liquor

City Guide: CU29 Cocktail Bar

Tucked away on Congress Avenue, between Seventh and Eighth Streets in downtown Austin, sits Cu-29 Cocktail Bar. The bar opened within the past year and is a cross between a ’90s martini bar and a handcrafted cocktail bar. What makes this bar unique is that the bartenders enjoy helping their customers create new drinks, based on your tastes—whether it’s adding bacon-infused spirits or one of their many homemade simple syrups.

CU29 Cocktail Bar
720 Brazos St.
(512) 474-0029
Daily 4 p.m.–2 a.m.
http://cu29cocktailbar.com
Happy Hour daily until 6 p.m.
Takes cash and cards

Drink suggestion: The Friendly Stranger ($12) and a deconstructed rum old-fashioned ($12)

The CU29 Cocktail Bar venture is a collaboration between the owners of SoHo Wine and Martini Bar and Waxy O’Connor’s Irish Pub in San Antonio, to bring an East coast flair mixed with the relaxed vibe of the South.

With a dark interior and floor to ceiling windows in front, the bar side has flashes of copper drawing your eye in. Across from the bar are booths against a red brick wall. There are also a few floating tables and plenty of seating at the bar with candles for a little lighting.

In determining your drink, the bartender will be interested in your tastes, such as whether you prefer sweet, spicy, herbal, citrus or fruity. He’ll also want to know what your base spirit is. Hawaiian Rose is one of their over-the-top original drinks, which I would have tried, except that I don’t eat or drink bacon. Try it out and let us know how it goes!

In addition to The Friendly Stranger and a deconstructed old-fashioned, the bartender, Cole, concocted us our own cocktails as well. Antonio’s had Hendrick’s Gin, muddled cucumber, orange bitters, a dash of lemon juice, chili rim and infused Ghost chili pepper vodka. Tiffany’s included vanilla vodka with a bit on cointreau and grandma (“grand marnier“), a dash of milk, handmade whipped cream, cocoa, coco real with cocoa butter, a chocolate almond rim, orange flakes and chocolate on top.

Presentation is key, with lots of flared orange rinds, homemade meringue (made while you watch), lemon peels and chocolate syrups.

Cole’s passion for cocktails shined through and he hires bartenders with energies that match.

Whisler’s

If you enjoy drinking in candle-lit historical buildings, look no further than Whisler’s in East Austin. This cocktail bar features bartenders who really know their stuff: from the history of bitters to how to make old-fashioned cocktails. With three bars and a food trailer named Dumpling Happiness outside, there’s no reason you can’t stay here for the long haul. Depending on the weather, there’s nice ambiance inside and outside. The bar has plenty of tables, bar stools along the bar and seating on the patio.

1816 E. 6th St.
(512) 480-0781
Daily 4 p.m.–2 a.m.
www.whislersatx.com
Takes cash and cards

Drink suggestions: Noveau Western ($11) and Brown Derby ($9)

When you enter the front, you’ll find low-lit mood lighting consisting only of candles, except for the chandelier directly above the bar.

The bartenders, Justin (Lavenue) and Ben, are friendly and helpful, assisting with a drink based on your tastes. My preference is gin and slightly sweet, while Antonio prefers whiskey.

Justin suggests a house cocktail, the Noveau Western ($11), for me, which is what I had been eying to begin with. It includes gin, aperitif wine, unfiltered sake, cardamom (a favorite of mine) syrup and lime bitters garnished with a sprig of thyme and a slice of lime.

For Antonio, he suggests a Brown Derby ($9) from the classic menu, consisting of bourbon, grapefruit and honey syrup.

Both are just what the doctor ordered—playing to our individual tastes perfectly.

Antonio says his drink reminds him of his childhood when he’d go to the mall with his mom because she’d promise him an orange Julius. To him, this drink offered the same sort of refreshment.

We also tried the Naughty Literati punch, which was the special of the night because a book club had met there earlier in the evening (Lisa, take note! My book club is cool, but no Naughty Literati’s yet!). We also enjoyed this drink of raspberry liquor, sapphire Bombay, orgeat (a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose water or orange flower water) and lemon bubbles, while learning about the history of punch, which you can hear for yourself in our podcast from Justin himself.

As for ambiance, friends and couples alike can sit at the bar or at a cozy table. There’s inside and outside seating, depending on your mood, and, of course, the always-changing Austin weather (except in the summer, when it’s just HOT).