[Photo: Annie Ray/Fons PR]
Alamo Drafthouse beverage director Bill Norris is an egalitarian drinker at heart. While some might suspect that the preferred spirits of a noted bartender would be limited to amaro and high-end mezcal, Norris's Alamo bio actually lists Irish whisky and Guinness as his go-to shift drinks. As such, despite his pedigree, Norris doesn't mind coming clean about his unbridled love for a good Moscow Mule or boozy dessert shake. To kick off Eater Austin's cocktail week, the man behind the libations at 400 Rabbits, Glass Half Full, and the temporarily departed The Highball shares the hidden gems on each menu. Read on for both his five top picks from the Alamo Austin bars and the rationale behind each choice.
1. Full Scotch Irish Breakfast (Glass Half Full)
Bonded Rye, Stout, Maple, Lemon Curd, Whole Egg, Mole Bitters, Nutmeg
There's a awful lot going on in this drink. How do you balance the big flavors? Is this a seasonal menu selection?
Each of the components has elements that make the drink link up. The chocolate malt notes in the stout play off the barrel notes in the rye and are enhanced by the sweet maple. The tartness of the lemon curd balances out the drink and also helps with the creamy texture laid on by the egg. The mole bitters act as the seasoning, helping everything come together.
2. The Moscow Mule (Multiple locations)
Vodka, lime juice, and house ginger beer.
This is a classic, and is simple to make - but how is it best prepared?
I prefer this to be built. Add your vodka and fresh squeezed lime juice to the glass. Fill with ice, top with the best ginger beer you can find, and stir very gently to combine without destroying the effervescence.
3. The Grasshopper Shake (Multiple locations)
Crème de cacao, crème de menthe, vanilla ice cream
Pairing dessert and liqueurs can really go over the top (and perhaps be cloying) - is this purposeful, uninhibited gluttony?
This drink is a total guilty pleasure. It's rich and taps into a vein of nostalgia, but manages to not be overly sweet. It is clearly a dessert, but the pungency of the mint helps to keep it from being too much.
4. Peaches & Herb (Glass Half Full)
Rocky Mountain Peach Whiskey, Vanilla Porter Syrup, Aperol, Bitters
You don't often see whiskey and Aperol together - how did this drink come to be?
We had some rhubarb in the house last summer, along with some fresh peaches, so we made a peach and rhubarb pie. Aperol has always had a bittersweet rhubarb character to me, so when I revisited the Leopold Bros. Peach Whiskey while we were putting together Glass Half Full, it seemed like it might work. I love the way this drink came out.
5. Sherry Darling (400 Rabbits)
Reposado tequila, orange infused sherry, Grand Marnier
These ingredients are classic and classy - what elements in each bring harmony to the finished drink?
Sherry and aged tequila are awesome together and the orange infused sherry is so good that I knew I wanted to use it. The very small amount of Grand Mariner is the link here. The alcohol by volume is high enough to carry a lot of flavor, and the pungent orange notes and barrel age of the cognac base bridge any gaps between the sherry and tequila. This might be favorite drink on the 400 Rabbits menu.