Geraldine’s is perched alongside the pool deck of the new Hotel Van Zandt, the first Austin outpost of the quirky Kimpton chain and one of the latest additions to the Capital City’s rapidly evolving skyline. Boasting spectacular views of Lady Bird Lake, the restaurant and bar takes its name from the Rainey Street neighborhood’s unofficial mascot, a beloved guinea hen that used to roam the area. Fittingly, the bird’s likeness serves as the restaurant’s logo.
The head honcho of Geraldine’s bar operations is Jen Keyser, a native Texan and longtime Austin bartender who has worked at some of the city’s top spots, most recently Contigo, where she led the acclaimed bar program. For Geraldine’s opening menu, she wanted to create a cocktail honoring Willie Nelson, the patron saint of Austin music. And while “Whiskey River” may be one of Willie’s best-known songs, it is worth mentioning that his preferred form of recreation involves smoking, not drinking.
Keyser incorporates both influences here: fresh sage leaves—sort of an aromatic nod to Willie’s favorite pastime—are muddled in the bottom of a julep cup and rye whiskey is added. The cocktail’s sweetness comes from a splash of maple syrup–infused hemp-seed milk, which is made in-house, then the cup is filled with crushed ice and garnished with more sage leaves. And, just like Willie, the cup wears a red bandanna. “Originally I thought of the fresh sage because it smells like you-know-what,” Keyser explains. “It just so happens that the flavors work well together. Not to mention it’s totally legal.”
fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 ounces High West Double Rye whiskey
1 1/2 ounces hemp-seed milk
Muddle 4 sage leaves in the bottom of a julep cup. Add the whiskey and hemp-seed milk. Top with crushed ice, garnish with a sprig of sage, and serve with a straw.
1 cup raw shelled hemp seeds (available at natural food stores or online)
3 cups filtered water
2 cups maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 60 seconds. Strain through a nut-milk bag (essentially a fine-mesh bag, like cheesecloth; available in grocery stores and online). Yields about six cups; keeps for three days in the refrigerator.