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December 9, 2011

Houston Eaves of Contigo wins Drink Local Night

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At last night’s Drink Local Night, Houston Eaves of Contigo made a pre-Prohibition-inspired cocktail called the Smokin’ Gypsy (right) that won the title of Official Drink of Austin, an honor that he’ll have for the coming year.

Drink Local Night is always one of the highlights of Edible Austin Eat Drink Local Week, and last night’s annual contest at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center was even more so.

With a bigger venue and a bigger prize, more samples for the audience and the launch of several new products at the event, people were buzzing about Drink Local Night both online and in the grand ballroom of the AT&T conference center.

The judges — Joe Eifler of TipsyTexan.com; Alamo Drafthouse beverage director Bill Norris, who won last year; Bad Dog Bitters founder Lara Nixon, who won the contest in 2009 and just launched her line of craft bitters (see below); Jeret Peña of the Esquire Tavern in San Antonio; and our own Liquid Austin columnist Emma Janzen — found a clear favorite in Eaves’ drink, which was made with some fancy dry ice work as well as Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Benedictine, Balcones Brimstone, grapefruit and two kinds of bitters, was strong and, as the name suggests, smoky.

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For the first time, the audience got to vote for a fan favorite, which went to Marcelo Nascimento, co-founder of Lucky 13, a cocktail catering company, for his drink, Austin Cup No. 9, a deconstructed Pimm’s Cup.

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Sagra’s Justin Chamberlin (above), a Chicago native who moved to Austin earlier this year, won second place overall with The Pinetop, a drink made with fig, grapefruit, rosemary, Balcones Rumble and Paula’s Texas Orange in honor of the late blues legend Pinetop Perkins.

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Josh Loving of FINO presented Baby’s First Punch, a punch made with bergamot tea, Balcones Baby Blue Whiskey, lemon juice, honey and Pale Moon Rye beer. Jessica Sanders of the Drink.Well, a bar on East 53st Street that is set to open in the first quarter of next year, made a Hippie Harvest. Madelyn Kay of Peche was the alternate, and her drink, Lie to Me, tasted enough like eggnog to everyone in the holiday spirit.

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My favorite drink of the night — a lemony drink called the Kinship made with Bad Dog’s sarsaparilla bitters — didn’t win any awards, but it’s good to know that I can go to East Side Show Room as get it any time from Chauncey James.

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Last night also served as a the official launch for Lara Nixon’s Bad Dog Bitters, which is the first commercially available bitters made in Texas. The sarsaparilla bitters are the first to be sold to the public, but the spicy Fire and Damnation bitters should be available soon.

“After realizing the time and care that goes into creating homemade bitters, I thought it might be beneficial to the community at large to have a local option,” Nixon told Janzen earlier this year. “Most people at home want quality bitters, but don’t have the time and energy to make their own. Bars face the same challenge. Having pre-made bitters makes it easier to rotate the selection of flavors, and also allows for more freedom to craft better tasting cocktails, without the time and energy investment.”

Starting next week, you can buy the sarsaparilla bitters at most Twin Liquors’ locations, as well as the Austin Wine Merchant.

Also new at last night’s event were the chocolates from the Fredericksburg-based Chocolat filled with whiskey from Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye. The chocolates, which cost $24 per box, are slightly more expensive than the rest of the Chocolat line, but they would make an excellent gift.

Updated Dec. 10 to correctly identify the judge from Esquire Tavern.

Permalink | Comments (2) | Categories: Drinks

July 6, 2011

How to use a spigot to turn a watermelon into a drink dispenser

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My first summer in Austin, way back in 2005, I snagged an invite to a backyard barbecue at the house of Andrew Smiley, director of the farm direct program at the Sustainable Food Center.

Andrew was probably the first foodie I got to know in Austin, and though he probably served a dozen amazing dishes at this party — I think it was for July Fourth — the only one that has stuck with me through the years was a watermelon-mint-lime tequila cooler that he served from a watermelon with a spigot screwed in the side.

A spigot in a watermelon? Genius!

With help from Andrew and a nice guy at Home Depot last week, I recreated this nifty serving device for a story about watermelons that ran in today’s paper.

The process for making this watermelon drink server is almost exactly like preparing a pumpkin to carve at Halloween, but you have to have a wok ring or small, but tall baking pan to set the watermelon upright.

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Cut off the top and scoop out the insides. Mash the pulp in a strainer over a large bowl or pot to extract the juice. Drill or cut out a hole slightly smaller than the brass or plastic spigot from the hardware store or a plastic faucet from a drink dispenser that you’d buy at a store.

Depending on the kind of spigot you use (I used a 1/2-inch brass one), you might need a nut and/or oversized washer to help keep the spigot from leaking. On my first attempt to fill the watermelon, the spigot leaked, but I was able to stop it by screwing a plastic piece from a sink repair kit that the Home Depot employee helped me pick out when I told him what I was up to. (Thanks for not laughing at my strange little project, nice Home Depot guy!)

Now comes the fun part — what to mix with your watermelon aqua fresca.

Three parts aqua fresca to one part tequila, plus a handful of mint and a few tablespoons of lime juice is Andrew’s surefire recipe, but you could serve it spiked with vodka, white wine or serve it straight with just a little white wine or balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt.

(For more than 200 ideas for drinks to serve this summer, check out Andrew Schloss’ new book “Homemade Soda,” which includes this recipe for watermelon mint cordial.)

Watermelon Mint Cordial


Big chunk of watermelon, about 1 pound, rind removed, cut into chunks
1/4 cup agave syrup or simple syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (balsamic vinegar works well, too)

Combine the watermelon, syrup, mint and vinegar in a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth (though there still might be watermelon seeds and shards of mint floating around). Pour the mixture into a strainer set over a small bowl to remove the solid pieces. Gently lift and stir the mixture to help the liquid pass through, without forcing any solids through the strainer.

— Andrew Schloss, “Homemade Soda” (Storey, $18.95)

Some other highlight’s from this week’s watermelon story…

Square watermelons from Japan:

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A video from Sarah Pember of The Smart Kitchen on how to pick out a ripe watermelon.

A recipe for grilled watermelon salad with feta and basil-infused olive oil:

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Photos by Kyodo News via the Associated Press and Ralph Barrera for the Austin American-Statesman.

Permalink | Comments (1) | Categories: 15 Minutes or Less, Drinks, Eating locally

February 8, 2011

Austin-made Chameleon Cold-Brew hits shelves

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It isn’t the season for iced coffee, but that hasn’t stopped Austinites Chris Campbell and Steve Williams from starting up Chameleon Cold-Brew, a coffee concentrate sold in bottles that is made by steeping coffee grounds for a long time at a cold temperature instead of quickly with hot water.


Made with Texas Coffee Traders’ beans, Chameleon Cold-Brew isn’t as acidic as regular coffee and can be served hot or, when the weather warms up, poured over ice. You can run it through the coffee pot to heat it up and keep it warm or, if you’re like me and you only want a small pick-me-up cup in the middle of the afternoon, you can heat up as little as you like in a mug in the microwave.


Williams, who also owns Bennu Coffee, says the name comes from the endless ways the coffee can be used in various drink and even food recipes, some of which you can find on their Facebook page.


The cold-brew coffee ($4-$5 for 16-ounce bottle and about $9 for 32-ounce) is available at Whip In, Fresh Plus Market on West Lynn, Thom’s Market, Hyde Park Grocery, Bennu Coffee, the Corner Market at the Domain and several Royal Blue Grocery stores.

Photo from Chameleon Coffee.

Permalink | Comments (2) | Categories: Drinks

Low-cal Dr Pepper? New drink is almost a 10

Features copy desk maestra Sue Owen is our resident Dr Pepper expert. You’ll rarely find her desk without a can or small bottle of Dr Pepper on it, which is why I asked her to review the new low calorie version of the drink that is being tested in Austin.

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Through June, Dr Pepper is testing a new product in Austin, San Antonio and four other U.S. cities. It’s called Dr Pepper Ten, a 10-calorie (per 12-ounce can) drink developed to appeal to men age 25-34 who, the company’s research showed, didn’t care for the image of diet sodas and “want to make healthier choices without looking wimpy,” said a spokesperson for Dr Pepper.


As the newsroom’s unofficial chief Dr Pepper addict, I was pleased to help evaluate Ten. In a blind taste test of Diet DP (sweetened with aspartame; 0 calories per can), regular DP (high-fructose corn syrup; 150 calories per can) and Dublin Dr Pepper (cane sugar; 100 calories per 8-ounce bottle) alongside DP Ten (high-fructose corn syrup and aspartame), Ten was the closest to straight Dr Pepper, though definitely not identical. Dublin DP has a clean, sweet taste. Diet tastes plastic, to me at least. And Ten, as several of my colleagues agreed, is much like regular DP, but with a slight fake-sweetener aftertaste.


Conclusion: It might be good enough for some DP drinkers to switch. But how much good will that do them? I consulted Austin dietitian Amy Bluntzer, who as my former college roommate, has been silently horrified by my levels of soda consumption for years. She said, “For someone who needs to cut calories and is trying to make gradual changes, then going from a regular soda to this might be a good choice, with the ultimate goal being less soda and more water.” So remember: H2O still beats Ten.

Photo from Dr Pepper.

Permalink | Comments (30) | Categories: Drinks

July 28, 2010

How to juice (or How I learned to love my grandmother)

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Making juice isn’t nearly as complicated as making nice.

For most of my life, my dad’s mother has been this weird figure in my life. I lived near her when I was a small child, but during the 20 formative years during which I really became the person I am today, we had little or no contact.

She was this aunt/grandmother hybrid who always lived far away and to whom my father had his own rocky relationship. But in the past few years, by some magical turn of events, they have reconciled, and although I was always delighted that they were reconnecting, but I was ambivalent about making the effort to do the same.

After all, she was still living a few states away, and I was tending to my own life in Austin.

Enter, The Juicer.

In today’s column, I wrote about how her giving me an old Champion juicer when she recently moved to Austin was like a peace offering after all these troubled years. (I told you the cover she made for it makes it look like a Scottish terrier.)

It’s much more complex than that, of course, but there’s a lot to be said about food (and food gadgetry) being a language of love.

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I’m having fun making all kinds of juice with this new-to-me beast of a juicer, which I’m sure would grind meat if I put it to task, but I’m enjoying even more this newfound grandmother-granddaughter connection. It takes two to reboot a stalled relationship, and for the first time in our lives, we are two adults who are playing on the same team.

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Have food or kitchen appliances played a role in a reconciliation in your life? If not, are you a juicing guru with tips to share?

Permalink | Comments (4) | Categories: 15 Minutes or Less, Drinks

July 7, 2010

For summer bliss in a glass, try a blueberry shrub

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If you experiment with one new thing from this blog this summer, make a shrub.

I’d never heard of this colonial-era drink until I started researching for today’s story about spiffing up summer drinks with creative flavors of simple syrups. I stumbled upon a recipe for a blueberry shrub in Denise Gee’s new book “Porch Parties” and was stumped.

Apple cider vinegar? In a drink? It sounded strange, but I’d just tried a purple basil lemonade made even more delicious with a splash of balsamic vinegar, so I gave the shrub a go.

I combined one part vinegar to two parts berries (you can use just about any kind of fruit, and I’ve recently heard of bartenders making shrubs with root vegetables like carrots and beets) and let the mixture marinate in the fridge for three days. Macerate the berries in the vinegar and strain out the pulp.

Instead of sweetening it with plain sugar and then heating on the stove like the recipe called for, I added a simple syrup I’d flavored with figs and cardamom. The result was a super sweet and tart concentrate that when combined with tonic or seltzer water made for one of the best drinks I’ve had in a long, long while.

(My mom, an avid gin and tonic drinker, said a splash of gin only made it better. I’ve got another two months of this pregnancy to go before I try a boozy shrub-based cocktail, but she’s rarely wrong when it comes to gin.)

Up next? Cherry shrub. The only question that remains is what flavor of simple syrup to add. Any suggestions?

Permalink | | Categories: Drinks

December 29, 2009

Brighten up New Year's with burnt orange punch

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Champagne gets all the attention on New Year’s Eve, but punch is making a comeback this year as the drink to serve party guests, says David Alan, the cocktail expert and blogger behind TipsyTexan.com.

“What’s cool about punch is that you’ve got something already prepared to give guests, which frees you up to be with them instead of mixing drinks,” he says. Not only can you make punch ahead of time, punch can also be cheaper than buying bottles of wine or enough spirits to make a variety of drinks.

Punch, which predates the cocktail, was originally made with rum or brandy mixed with citrus juice, tea or spices and was a communal drink at taverns, Alan says. “Instead of ordering a drink at a bar, you walked in and had whatever they were drinking.”

And forget the overly sweet church potluck punch. Skip the sherbet and its cooling properties, Alan says, and instead use an old Jell-O mold or silicon Bundt pan to freeze a block of ice. A big piece of ice is better than smaller pieces because it will melt more slowly.

Also, starting in February, Alan and Boxcar Bar cocktail consultant Lara Nixon are teaching a 12-week course that will cover topics including cocktail horticulture, history, spirits and even molecular mixology. You can take the whole course ($350, $250 for U.S. Bartenders’ Guild members) or individual classes ($35 per class, $25 for members). Alan says registration for the class begins Jan. 1.

Championship Punch

Alan created this burnt orange punch just in time for New Year’s Eve and a certain national championship football game that will be taking place on Jan. 7.

3 or 4 tangerines, Meyer lemons, oranges or lemons
1/2 cup demerara sugar (or white sugar)
6 oz. strong green tea, warm
24 oz. (about one 750 ml. bottle) Flor de Cañ a 4-year Aged Rum (or other aged rum, such as Mount Gay or the Texas-made Railean )
6 oz. fresh squeezed tangerine juice
6 oz. fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
6-8 dashes Angostura bitters
1 oz. St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram (available at the Austin Wine Merchant and fine liquor stores)

Over a punch bowl or glass pitcher, remove the zests of several tangerines, Meyer lemons, oranges or lemons. Be careful to remove only the outer zest and not the white pith, which is bitter. Leave the zests in the bowl and add sugar and warm green tea. Stir to dissolve sugar and allow to steep a few minutes.

Add rum, fruit juices, bitters and allspice dram. Strain mixture into a punch bowl. Add a large block of ice, which you can make by freezing water in a Jell-O mold, Bundt pan or half of a paper milk carton. Makes about a dozen 4-oz. servings.

—David Alan, TipsyTexan.com

Permalink | | Categories: Drinks

July 7, 2009

A boozy send-off for Tales of the Cocktail

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The Austin cocktail scene, like many in the United States, has spiffed itself up in recent years, with the garden-to-glass and handcrafted, classic cocktail movements hitting places including FINO, Peche and now Annie’s Cafe and Bar. Bar staff with an interest in the craft of cocktails are banding together to elevate the drinking scene, despite the prevalence of neon drink mixes, margarita machines and the much-loathed “bottle service,” where patrons mix their own spirits and juice.

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Christa Haxthausen of Annie’s Cafe

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Mindy Kucan shares her secret ingredient she’ll be using on Friday with Eat This Lens blogger Marshall Wright and Edible Austin publisher Marla Camp.

So it’s a good thing Tales of the Cocktail, one of the world’s largest cocktail conventions, is so close. The SXSW of the cocktail world takes place every year in New Orleans, where all facets of the drink industry come together for seminars, contests and any opportunity they can find to show off their drink-making skills.

A cadre of Austin bar specialists, spirit companies and even a chef or two are headed to The Big Easy today for the five-day convention.

To send the dozens of attendees on their way, Annie’s Cafe and Bar hosted a send-off party on Monday night, with everyone who’s anyone in the cocktail scene enjoying New Orleans cocktails and jazz.

The highlight of the night was when everyone who could shake lined up for a shaker salute to the Ramos Gin Fizz. The drink, which contains egg whites and cream, has to be shaken for several minutes to attain the desired froth and thick consistency, says Annie’s bar manager and Tipsy Texan blogger David Alan.

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Annie’s Cafe bar manager David Alan and Edible Austin associate publisher Jenna Noel

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Lara Nixon of Boxcar Bar, Darren Makowsky and Mindy Kucan of the Hilton Hotel

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Russell Davis of Peche and Bill Norris of FINO

Beth Bellanti-Walker of Tito’s Vodka, who will be speaking on a panel on Friday about building brands through word-of-mouth, Tito’s owner Tito Beveridge and Ranch 616 chef Kevin Williamson are loading up vans for a party on Wednesday celebrating Ranch 616’s “Ring of Fire” drink that won the city of Austin’s official drink contest last year.

Mindy Kucan of the Hilton Hotel downtown and Bill Norris of FINO will be throwing down caipirinhas on Friday night.

Want to follow their adventures from the road? Check out the #totc09 hashtag on Twitter.

Permalink | Comments (6) | Categories: Beer/Wine/Spirits, Drinks

June 29, 2009

Find summer cocktail bliss in overripe peaches, garden herbs

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This squishy peach is your key to summertime happiness.

Overripe fruit, especially peaches, are perfect for muddling, a technique that requires only a long blunt utensil and a strainer. When you combine the extracted juice with a few other ingredients, including — if you’re lucky — herbs from your backyard, you can make a cocktail that tastes like summer.

Muddled fruit isn’t reserved for summer or peaches or adult beverages, but overripe peaches just so happen to be plentiful right now (I found lots at the City Market near my house this weekend. Farmers’ markets are also a good place to find overripe fruit, sold at a discount price.), so peach cocktails are what I’ve been drinking.

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Classic muddling involves a small baseball bat-like pestle and a pint glass. I’m more likely to press the fruit through a strainer with a strong spoon or a lemon reamer. (You could probably squeeze the juice out of the fruit with your hands if the peaches are as ripe as you are desperate.)

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Summertime Bliss


1 oz. peach juice, about 1/2 a peach muddled
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
3-4 sprigs of mint, lemon verbena, lemon balm or other garden herb
2 oz. gin or vodka

Combine ingredients in a Boston shaker with ice. Shake at least 10 seconds, strain and serve with a sprig of herb as a garnish. Makes one drink, but you can easily double the ingredients to make two.


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With all these triple-digit days lately, herbs are the only plants in my backyard garden that are giving me anything I can use. This weekend, instead of getting annoyed at the tomatoes, peppers, squash, green beans, watermelon and cantaloupe that are alive but just not bearing any fruit, I just planted more herbs.

I can’t speak for every nursery in town, but a stroll through the herb section of The Natural Gardener gives me hope that all is not lost in the summer heat. I came home with lemon verbena, lemon balm, Thai basil and sage to add to the lemongrass, mint, thyme and other basils already growing.

After one whiff those herbs, my garden frustrations eased and my mind went back to cocktails. You could add just about any of those herbs to a number of drinks, but instead of chopping them up into little pieces or muddling them, just give them a good smack between your hands to release the aromatic oils before adding to your drink.

Here’s a recipe for a lemon verbena liquor that you could mix with lemonade or sparkling water:

Lemon Verbena Liquor


1/2 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves
4 cups vodka
2 cups sugar

Chop fresh lemon verbena leaves and put in a jar. Add 4 cups of vodka and let sit, covered, for two weeks, shaking every once in a while. After two weeks, add 2 cups of sugar and shake to dissolve. Let sit for two weeks. Strain out the leaves and bottle the fragrant liqueur, which you can add to desserts or serve with seltzer or other drink.


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Speaking of peaches, if you’re lucky enough to have a peach tree in your yard, like my friend Scott does, you’ve probably been thinning out these little peaches so the others can grow larger — that is, if the birds and squirrels haven’t beaten you to them. Scott brought these into work the other day, and they were much sweeter and tastier than I thought they’d be. They weren’t juicy enough, however, to muddle for cocktails.

Permalink | | Categories: Drinks, Eating locally, Food in your backyard

June 18, 2009

French-pressed and loving it at Once Over Coffee Bar

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2009 must be Jenee and Rob Ovitt’s lucky number. After years of honing their coffee shop skills at Izzy’s Coffee Den in Asheville, N.C., they moved back to Austin to open Once Over Coffee Bar in March.

The location? 2009 S. First St.

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In just a few months, the former motorcycle shop has become a favorite for South Austinites who come in for French-press coffee that baristas make in small batches all day, carefully made espressos and a shaded back deck. People can bring in outside food, an easy thing to do with El Primo taco truck right outside.

On Wednesday, check out Stitch and Twitch night, where novice and expert sewers play around with sewing machines and fabric. Bring your own machine, if you have one, or just come and learn from others.

Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Permalink | Comments (1) | Categories: Drinks

June 10, 2009

Mangoes aren't just for margaritas

If the only thing that comes to mind when you think mangoes and cocktails is a sugary sweet margarita, you’re really missing out.

Bill Norris, the acclaimed bar manager at FINO, created this cocktail just for my article on mangoes in Wednesday’s paper. (Word on Twitter is that he’ll be making these Mangada Coolers at FINO tonight to celebrate its birth in print.)

Norris says this cocktail is inspired by the classic Mexican street food combination of mango, chile and lime. The guajillo pepper syrup imparts a mild smoky heat to the finish, he says.

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Mangada Cooler


1 1/2 oz. Treaty Oak or other quality light rum
1/2 oz. Ron Zacapa Centenario Solera Grand Reserve 23 or other quality dark rum
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. guajillo pepper syrup (you can buy these at stores including Central Market or Fiesta)
4 pieces 1/2-inch diced mango
Topo Chico sparkling mineral water
Lime wheel for garnish


To make guajillo syrup: To two cups of water, add two cups sugar and four guajillo peppers, slit lengthwise. Bring to boil, reduce heat to a simmer, stir to dissolve sugar, cover and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Pass through fine mesh strainer to filter out solids. Stored in refrigerator, the syrup will last for 10-14 days.


Prepare the mango by removing skin and roughly chopping fruit into 1/2-inch cubes. In a mixing glass, muddle lime, mango and guajillo syrup. Add Treaty Oak and Ron Zacapa rums. Shake with ice and double-strain (use a tea strainer over the glass to catch any stringy mango bits) into iced Collins glass. Top with Topo Chico and garnish with lime wheel.

Permalink | | Categories: Beer/Wine/Spirits, Drinks

April 16, 2009

Fizzy kombucha, from my own kitchen

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Kombucha success! I had my doubts, I tell you.

When I wrote a column about kombucha in February, I started my own batch in my kitchen pantry. A little mold grew on the top layer, so I threw away most of the SCOBY, or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. (Austin blogger Food Renegade has a post about how to grow your own SCOBY from a bottle of commercial kombucha.) But with a glimmer of hope left in my digestive tract, I covered the large jar and put it back on the shelf.

Several weeks ago, a thick mold-less zoogleal mat had formed on the top, so I tasted the liquid. The aroma and tang of vinegar never tasted so sweet.

I pour the brewed kombucha, along with a cup or so of cranberry juice, into another large jar. But this time, I capped it tightly so the drink could get fizzy and finish doing whatever magical thing it does before it’s kombucha like the kind you buy in the store.

Earlier this week, I carefully brought the capped jar to the counter, and as I unscrewed the top, I heard the “ffsssst” I’d been waiting for.

Bada-bucha, my very own living elixir.

But how did it taste? It’s a little sweet to my liking, but my friend Penny and her partner Christina said it was the best kombucha they’d tasted.

The true test will be to see if I can get another batch to turn out so well. In the meantime, I’ll have to buy kombucha to get me though; the three Mason jars I filled with my first batch are almost gone already.

Permalink | Comments (6) | Categories: Drinks

February 18, 2009

Cuckoo for kombucha

Drinking all this kombucha to write today’s Relish Austin column about the mysterious drink must have made me a little crazy.

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Not only do I have a 2.36 liter pickle jar full of kombucha brewing in my pantry, I have another 2.36 liter jar of pickles in the fridge, just in case I want to start another batch, and I have half a dozen old Buddha’s Brew jars full of pickles, because you know how I can’t stand to throw away perfectly good food.

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Oh, and I went out and bought a case of the stuff last night because my own homebrewed kombucha won’t be ready for a few weeks.

Maybe all those good-for-your-belly enzymes have gone to my brain.

Permalink | Comments (2) | Categories: Drinks

January 22, 2009

Owl Tree is keeping Austin caffeinated

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Owl Tree Roasting, the newest kid on the Austin coffee roaster block, has both the buzzwords and the buzz, and neither is feigned. Co-owner Joshua Bingaman, who also owns Progress Coffee on East Fifth Street, and roaster Travis Kizer have teamed up with business partners to create a coffee roasting company as invested in the farmers who grow the coffee as the customers who drink it. They want to build a company that is serious about keeping the “fair” in “fair trade,” a term so widely used that even Starbucks latched on to it.


To Bingaman, running a socially responsible coffee business means working as closely as possible with the single estates in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia that grow the coffee Kizer roasts. It also means hosting events, such as concerts and coffee tastings, to bring the coffee community together and educate baristas, who are answering more questions than ever from customers about coffee origin and ethos. Owl Tree coffee is available at shops including Dominican Joe’s, Cupprimo, Whole Foods and Blue Marble Java in Pflugerville, or you can buy coffee by the pound ($10-$12) at the roasting facility located in a former gas station at 3421 N. Interstate 35.

Permalink | | Categories: Drinks, Eating locally

December 15, 2008

Houston bartender sweeps Austin Drink Local Night

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Bobby Heugel of the new Houston restaurant Anvil won the Edible Austin/Tipsy Texan Drink Local Contest last week. Heugel, who also pens the mixology blog Drink Dogma, was the only out-of-towner, up against local mixologists Will Earls of Gypsy, Billy Hanky of the Good Knight, Ben Craven of Starlite and Bill Norris of FINO, who won second in the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup earlier this year.

Heugel impressed the judges — which included Dai Due chef Jesse Griffiths, cocktail writer Moxy Castro, L Style/G Style editor Chantal Outon, “Tipsy” of TipsyTexan.com Joe Eifler and Driskill hotel food and beverage director Tom Beatywith — his False Dichotomy cocktail.

Here is the recipe for the winning drink: (You can find the rest of the contestants’ drinks on this Tipsy Texan post.)

False Dichotomy


2 oz Railean XO Texas Rum
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
.75 oz. Honey-Lavender Syrup
1 egg white
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients except for the bitters in a shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and mist the bitters on top, over half of the surface. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Permalink | Comments (1) | Categories: Drinks

December 5, 2008

Do you take sugar with that?

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When was the last time you went to a bonafide tea party?

Tomorrow is your chance. On Saturday, as part of Edible Austin’s Eat Local Week, Zhi Tea is hosting the Austin Tea Party, where you can sample teas from 10 local tea companies, including Sesa Tea, The Tea Embassy, Jade Leaves Tea House, Keria Tea, The Steeping Room (the owners of which were profiled in this month’s L Style G Style by editor Chantal Outon), Texas Medicinals, Barefoot Botanicals, Sweet Leaf Tea and Formosa Art Tea House.

Local chefs will be offering food tastings paired with the tea and there will be live traditional music to accompany a tea ceremony.

The tea party is from noon to 5 p.m. and is one of the stops on the Urban Farm Bicycle Tour.

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December 1, 2008

Martinis and massages for a cause

On Mondays, Oilcan Harry’s has been hosting “Martinis and Massages” nights, where if you buy a martini, you get a free chair massage.

Tonight, in support of World AIDS Day today, the club is offering the same deal, but with a cause in mind. The (wonderful and very talented) massage therapist, Scot Maitland, is donating his tips to the Wright House Wellness Center, and 42 Below Vodka, the sponsoring spirit, will match the donation. So, grab a Red Ribbon Martini from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight, have Scot massage away that holiday stress and help local AIDS/HIV support programs.

Permalink | Comments (2) | Categories: Beer/Wine/Spirits, Drinks

August 28, 2008

And Austin's Official Drink is...

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The Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau hosted the 5th Annual Austin’s Official Drink contest last night at Threadgill’s, and true to Austin style, it was plenty hot and plenty weird.


The task was simple enough: Create a drink that represents Austin and includes Tito’s vodka.

Five drink finalists prepared their custom beverages for five judges, including yours truly, who scored them based on taste, presentation, creativity and viability.

To get things started, bartenders from the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, who admitted being underdogs, wowed the judges with their superhero costumes and watermelon ginger “Summer Blockbuster Cocktail,” even though it was short on the ginger and strong on the Tito’s.

The Driskill Bar tapped into the legend of the Driskill ghost to create “Tito’s TomaTini,” which was made from tomatillo juice, lime and green Tabasco sauce. I was the unfortunate judge who had to tell them that although the idea was great, it just didn’t cut the mustard to be Austin’s Official Drink.

Eighteenth Over Austin, the bar at the Hilton Garden Inn, created the “Austinpolitan,” a delicious if slightly overpowering cocktail that combined basil-infused vodka and kumquat juice. I really wanted this one to work, but it just didn’t have the right ingredient proportions.

Using softened Amy’s ice cream, orange juice and (gasp!) orange food coloring, bartenders from Marker 10 at the Hyatt created the “Orange 10-tini” that tasted like a sweet, boozy orange push pop.

It was up to Ranch 616 to close the competition with a bang, and that they did. One bartender, dressed to evoke a young Johnny Cash, mixed drinks and bantered with a woman in a jalapeño costume before they presented “Fire in the Hole,” a shot made with Paula’s Orange Liquor, lime juice, cayenne and chili powder that was served in a jalapeño and with a Lone Star chaser.

I had my doubts about the jalapeño shot, but the quality of the drink pushed it to the top of my list. The other judges — The County Line’s Skeeter Miller, L Style G Style editor Chantal Outon, Tipsy Texan David Alan and Brilliant editor Lance Avery Morgan — must have agreed.

After a few minutes of vote-tallying and jokes from emcee Bryan Beck of KGSR, Tito Beveridge himself announced that the jalapeño shot was the winner and the Austinpolitan came in second. Much cheering and belly bumping commenced, and the Ranch 616 folks, including chef Kevin Williamson, let attendees have the first taste of this year’s official drink.

You can sample “Fire in the Hole” yourself at Ranch 616, but you might wait until September 12, when the new patio is complete.

Update: Check out the Austin360.com photo gallery!

Permalink | Comments (5) | Categories: Beer/Wine/Spirits, Drinks

August 12, 2008

How to: Make the best margarita ever

David Alan of TipsyTexan.com shows us once and for all the right way to make a margarita (something every single person in Austin should know how to do well, if you’d ask me). In the video, he goes over the basics, and below the video are some recipes and tips to help you get started…

Three, maybe four, ingredients, five if you count ice. So go home tonight and throw out those margarita mixes and crappy tequilas! And did you get the part about how much less expensive the locally made Paula’s Texas Orange is than the standard orange liquor?

Also, those silver measuring devices David uses are called jiggers, and they are cheap and available at most grocery stores.

Classic Margarita

1 1/2 oz. 100% agave silver tequila
3/4 oz. Paula’s Texas Orange or Cointreau
3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
If a sweeter drink is desired, start with 1/2 oz. simple syrup or agave nectar and adjust to taste.

If you want to make a Mexican Martini, all you have to do is chill the glass and an olive garnish before assembling the drink, using the same recipe as the classic margarita.

David says that for frozen margaritas, use this recipe — which is just a stronger version of the classic — to adjust for melting ice.

2 oz 100% agave silver tequila
1 oz. Paula’s Texas Orange or Cointreau
2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup or agave nectar

ice
A note about making frozen margaritas with your home blender: the big cubes that you get from ice cube trays at home are too big to be processed by a standard home blender. For better results, buy a bag of ice at the store, since the cubes are smaller and will blend more easily.

However, you don’t have to have a blender to make a frozen margarita. Just put ice in a thick dinner napkin and beat with a mallet (or kid’s baseball bat or meat tenderizer or whatever you’ve got in the kitchen with a stick handle…) until you have crushed ice.

Permalink | Comments (1) | Categories: Drinks, How to video

August 11, 2008

Thank you, sweet beverage gods, for agua fresca

My friend Corey brought some slightly over-ripe watermelon the other day and the texture just wasn’t ideal for eating straight, so we decided to make agua fresca.

The concept is easy: Squeeze as much juice out of the fruit as you can, then add a few other ingredients to make it even tastier (as if plain watermelon juice weren’t delicious enough!). We added water and a hint of lime juice, but it didn’t need any sugar or agave nectar because the watermelon was plenty sweet by the time we juiced it.

You can juice watermelon in a juicer if you have one, but you can also use a blender or food processor and then strain the pulp. (We used one of those As Seen on TV quick choppers. Why do I have one of those? It’s a neighbor’s, I swear. :)) I froze the watermelon pulp in little containers and gave it to my kid as a cool afternoon treat.

Cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, mango, grapes and strawberries work well with this method. Traditional jamaica and tamarind flavors and horchata, an almond rice milk often served alongside aguas frescas, aren’t too difficult to make, but we’ll cover those on another day.

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August 8, 2008

Austin named hardest-drinking city in U.S

Feeling tipsy?

You’re not alone, according to Forbes magazine, which this week said that Austin might be the hardest-drinking city in America.

Forbes, which releases similar rankings several times a year, used data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey to pinpoint Austin residents’ affinity for alcohol. The CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey last year found that 61.5 percent of residents said they had at least one drink in the past 30 days.

But it was the number of drinks per day that put Austin at the top of — or perhaps the bottom of — the bar. Nearly nine percent of people surveyed said they had at least one drink per day for women, two for men.

Milwaukee, Wis., came in at No. 2, followed by San Francisco, Providence, R.I., and Chicago.

The University of Texas, like most major universities in the U.S., has been battling the binge drinking image for decades. Forbes named it the No. 1 party school in 2006.

“I would hope that people would look at the methods of how these rankings are made,” said Sandi Cleveland, manager at the Health Promotion and Resource Center, which is part of the University Health Services. “It’s important for people to understand that UT students make up 5 percent of Austin’s population when they are all here.”

UT participates in a survey similar to the one conducted by the CDC in which students are asked about their drinking habits. About 72 percent said they had had an alcoholic drink in the past 30 days, Cleveland said. Thirty-four percent said they had participated in binge drinking, which means drinking more than five alcoholic drinks on one occasion, but the average number of drinks consumed was fewer than four. In the CDC survey, about 20 percent of adults in Austin said they have had five drinks on one occasion.

“We work with freshmen at orientation to talk about how students can avoid dangers of alcohol abuse, how to recognize alcohol poisoning,” she said. Cleveland said that 35 percent of first-year students don’t drink any alcohol.

Photos: Forbes’ hardest-drinking cities

Permalink | Comments (2) | Categories: Beer/Wine/Spirits, Drinks, Food in the news

July 15, 2008

How much milk can a food writer drink?

Remember that post last week about why some organic milks last so darn long? Well, I ended up doing a little taste test to see if I could tell the difference between one non-organic and three organic milks.

It wasn’t one of those bets to see who can drink a gallon of milk in an hour, but it sure felt like it when I was done…

Now, about those expiration dates:

H-E-B whole milk — July 22 Promised Land organic — July 25 Horizon organic — July 23 The Omega-3 Horizon — August 12

The Omega-3 milk was the sweetest of the bunch, and it will also last the longest on your refrigerator shelf. I’d say the sweetness is likely linked to the ultrahigh temperature pasteurization.

Also, that White Mountain yogurt I showed at the end is a local product! My neighbor friend Gilbert, who happens to be the dairy buyer for Whole Foods downtown, alerted me to this fact and said that it’s a very popular brand.

Remember: You can still e-mail me at abroyles@statesman.com (or send @broylesa a message on Twitter) with yogurt, cheese or butter tips! I’m working on a column for the end of the month.

Permalink | Comments (5) | Categories: Drinks

July 8, 2008

Pondering the shelf life of organic milk

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It’s no surprise that milk and gas cost about the same per gallon these days, and it’s no surprise that every few weeks, we end up throwing out up to a half gallon of the stuff before it goes bad! Well, we used to throw out more than we do now. I’m trying to stick to organic milk with the fast-growing kid and all, but it’s nutritional benefits are only one reason for the switch.

Many of you might have noticed that the expiration date on some brands of organic milk is weeks, even months, longer than that of many of the non-organic varieties. Shasta Cola and I were trying to figure out why during a taping last weekend of Cookin’ Good, she and her sister Arcie Cola’s hit public access cooking show. (Look for a Relish Austin column about them in tomorrow’s newspaper and a cooking video here on Austin360.com.) Shasta and I were stumped and I did some research today and figured out why the distant expiration dates.

It turns out that it has nothing to do with the milk being organic. How that type of milk is usually pasteurized is why it stays good for so long. I’ll let an animal nutrition professor, via Scientific American, explain:

The process that gives the milk a longer shelf life is called ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing or treatment, in which milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for two to four seconds, killing any bacteria in it.

Compare that to pasteurization, the standard preservation process. There are two types of pasteurization: “low temperature, long time,” in which milk is heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes, or the more common “high temperature, short time,” in which milk is heated to roughly 160 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds.

Organic milk production is more limited than non-organic, so it usually has to travel farther (so much for trying to eat locally, right?). Ultrahigh temperature pasteurization allows for longer travel time and shelf life, but some say it adversely affects the flavor and there are unverified claims circulating that it lowers the nutritional value.

Also, not all organic milk brands use this kind of pasteurization, so check the expiration dates anyway.



Is anyone else out there buying organic milk because it lasts longer? Anyone notice a taste difference?

Photo courtesy of www.mercola.com.

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June 19, 2008

Looking for some good iced coffee

We’re working on a story for next month about iced coffees. Anyone have some good recommendations? We’re going to highlight several from all corners of Central Texas, so let me know if there are some delicious drinks being served in your neighborhood!

Just e-mail me or leave a comment.

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June 5, 2008

Juice cocktails at the Belmont

The man in the know, Matthew Odam, has a post over at the M.O. about the Daily Juice, the Barton Springs juicery, hooking up with the Belmont downtown for Daily Juice After Dark, where you can enjoy alcoholic drinks made with super fresh juice.

Starting tonight, the event will take place Thursdays from 8 p.m. to midnight. Check out the M.O. for more info.

Mmmm, can’t wait to check it out.

Permalink | | Categories: Beer/Wine/Spirits, Drinks