy, with an endless summer vibe that'll make you kick on back in spite of yourself.
Once part of Austin's red light district, The Midnight Cowboy pays tribute to its former brothel glory as a reservations-only, buzz-in cocktail lair, where clients are encouraged to flirt with staff as long as they abide by house rules. Reservations are for two hours and there’s a two-drink minimum per guest. With so many expertly crafted cocktails to choose from, you can’t really go wrong -- some of them are even prepared table-side.
Making your way into Small Victory feels like an undercover experience. The door downstairs is marked, though not obviously; then, you walk up a small flight of stairs, open the wooden door, and behold... a small, beautiful bar full of people. The menu offers vintage cocktails and punch drinks large enough to share.
This drinking and dining destination in Rock Rose pairs cocktails with small plates in an elevated environment. There's a dedicated lounge DJ spinning in the modern space with blue velvet-backed chairs and sleek wood tables. Wooden shelves holding rows of pottery line the walls, and a circular bar sits in the center of the room. It's known for an epic Sunday brunch, complete with a DIY Bloody Mary bar.
Geraldine’s -- located on the fourth floor of the swanky Hotel Van Zandt -- offers up elevated American cuisine, craft cocktails, and live music in a chic, massive space. The menu features dishes inflected by local Austin flavors, like fermented chile hush puppies with pickled fennel ranch, cornmeal-fried oyster mushrooms, and local goat tartare. Head to the rooftop bar and enjoy unparalleled views of Lady Bird Lake as you sip cocktails poolside.
Located in the middle of Congress Ave, The Townsend serves as a natural go-to happy hour spot for Downtown nine-to-fivers. There's a bustling, upscale vibe to the place, and occasional live music nights really bring in crowds. Open from 4pm - 2am every day, The Townsend is a great place to order a small plate and a signature cocktail after a long day at work.
Coming to Austin via NYC, this sophisticated cocktail haunt's wide selection of cocktails are categorized by their respective spirit, allowing for a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style experience. A large, outdoor garden area makes this the perfect place to imbibe when the weather's looking...well you get it. Booze isn't the only thing on the menu here, though; we like to do brunch here with a spicy Bloody Mary and picks from their fancy brunch menu which is still somehow flying under the radar.
Whisler’s is the the go-to patio on the East Side for great classic cocktails, spicy eats from Thai-Kun, live music shows, and ample seating. And, while the outside of Whisler’s may seem pretty ordinary, the bar’s unique brand of elegance is evident inside, where the juxtaposition of different elements makes for a truly lovely place in which to do your drinking. Chandeliers and candles cast a glow on stone walls, while a few tiny tables exist for quiet conversation. Drinks are muddled behind a gleaming wooden bar, and other unexpected touches -- intentionally cloudy mirrors, the occasional piece of art -- combine to create a one-of-a-kind feel.