Swig Martini Bar, San Antonio
Swig Martini, a lounge-y San Antonio boîte that has locations on both the North Side and downtown, might boast a 35-martini menu, but its bartenders, like Courtney Tissiere, are also encouraged to put their own spin on the American classic. When thinking of the perfect summer thirst quencher, Tissiere first had visions of a crisp, champagne-topped cocktail garnished with Poteet strawberries. But since the popular Texas fruit isn’t in season, she decided to change course, reaching instead for cucumbers and the Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka —at twelve years old, it’s the granddaddy of Texas-made spirits—for an equally cool quaff. Sipping her “mojito in martini form” while people-watching on the River Walk may be the best way to spend a balmy night.
5 fresh mint leaves, plus 1 sprig for garnish
2 lime wedges
2 sugar cubes
2 ounces simple syrup (one part sugar dissolved in one part water)
splash of fresh lime juice
1 1/2 ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka
splash of club soda
Muddle cucumber, mint leaves, 1 lime wedge, and sugar cubes with simple syrup and lime juice. Add vodka and shake with ice. Strain all ingredients into a sugar-rimmed martini glass and top with club soda. Garnish with remaining lime wedge and mint sprig.
Rattlesnake Bar, Dallas
Of all the posh watering holes in Dallas, few out-swank the Ritz-Carlton’s Rattlesnake Bar. Justin Beam is the visionary behind the cocktail menu, which is innovative enough to pique the jaded taste buds of the hotel’s high-class clientele. “The day of the übersweet cocktail is gone,” he says. “The rave right now is to find really old cocktail menus from the late 1800’s or right after Prohibition and use ingredients that are more bitter.” Beam used a tart splash of the Austin-produced Paula’s Texas Lemon to create the Trinity River Project, his “rather liberal spin” on the Aviation, a Depression-era libation. “It’s my all-time favorite gin cocktail, and it’s a killer hot Texas summertime drink because it’s ice-cold.”
THE TRINITY RIVER PROJECT
1 1/2 ounces Cadenhead’s Old Raj Dry Gin
1/2 ounce Paula’s Texas Lemon
1/4 ounce Pagès Parfait Amour Crème de Violette
liberal splash of Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon
Luxardo maraschino cherries (garnish)
lemon peel, long and twisted (garnish)
edible orchid (garnish, optional)
Combine gin, Paula’s Texas liqueur, and crème de violette over ice and shake only twice. This is not intended to chill the drink, only combine the flavors. Strain into a Collins glass over crushed ice. Add Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon to taste. Garnish with cherries, lemon peel, and—if you really want to impress—an edible orchid.
Anvil Bar and Refuge, Houston
For a purist like Robert Heugel—he uses only airless, 1 1/4-by-1 1/4-inch cubes of ice and refuses to work with “odorless and tasteless” vodka—it’s heartening to see Texans embracing microdistilleries. “People are realizing that you can do something on a smaller scale that is more quality-focused,” says the Houstonian, who co-owns the newly opened Anvil Bar and Refuge, on Westheimer. Plus, “Texans love to buy something that’s from a Texan.” It’s no surprise, then, that he chose the Austin-based Treaty Oak , a house-fermented rum made from Texas molasses, to anchor this recipe. “It’s really just a classic daiquiri that’s been fizzed up with egg white, but the banana flavor in the Treaty Oak works to create a smoother cocktail.”
3/4 ounce homemade rosemary syrup
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary (for syrup and garnish)
2 ounces Treaty Oak Platinum Rum
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 egg white
To make rosemary syrup:
Combine one part sugar and one part water in a pot. Bring to a modest boil and add several large sprigs of fresh rosemary. Reduce for 7 minutes; remove from stove and cool. Strain out rosemary and bottle syrup.
Mix all ingredients and shake hard with ice. The cocktail should develop a long-lasting frothy texture. Strain and garnish with rosemary.
2900 Kitchen/Lounge, El Paso
“I particularly like a zinfandel for this recipe because it has a little bit more spice to it, which I think characterizes El Paso,” says Tyler Treharne, noting that the Zin Valle Rising Star varietal he uses hails from the nearby Mesilla Valley. But the native El Pasoan, who has been given creative rein behind the bar at 2900, a new-American eatery in Kern Place, also advocates punching up the traditional recipe with Paula’s Texas orange and lemon liqueurs—“to give it that extra-citrusy flavor”—or even a tequila. And instead of ice, he suggests using frozen melon balls to keep your drink chilled. “Out here, watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydew melons are all symbols of summer.”
1 navel orange wedge, peeled
1 half-inch slice fresh pineapple
3 fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced in half
3 red seedless grapes
1 slice Red Delicious apple
1 ounce Paula’s Texas Lemon
1 ounce Paula’s Texas Orange
5 ounces 2005 Zin Valle Rising Star Zinfandel, Mesilla Valley
splash of club soda or Sprite
sprig of fresh mint (garnish)
Combine fruit with Paula’s Texas liqueurs and place in a glass or metal container for 24 hours to macerate the flavors and create a sangria base. Add Zinfandel and shake. Pour over ice and top off with club soda or Sprite. Garnish with mint.
Okay, so tequila isn’t an indigenous spirit, but as Texans’ favorite Mexican import and the essential ingredient in our unofficial state drink—that would be the margarita—it would be a crime to exclude it on a technicality. At least the organic, 100 percent blue agave Republic Silver Tequila that Andrea Brown pours into her signature beverage comes in a Texas-shaped bottle. Brown is the head honcho at Malverde, the Capital City’s latest hip mingling spot, and was trained by Junior Merino, the world-famous mix-meister behind the bar’s pioneering menu (think muddled corn and tobacco-infused tequila). “This cocktail represents the Sundays I spend with friends in my backyard or out on Lake Travis,” she says.