You swiped right, they swiped right, and now it's time for the big date, some drinks, and later on, possibly -- well, let’s not get TOO far ahead of ourselves. First you need plans. Dinner seems like a bit much of a commitment right off the bat. Drinks? Drinks are great! Who doesn't like drinks?!
You want a place that's lively, but not too loud. But then, not too quiet, either. Someplace nice, but not "I'm trying WAY too hard" nice. You see the dilemma. Luckily for you (and your date!), these 10 bars are there for you. How the rest of the evening goes is on you.
If you have to engage in stilted small talk anyway, why not do it on Hopfields' huge patio off Guadalupe? The house’s Bloody Mary and select Pedro Ximénez cocktails offer convenient sipping when the pauses grow long and cumbersome, while the house-made charcuterie board makes for salty snacking alongside an order of pommes frites.
Impress your future S.O. with select knowledge of the city’s hidden spots. Garage is tucked away into a literal parking garage, which means you’ll look super cool (or creepy) guiding your unsuspecting date into the former valet’s ticketing office. Once you’re in, treat your company to an Indian Paintbrush cocktail nominated the "Official Drink of Austin" in 2015. If vodka, grapefruit juice, lime, rosemary syrup, and Peychaud’s bitters don’t tickle their fancy, go for the Queen Anne’s Lace made of French G'Vine Floraison gin, sarsaparilla bitters, carrot, lime, peach, and maple.
Typically, bowling is a cliche first date idea but at The Goodnight, you can have your Mount Bonnell (blueberry sage-infused Waterloo gin with lime, seltzer, and Chambord) and drink it too. For a grown-up’s idea of a good time, try any number of the bar’s beers, wines, or cocktails while shooting pool, playing table tennis, or bowling strikes on the venue’s eight vintage lanes. When you get hungry from slinging balls, do the right thing with duck burger sliders dressed with smoked Gouda and apricot dijon purée.
Swing by the convenience store and stay awhile. At Whip In, even the pickiest paramour can find love amongst the 72 beer tap offerings unique to the multi-titled dhabapub, brewery, market, music venue, and grocery store. Try the house-brewed Flanders-style oud bruin Brownsahib or the Kalidurgale, and "end of the world" barley wine made with espresso, molasses, and cardamom.
Peché gets you points for its Prohibition-style cocktails, but the real appeal is its absinthe offerings, including tastes of Versinthe and Pernod served straight from France. In the ambient lounge area, slurp down whiskey cocktails to more quickly get to the main event: the Peché adult milkshake, made with vanilla ice cream, Luxardo cherry liqueur, and absinthe. How romantic is that?
Open the bookcase in the lobby of the Firehouse Hostel to reveal a low-lit cocktail lounge replete with booths for canoodling and libations for inhibition prohibiting. Get down on baguette plates while imbibing any one of their craft cocktails. Choose a Brooklynite made with añejo rum, lime, honey, and Angostura bitters, or make sweet with a Kir Royal concoction of sparkling wine, cassis, and lemon zest.
Just picture it -- you and your date getting chummy over Pimm’s Cups in the back room of the Tigress on North Loop. If the vibes are really meshing, stay long enough to try the whole cocktail menu. With offerings like the White Dove -- white port, triple sec, dry vermouth, elderflower liqueur, and grapefruit bitters -- and the Hawaiian room made with Applejack brandy, Treaty Oak rum, Cointreau, pineapple syrup, and lemon juice, you're both bound to be in good spirits. Heyo!
On the East side, Whisler’s sits with a full menu of classic and original cocktails to lubricate stiff conversation or encourage further chatting. Roll with the Curious Jorge made with kummel, banana liqueur, lemon, and orgeat, and then, if you’re both feeling it, head upstairs to the spot’s Oaxacan-style mezcaleria for a wide selection of mezcals served in traditional clay copitas. You also can’t go wrong with any combination of provisions from the venue’s on-site East Side King food truck. Beef Panang Curry? Delicious. Thai-Kun Fried Chicken? Yum. Waterfall Pork? Must have.
The good ol’ fake-out. Make like you’re taking your date down Sixth Street, only to slide into Midnight Cowboy, an out-of-the-way brothel-turned-bar that you’ll miss if you don’t know where you’re going. You’ll have to get a reservation -- fancy points! -- to taste the venue’s ‘Alamagoozlum’ made of rum, curaçao, Angostura bitters, Demerara syrup, Chartreuse, and egg white, but the extra stretch is well worth it. If ever there was an appropriate time to use the word intimate, this is it.
Comfort is the key to a casual first date at Lucille on Rainey. Lounge on the outdoor patio or inside the renovated house bar with drink in hand as your date bemoans his or her recent ex (but it’s ok, they’re "over it"). Keep chill with the bar’s original frozen cocktails like the Cucumbertini or the El Jefe Loco-Rita and you won’t even notice the hours pass -- hopefully.
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1. Hopfields3110 Guadalupe St, Austin
2. Garage503 Colorado St, Austin
3. The Goodnight2700 W Anderson Ln, Austin
4. Whip In1950 S Interstate 35, Austin
5. Peche208 W 4th St, Austin
6. Firehouse Lounge605 Brazos St, Ste 100, Austin
7. The Tigress100 W North Loop, Austin
8. Whisler's1816 East 6th St, Austin
9. Midnight Cowboy313 E 6th St, Austin
10. Lucille77 Rainey St, Austin
A cathedral-inspired gastropub, Hopfields creates an upscale atmosphere where locals can enjoy craft beer, French wine, and a menu filled with French cuisine (or, at least, French-inspired takes on American classics). You can opt of a low key night of cheese plates and Pinot Grigio, or chow down on the colossal Pascal Burger and a nice craft beer.
One of the most exciting drink menus in Austin is also one of the most hidden. Keep your eyes peeled as you head to dark, industrial Garage: it's tucked inside the parking garage on Colorado and marked by a turquoise neon sign. Feeling something citrus-y and herbal? Go for the Indian Paintbrush (vodka, grapefruit, lime, rosemary). Looking to go bold? Consider trying the Forked Tongue (sotol, jalapeno, lime, green chartreuse, saline).
Since it's weird that South Austin gets to keep all the fun, the North Side's making a play for your attention with The Goodnight.
Whip In has a lot going for it: 72 beers on tap, growlers for you to take your brews home, live music every night of the week, and Indian cuisine with a Texas flare.
Consciously attempting to recreate the European art of mixology that was largely lost in America as a result of Prohibition, Peche is a genuine cocktail paradise, and it's the only place in Austin that you can experience absinthe "in its true form".
Located in Austin’s oldest standing fire station, built in 1885, the Firehouse Lounge is a speakeasy hidden behind a bookshelf in the Firehouse Hostel’s lobby. With cerise damask wallpaper and candlelit tables in an otherwise dimly lit space, the split-level cocktail room is redolent of an old jazz club, which is fitting as the Firehouse Lounge doubles as a music venue, featuring DJs and jazz, blues, and rock musicians. Craft cocktails change seasonally and can be paired with the menu of small bites, including sandwiches and snacks.
Intimately tiny and British mainly in vibe, this pub's decked out with steam-punkish touches like custom wood-worked benches & stools and a copper mushroom-headed beer tap, which spews imperial pints of Guinness, Live Oak Hefeweizen, Independence Brown, and more.
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.
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.
The dudes behind a slew of 6th St college haunts (Friends, Cheers, Touche) are also responsible for Lucille: a decidedly date-friendly Rainey St bar complete with polished hardwoods, velvet curtains, and a delicately lit, xeriscaped patio on which to enjoy a menu of signature martinis and draft beers like a (512) Porter.