Across the alley behind the historic Stephen F. Austin hotel sits the unlikeliest location for one of the hottest new cocktail bars in Texas. For more than half a century this building—barely more than a nook in the corner of a parking garage—housed a dive bar that was the envy of all dive bars, its humble entrance marked only by a few stick-on letters in the window. Once inside the dimly lit spot, patrons were greeted with a makeshift salad bar on one side and a counter on the other, where they could order from a limited menu of burgers and bar fare. The star here was the ice-cold beer—the greatest hits of American mega-lagers, served in frozen mugs or schooners—and on any given weekday, the place would be packed with downtown office workers. Alas, like many old Austin classics, Mike’s Pub is no longer with us, but the current occupants of the space have done it considerable justice.
Small Victory is the brainchild of Josh Loving and Brian Stubbs, alumni of the late Fino, among other notable Austin establishments. The space is narrow, cozy, and beautifully appointed, and it has quickly become a favorite of Austin’s service-industry types (high praise for any bar). Even former Mike’s Pub guests, while nostalgic, have been impressed by the new spot. “I had a guy come in and tell me, ‘Man, I used to come in here for burgers,’ ” said Loving. “But he was like, ‘This place is gorgeous!’ ” The bar’s specialty is impeccably crafted classic cocktails, like this daiquiri from barman Rashid Barrett, a perfectly balanced blend of aged Venezuelan and Jamaican rums, sugar, and fresh lime. But Small Victory still proudly dispenses sessionable American lagers like Coors and Schlitz—served ice-cold, just like in the old days.
1 ounce Smith & Cross rum
1 ounce Diplomático Añejo rum
3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Combine ingredients in a shaker and shake with ice to chill. Strain into a frozen cocktail coupe and garnish with a lime wedge.