Given this town’s proximity to Mexico, affinity for tacos, and large mature, responsible, college-aged population, Austin’s love for tequila should come as no surprise. But when it comes to serving up that potent agave-juice, some places are simply better than others. These are those places:
South Austin (Slaughter Lane)
The name 400 Rabbits stems from Aztec mythology, where it represents the gods of intoxication. The goal of these rabbits was to deliver the gift of insobriety to people across the land, so there may be no better fitting name for this (or any) bar, which specializes in tequila cocktails -- and with more than 45 tequilas and mezcals to choose from, they certainly deliver. The cocktails are fantastic, the atmosphere is fun, and the service is always quick. And the cherry on top? The place is also connected to the Alamo Drafthouse.
Whistler's is everything you’d want in an East Austin night, including plenty of outdoor seating, year-round christmas lights, old buildings, and weird tequila-based cocktails like the “Jack and the Devil,” which neatly blends reposado tequila, cold brew coffee, pumpkin, cream, and Abbott's bitters. As a bonus, if you head up the sketchy stairs in the front, you’ll find Mezcalería Tobalá, a super tiny mezcal bar staffed by likely the most passionate mezcal enthusiasts in Austin.
508, to pretty much nobody’s surprise, serves tequila. Lots of tequila, in fact, with over 50 types in constant rotation. And they do inventive things with that tequila, too, such as putting it in their almost infamous “Cuernos Largos” -- a margarita so strong, customers are only permitted to order two.
La Condesa is a well-stocked agave hub with more than 80 labels filling the shelves behind the eye-catching wooden bar. They also features an ever-changing lineup of small batch tequilas, and a half-price happy hour 5pm-7pm to allow you to enjoy them without breaking the bank.
Takoba consistently has some of the most knowledgeable staff in the city when it comes to tequila, so if you’re looking to learn (or just to get a palate-matching recommendation), this is the spot. They may have a “mere” 25 different types of tequila, but they more than make up for it with their extensive, 60+ strong mezcal collection.
At Tacos and Tequila (TNT) you can choose from a vast 160 different types of tequila, which they serve up in a huge range flights, or in some expertly mixed cocktails. Also, let’s not forget they do tacos, and their all-you-can-eat buffet brunch will absolutely make your weekend.
West 6th St
Benji’s rooftop allows you to take in a gorgeous view (down West 6th St) as well as a collection of 80 different types of tequila -- many of which go into their delicious cocktails, most notably the praise-lavished Tequila Old Fashioned.
North Austin/North Burnet
Casa Chapala may well hold Austin’s record for the most varieties of tequila in one place. Owner Guadalupe “Lupe” Barragan, a tequila fanatic, recently added a “cata” (a tasting room) with a staggering 200+ varieties of the stuff. Most nights you’ll be able to meet Lupe himself, who has become a bit of a local legend with his generous pours and complimentary samples.
Sign up here for our daily Austin email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Brent Underwood is the founder of HK Austin, a 16-bed co-living and co-working space in the heart of Austin. He can most often be found roaming the streets of East Austin with a variety of foreigners in tow.
1. 400 Rabbits Bar5701 W Slaughter Ln, Austin
2. Whisler's1816 East 6th St, Austin
3. Pelons, 508, and Zorro802 Red River St, Austin
4. La Condesa400 W 2nd St, Austin
5. Takoba1411 E 7th St, Austin
6. TNT - Tacos and Tequila507 Pressler St, Austin
7. Benji's Cantina716 W 6th St, Austin
8. Casa Chapala Mexican Grill & Cantina9041 Research Blvd Ste 100, Austin
Named after an Aztec legend in which the god of agave birthed hundreds of hares who suckled her 400 tequila-filled teats (Spring Break, woo!), 400's a lounge with a candelabra chandelier, cushy black leather booths, and a green velvet ceiling, attached to the new Slaughter Ln Drafthouse, which is not to be confused with the Warrant or Winger Ln Drafthouse.
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.
Incorporating the design elements of the local legend that was once housed here, Pelons is a dark, cantina-like room with dining areas where you can choose items from a massive Mexican menu. 508 is the margarita-slinging bar sandwiched between Pelons and the back patio, where you'll find the Zorro food trailer, serving up treats like gorditas and sesame-fried avocado strips.
La Condesa is the place to go if you're looking for traditional Mexican flavor with modern Austin flair. The menu, offering up handfuls of tortas, taquitos, combos, and a few other staples, is shorter than most, but there's an obvious preference for quality over quantity at this Downtown restaurant. Tacos strewn with red pickled onion, cilantro, and guacamole make the ideal warm-up round before hitting the bar, where tequila and mezcal reign supreme in customizable flights.
The owners of Takoba know what they're doing with Mexican food -- they grew up in a rural area in central Mexico before relocating to Austin. They're dedicated to fresh, local ingredients and the menu reflects this philosophy, offering a great selection of standard favorites like quesadillas and more authentic, lesser-known dishes like a traditional Mexican pork stew. Best of all may be the outdoor patio-cum-sandbox that's filled with multicolored lounge chairs.
The name pretty much say it all, doesn't it?
BC serves classed-up Tex-Mex from a chef formerly of the Roaring Fork and the UT Club, plus they've got a killer rooftop and inventive cocktails, like the avocado El Gigante Verde.