Archive for ‘Whiskey’

November 30, 2010

Grown up drinks for grown up tastes: Péché Austin


The mixology movement has hit the country with full force. Cocktail bars specializing in intricate drinks have sprouted up everywhere. Austin, TX is blessed with several gifted mixologists including the folks at Townhouse that I wrote about previously. If you’re hankering for a bar with a broad menu of classic and inventive cocktails and a refined atmosphere, try Péché in the heart of the Warehouse District on 4th Street. One look at the long, narrow room with wood floors, dotted with polished marble tables, wood beam ceiling and the richly paneled wood bar with antique absinthe water spouts, and your mood will instantly melt into relaxation ready to sip a sophisticated drink.   

Beautiful Wife and I went there for dinner recently and we were not disappointed by the focus on excellent drinks. Rob Pate, the owner, sidled up to our table the moment we sat down and asked us if we were interested in cocktails. We had barely glanced at the menu of 50+ concoctions of stalwarts like the Moscow Mule, Bees Knees and the Side Car and twists on the Martini and the Manhattan, when we were presented with the delightful opportunity to have an expert guide help us navigate the fun house.

Rob asked if we knew what we wanted or if we would like recommendations? Beautiful Wife wanted a French 77. Done. I was open to exploration and only gave the guidance that I was in the mood for bourbon. He recommend a Rye-based drink called the “Final Say” and I was game to try something new for an aperitif.

Tip: If you know you are in a bar that really cares about its drinks, put yourself in the hands of the bartender.

The Final Say is a blend of Rye whisky, green chartreuse, lime juice, Maraschino liquor and orange bitters all shaken vigorously with ice.

Look A classic martini glass nestling a misty, pastel emerald with a haze of shattered ice crystals glazing its surface.
Smell Pleasing herbal, lime-zest and a hint of honeysuckle like an embrace after he has been drinking Bärenjäger liquor and she is wearing upscale body lotion from a French salon.  
Taste After the first sip I felt like I was in a British bar car riding on the Orient Express. This is a distinguished drink with lush heather grass tempered by savory lime, and brought to life by the warmth of alcohol. It has a long, sweet finish that obscures the sometimes rough backbone of rye.
Price $10

While Péché has only been open for about two years, Rob is no novice in the restaurant and bar business. His twinkling eyes and complexion ratify a life spent both making and consuming lots of drinks well into the night. He got his start in the restaurant business at the tender age of 15 in summer camp and later worked at the Erwin Center while a student at the University of Texas. He has owned the adjacent Cedar Street bar for several years, but Péché is the first restaurant he has owned.

Now we were ready for dinner. Rob explained that his chef du cuisine, Jason Dodd, has a focus on European comfort food with the same commitment to excellence found in the drinks. He sources his ingredients locally and butches his meats in-house. I ordered a rabbit cacciatore and Beautiful Wife chose the carnaroli risotto with applewood smoked Osso Buco.

We didn’t need to look at the wine list. Rob came back with a bottle of Domaine de la Pertuisane le Nain Violet 2007, a lovely Grenache nick-named the “The Purple Dwarf” from Languedoc-roussillon, France. It was a lovely mid-bodied wine with plenty of fruit and acidity to pair well with both rabbit and pork without obscuring either. Looking at the list later, it’s exactly the bottle I would have chosen, but I was happy to put the decision in an expert’s hands. The food and wine were excellent. Our waiter challenged Beautiful Wife to finish her sumptuous portion of risotto and pork, which she gladly attempted. She declared that it was the best risotto she’s had and would be dreaming of the Osso Buco for days. After dinner it’s time for a nice digestif.

Péché is known as an absinthe bar with nine varieties on the menu. Rob was inspired by drinking a Sazerac in New Orleans, the unique, signature drink made with absinthe. He wanted to bring the distinctive absinthe to Austin to help us enjoy a drink that has long been illegal in the U.S. and widely misunderstood. For my after-dinner drink he chose Germain-Robin Absinthe Superieure, an apple-honey mead brandy-based absinthe made in a small distillery in Mendocino County, Calif. It is served traditionally; mixed with water, but no flame and no sugar to let the full taste come though. 

Look  An elegant Champagne flute filled with the warm glow of breast-milk yellow clouds topped with a creamy ivory mouse. This is an absinthe blanche, meaning it wasn’t infused with botanicals after distillation to give it the traditional green hue.  
Smell Strong nose of anise and fennel with a mild whiff of lemon zest.
Taste The Germain-Robin has a creamy mouth feel and it gently eases into rose and geranium followed by a robust juggernaut of black licorice followed by a velvety junior mint finish. It comes on smoother than Sade and finishes with the cool of a Kool menthol. The haze in the glass will gladly become the haze in your head.
Price $20

I’m embracing the mixology trend. I don’t normally mix complicated cocktails at home because I don’t regularly stock all of the ingredients and don’t have the specialized tools that bring them to life. If you appreciate a well-made drink, whether it’s a classic or a unique original, or you want to have absinthe the way it should be served, try Péché. Grown up drinks for grown up tastes. Stay for dinner. The food is amazing. You can follow their drink specials on Twitter @Peche_Austin.   

What are you drinking?

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August 12, 2010

Townhouse for a Serious Cocktail


When I go out for dinner I want to go someplace where the chef is willing to explore interesting pairings of quality ingredients and serve them with an artistic flair. If I want a basic steak, I can do that at home. We’ve come to expect creativity and excellence in fine dining. The same thing is true with swank drinks.

Austin has a thirst for good drink and fortunately has several excellent places to quench that thirst. Garrett Mikell, a local celeb in the mixologist world, recently opened a cozy boozing den called Townhouse, located on 5th near the intersection of Lavaca. When I first walked in, I instantly relaxed as if they pumped in vaporized Xanax. The chill lighting, exposed brick, high ceilings with pressed tin panels, rich wood bar back scaling to the ceiling accessed with a library ladder, intimate groupings of mismatched couches and chairs on Oriental rugs said, “you look like you could use a damned fine drink.” Yes, yes I could. Add to that a delightful greeting from our gorgeous server, Jennifer, and I was on the verge of bliss.

Jennifer gave me a run-down of the über creative and witty drink menu featuring house-made infused whisky, vodka, rum and gin. Garrett flexed his ingenious cocktail brain to bring us a twist on the mint julep, “Kentucky Derby’s Bitch,” an internet meme in the making, “OMG LOL WTF” and the love-child of a Manhattan and a margarita, “Pancho Villa Manhattan.”

Flummoxed. There were way too many fantastic choices for me, so I turned over the keys to Jennifer, Garrett and bartenders John and Anoop to select drinks for me. Here is what I had.

French 69

This is a sexy twist on the bubbly French 77 with pink peppercorn infused Right gin, lemon simple syrup, champagne and a mist of atomized crème de violet that they spray over the drink to transform it into brilliance. The crème de violet actually changes the color of the drink right before your eyes.

Look Classic Martini glass filled with a lilac slurpy with a haze of fine froth, garnished with a lemon twist.
Smell Sassy French lass blowing bubbles with violet gum.
Taste It came on with bomb-pop sweetness without being syrupy. The bubbly tickled away the sweet letting it ease into a fruit finish that completely obscured any hint of a bitter bite of juniper.
Price $8

Freshershest (slurred like a drunk saying Exorcist)

A theatrical presentation starting off with a pineapple dusted with sugar and torched for caramelized deliciousness, then muddled and mixed with scarlet Ibis blended Trinidad rum, lime tincture and soda.

Look Jolly Rancher lemon yellow smiled up at me, asking to be drunk.
Smell Coy citrus beckoned me in for a closer sniff.
Taste Hawaiian hula dancer swaying her hips before I put it to my lips. A luau of pineapple without the pig.
Price $10

Where is My Stapler?

A hangover breakfast treat if there ever was one. A sophisticated cousin of the bloody Mary with tomato infused Tito’s vodka, black pepper simple, cucumber slices and spears and fresh basil leaves.

Look Tall, lean cylinder basil shreds and cucumber slices suspended in hazy plasma. Not a hint of tomato red.
Smell A fresh cup of gazpacho with spicy black pepper.
Taste Slap-its-face fresh with smooth tomato, clean cucumber and minty basil. I wanted another one of these. Sensational.
Price $9

Hornet’s Ankles

Get the blow-torch out again for thyme brûléed clementine orange in this bee’s knees drink with honeycomb infused gin, lemon simple syrup and raw honey and bits of honey comb.

Look Autumn brown orange leaves in the lazy afternoon sun.
Smell High tea in Nigella Lawson’s herb garden.
Taste Grand Marnier playing with matches. While good, this is the only drink that wasn’t as balanced as I’d like. The thyme over powered the subtle raw honey.
Price $9

My good friend Cotton Candy says that Austin is a town of accidental nights out. There are too many great places to go to stay in at night. When you go out intentionally with the purpose of finding high-caliber cocktails, try Townhouse. Garrett takes his drinks seriously, mixing excellent elements with top-quality liquor. He pays attention to every last detail, including using cold draft cube ice that melts slowly so it doesn’t water down your drink.

If you need more information, you can check out the Townhouse Facebook page or check them out on Twitter @townhouseinfuse (though they haven’t posted anything yet).

Check out this video of John mixing my drinks.

What are you drinking?

July 16, 2010

What is your drink of choice at #BATHH?


Tell me what you plan to drink at BATHH (Big Ass Twitter Happy Hour) on July 22 at Union Park. I’ll compile the top drinks and will write about the most interesting ones. Thanks!

July 8, 2010

Whiskey Tinged


Some nights call for a fine wine and other nights call for a belt of whiskey. You know that mood – mischievousness fighting with melancholy tainted with mirth. When you have a gleam in your eye that would read “trouble” in a retinal scan, it’s time to grab a rocks glass, your favorite brown elixir and head out to the back porch swing. Dog at your feet is optional, but a nice touch.

I like Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky and Canadian whiskey, but bourbon says love to me. Love American style. It tastes like home. Like its fancy-pants cousin, Champagne, bourbon is closely associated with a small region; in this case, Kentucky. It’s so American, that it has been declared the official spirit of the United States by Congress in 1964, when it was recognized as “distinctive product of the United States.” That fine designation comes with a whole boat-load of regulations on content and qualities which keeps it true to its character.   

Recently I picked up a bottle of Bulleit Kentucky Bourbon. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for packaging, and Bulleit comes in an antique looking flask-shaped bottle with raised glass lettering. I felt like I was buying a bottle of snake oil from a transient peddler of the back of a horse-drawn wagon. It’s a great nod to the   “frontier whiskey’s” heritage.

The lore of Bulleit is that Augustus Bulleit first began making whiskey in 1830. Augustus’ potion was popular on the wagon trains headed west, but in 1860 Bulleit died and his whiskey died along with him. That is until his great-great-grandson Tom Bulleit came along. In 1987 Tommy-boy resurrected Bulleit Bourbon purportedly using the original recipe.  That’s likely just a quaint marketing story. The original recipe was probably pretty harsh like white lightning. Anyway, Bulleit Bourbon is now made in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and is owned by Seagrams. It’s so big-time, it even has its own Facebook page.

Great bottle, great legend, but does it taste good? Yep.

Let’s start the inspection. It’s a gorgeous dark copper color like a bottled sunset. I gave it a big swirl and a snort like a wine and breathed in floral scents, juniper, oak spices and hay.

It’s not overly alcoholic like some of the 100+ Proof premium bourbons on the market. Clocking in at 90 Proof, it still billows out through the body like a warm thunderhead growing in intensity.

 Bourbon is required to be at least 51% corn. Bulleit takes the sweet edge of that mash with a wicked high rye content of about 30%. Rye is the most important flavor grain for bourbons, which gives Bulleit some complexity. Let’s not confuse it with rye whiskey though, which must have at least 51% rye.   All of that rye doesn’t make it taste like a Rueben, but it does give it a slightly sharper taste than wheat filled bourbon.  The front of the sip tastes like honey, apple and spices, which gives way to smoked sweet-corn and vanilla for a decently long finish, but it doesn’t over stay its welcome.

I typically like my bourbon with a few lumps of ice and nothing else. However, my bro introduced me to a delicious mixed drink over the holidays made with rye whiskey. Here it is:

  • 2/3 rds rye whiskey
  • 1/3rd ginger beer (or to taste)
  • just a little squeeze of lime
  • a large pinch of fresh ground ginger

Stir that up and throw in a few cubes of ice. Deelish!

Like I said at the top of the post, there is definitely a whiskey drinkin mood. When I’m in that kinda mood, I want a soundtrack to accompany it. Here’s my latest mix, Whiskey Tinged:

  1. Busted, The Black Keys
  2. Peaches, The Stranglers
  3. La Grange, ZZ Top    ZZ Top
  4. Pill Bug Blues, The Gourds
  5. Sugar Never Tasted So Good, The White Stripes
  6. 50,000 Unstoppable Watts, Clutch
  7. Search & Destroy, The Stooges
  8. Stuck In Thee Garage, The Dirtbombs
  9. Bitch, I Love You, Black Joe Lewis
  10. Diggin’ My Grave, William Elliott Whitmore
  11. Cold Water, Tom Waits
  12. The Desperate Man, The Black Keys
  13. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, Led Zeppelin
  14. Me And The Devil, Gil Scott-Heron
  15. Gypsy Woman, Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights
  16. Too Many Drivers, Lightnin’ Hopkins
  17. Always a Friend, Alejandro Escovedo
  18. Can’t Let Go ,Lucinda Williams
  19. Tuesday’s Gone, Lynard Skynard

OK, so do me a favor, let me know what your favorite whiskey is. What’s your favorite whiskey drink? What do you like to listen to when you’re in that whiskey mood? Give me some good ideas, and I might just burn you a copy of my mix and pour you a glass of Bulleit.

DRINK RESPONSIBLY. IT’S THE MARK OF A GENTLEMAN