When Qui opened last year, it did so to a seemingly endless amount of hype. One year in, the bar at Qui is at the top of its game, having won the 2014 Official Drink of Austin competition (presented by the Austin Food and Wine Alliance and yours truly) with a boozed-up tepache, a fermented-pineapple beverage popular in Mexico.
With the Fate Bell Cup, the bar team demonstrates that that kind of innovation is not in short supply. At the drink’s base is sotol, a spirit beloved in Chihuahua and made from the eponymous yucca-like plant (also known as desert spoon). It’s one of many regional Mexican distillates, such as bacanora and raicilla, that have slowly been gaining awareness in the States. Residents of the Big Bend region, however, have been drinking sotol for years. In ancient times, sotol plants were an essential resource for the native peoples who populated the area now situated along the West Texas–Mexico border, and this cocktail takes its name from the Fate Bell Shelter, a rock shelter outside Comstock that’s known for its pictographs, some of which depict prehistoric uses of sotol. The plants were cooked in pits in the ground, a technique not too far removed from the modern-day production of sotol.
The Fate Bell Cup is a masterwork in the harmonizing of disparate ingredients, a hallmark of bar manager Justin Elliott’s intellectual but never tedious style. First he takes pastis, an anise liqueur from France, and marries that to honey and coconut vinegar, where it becomes a beguiling mixture he calls “honey poix.” To that he adds sotol, lime juice, ginger beer, and Cocchi Americano Rosa, an Italian aperitif wine. The garnish is a fennel blossom wrapped in a piece of shaved cucumber. It is an exceptional cocktail, off-dry and begging you to order another.
Fate Bell Cup
1 ounce Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Plata
1 ounce Cocchi Americano Rosa
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce honey poix
2 1/2 ounces ginger beer
To an ice-filled glass, add the first four ingredients and top with the ginger beer. Give it a quick stir, then garnish with the cucumber maki.
6 parts Ricard pastis
6 parts honey syrup
1 part coconut vinegar
Using a mandolin, slice a long, very thin piece of cucumber, roll it, and stuff it with your choice of herbs or edible flowers (mint leaf, basil leaf, fennel blossoms, sunflower petals, etc). Secure with a small skewer or toothpick and balance on the edge of glass.