Five bars that changed the drinking scene in 2012
Transplants and local upstarts brought creativity, diversity and spirit to the local bar biz, and more interesting prospects are on the way
Austin’s beverage scene grew exponentially and diversified with equal fervor in 2012. By embracing fresh ideas from local experts and transplants from the likes of New York City and beyond, our city’s drinking identity attracted the attention of both eager drinkers and the highlycoveted pages of many national publications.
Here’s my list of the most stimulating bar openings of 2012.
1. Midnight Cowboy
313 E. Sixth St. 843-2715, midnightcow boymodeling.com
The Alamo Drafthouse’s Midnight Cowboy sparked a new era when it introduced the city’s first reservations-only system for cocktail service. The speakeasy-like lounge, subversively juxtaposed against a swell of rowdy college bars on Sixth Street, both attracts and repels customers due to it’s notorious history as a former massage parlor. Despite the controversy, customers are hard-pressed to deny the innovative and diverse cocktail offerings like the room temperature Clavos de Tejas, a tantalizing mix of Rhum Agricole, Drambuie, Mezcal, and Xoco- latl Mole Bitters, with an orange twist.
2. Drink. Well
207 E. 53rd St. 6146683, drink well austin. com
With the addition of Drink. Well (and craft beer dive Workhorse, which also opened in 2012), culinary hot spot North Loop not only continued to proliferate, but solidified its status as a serious drinking destination. Armed with the triple-threat of craft beer, quirky cocktails and hand-selected wine, the American pub delivers on every level. The environment is casual, service friendly and on point, and the menu is designed with enough seriousness to ensure merit, with a dash of playful invention.
3. Weather Up
808 E. Cesar Chavez St. 524-0464, facebook.com/ WeatherUpAustin
Shortly after the opening of New York cocktail maven Kathryn Weatherup’s latest incarnation of her self-titled bar series on East Cesar Chavez, many Austinites displayed skepticism that the big city-style cocktail bar would be able to find its place in the Austin oeuvre. Despite complaints of excessive wait times and a dauntingly large cocktail menu (which have both since been addressed by management), several truths about the bar prevail.
The quality of the drinks have elevated and challenged the existing status quo, and the eyecatching interior design, complete with subway-style tile and stately brown leather booths, draws in customers who appreciate a tailored ambience.
These qualities combined make Weather Up a must-visit for cocktails.
4. 400 Rabbits
5701 W. Slaughter Lane. 476-1320, 400 rabbitsbar.com
Under the eagle eye of Alamo Drafthouse Bev- erage Director Bill Norris, 400 Rabbits promises a studied approach to tequila and tequila-based concoctions in an area of the city where high-end cocktail bars are a lengthy drive to downtown and the sloppy frozen margarita reigns.
Anchored in the Alamo Drafthouse’s Slaughter location, the bar represents the first company-owned stand-alone watering hole positioned adjacent to one of the theaters, making it possible for people to eat and drink before or after the movie outside of the constraints of the theater itself.
The fresh margarita is mouthwatering, but if
(From left) Midnight Cowboy upped Austin’s cocktail game with a reservation-only system and drinks that are gaining recognition nationwide. Bar manager Brian Dressel mixes up a Clavos de Tejas. Weather Up on East Cesar Chavez Street crafts cocktails with precision and care. Drink.Well opened in early 2012, making the North Loop district a destination for great food and drinks. 400 Rabbits brought craft tequila cocktails to the suburbs, which is why it makes the list of top openings of 2012.