Half Step founder Chris Bostick may be coming to Austin from L.A. craft cocktail mecca The Varnish, but he got his start in the service industry in a much humbler role. "I used to chop home fries at Magnolia," he says, "I'm proud of that."
Bostick attended St. Edward's on a theater scholarship, and he sees his role behind the bar as something of a performance. "Welcoming guests as a host is my creative outlet," he says. He discovered the burgeoning craft cocktail movement while working in New York in the late 90's. Running the bar at Fonda San Miguel allowed him to experiment with a wider variety of cocktails and to use fresh ingredients from Austin farmers markets. But back in the early 2000's, there wasn't much of a cocktail scene in Austin. Bostick felt like he was "out on an island."
The Varnish in L.A., where he rose from bartender to manager, was where he got to drink the "good Koolaid" of high mixology. His time at The Varnish taught him "process" more than anything else, the careful practices and ratios that make even a three-ingredient cocktail memorable. That said, he's "back and happy" in Austin. "Texas has a way of calling you back home," he says.
The team at Half Step is composed of unrepentant cocktail nerds who will "fuss over the ph level of the water in the ice machine," but the bar is designed to be approachable. "We have no problem serving a whiskey and Coke," Bostick says. "When we're slammed, that will sound great." He also is not concerned about Rainey's growing reputation for rowdiness, and expects most folks "know how to behave in a saloon."
The bar boasts a Clinebell ice machine for in-house ice making, and in addition to the table-service indoor space, an outdoor bar and patio will be ready to open by March. There's no food at Half Step yet, but Bostick hopes at some point to add a trailer in the back, and to host monthly barbecues. They're currently softly open, and will open officially on Tuesday, February 4. Check out their menu on Instagram.
Correction: This piece previous said they had Austin's first Clinebell; Emma Janzen points out that Weather Up has one, too.
[Photo provided by Chris Bostick]
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