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 American-Statesman - - FOOD & DRINK - By Em­maJanzene­janzen@states­man.com

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

EMMA JANZEN/AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN / CONTRIBUTED BY NICK SI­MONITE

(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.

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