Austin bartenders know how to pour up boozy creations for any occasion, including dessert. In light of Sweet Week, Eater asked bartenders all over the city about their favorite sweet(er) spirits, cocktails, and coffee concoctions. From six year old brandy to Coke, these experts spilled the essentials for a define dessert drink to polish off a meal, or simply ease a sweet tooth.
JR Mocanu, beverage director of Vox Table
“Classic Irish coffee is easily my favorite dessert drink. The deliciousness of the fresh whipped cream, piping hot coffee with a touch of sugar, and a healthy pour of whiskey, is undeniable. With less sugar than most dessert drinks, Irish coffee has just enough bitterness to help settle a full belly.”
Jayson Black, head bartender of Garage
"I am a huge fan of the sherry cobbler. Fortified wine, fruit, and sugar is the perfect combination for an after-dinner drink. Since there is no set recipe, it’s always in season with whatever fruit is ripe for picking. Cobblers tend to have a low ABV, which is a good thing considering the last sip leaves you wanting more."
Brett Esler, bartender of Whisler’s
“While the traditional recipe of the Grasshopper makes for a great alternative to dessert, Mr. [Jeffrey] Morgenthaler's version is my go-to guilty pleasure.The Grasshopper cocktail was reputedly created at Tujague's in New Orleans' French Quarter, and rose to popularity in the 1950s. Mr. Morgenthaler has taken the silky, minty goodness a step further with vanilla ice cream, Fernet Branca, and sea salt.”
Josh Loving, co-owner of Small Victory
Loving’s choice is the Brandy Alexander or as he calls it, the “Alexander No. 2.” He continues, “The important thing to remember with a cocktail like the Brandy Alexander is that it is only three ingredients, and only as good as its lowest quality ingredient. We use organic heavy whipping cream, the only acceptable crème de cacao on the market, Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao, and six year old Paul Beau VS Cognac for the brandy. If made with cheap and low quality ingredients, expect the Brandy Alexander to taste accordingly.”
Justin Lavenue and Dennis Gobis, co-owners of Roosevelt Room
Gobis’ favorite dessert cocktail is an Armagnac Stinger made with VSOP Armagnac, white crème de menthe, and grated nutmeg for garnish. Lavenue goes for a classic Grasshopper, with a touch of Fernet Branca for a more robust kick.
Curtis Hansford, bar manager of Swift’s Attic
“A Mr. Lebowski made with Chameleon cold brew, Mount Gay black barrel, condensed milk and orange zest. It’s not your traditional coffee cocktail — the oil from the orange zest really gives the nose some brightness, and rum and coffee always go hand-in-hand. It’s the perfect nightcap for the end of a meal."
Max Sage, bartender of Prohibition Creamery
Sage told colleague Alana Zanello: “I’m in love with the Cocoa” cocktail from the Red Headed Stepchild, because the banana and cognac-based drink, with Cocoa Krispie-infused milk, plays to everyone’s inner child.
Rob Pate, owner, general manager, and mixologist of Peché
"Brandy Alexander. I was seven years old and in a restaurant in Mexico, and that was the dessert. It was the start of my fascination with spirits.”
Lance Gresak, beverage director and assistant general manager of Red Ash
“The Affogato Du Monde from the iconic Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. The bitter-sweet cream and coffee notes play such an important part in this classic dessert, and the temperature separation of ingredients gives each bite a new dimension.”
Justin Elliott, food and beverage director of Townsend
"Bring back the Colorado Bulldog! It's basically just a white Russian with some Coca Cola in it, but at the same time, it is so much more than that. The Coke interacts with the cream and you get a float effect — like that moment halfway through your float when it's all melted, but still super good...It’s got texture, depth, and thanks to the acidic Cola, some degree of balance. It's good you guys, I promise.
“Also, a glass of Cointreau on the rocks with a dash of bitters in there is a real thing of beauty too, and a lot less likely to get you laughed out of some of the more sanctified halls of cocktology."
Shane Paule, bar manager of Isla Austin
Paule’s favorite is a Painkiller because the sweet blend of coconut cream, pineapple and orange juice, rum, and nutmeg, is easy to drink, and makes him feel like he is on island time.
Derrick Mangroo, bartender of Prohibition Creamery
“An espresso martini from Justine’s Brasserie, made with vanilla vodka, Kahula, and espresso. The three simple ingredients combined make a sophisticated, caffeinated, and delectable martini. Ingeniously crafted, this cocktail is a perfect pick-me-up in place of a coffee course after dinner — it’s divine”
Heather Welch, bartender of Prohibition Creamery
“An Irish coffee, or possibly, a black Russian...anything with a little caffeine and coffee flavor. I've had a few other coffee and dessert inspired-cocktails around Austin.”
Libby Spencer, Vic Rockman, bartenders of King Bee
Spencer finds the bittersweet and settling taste of a Negroni, or a simple glass of Cynar 70 amaro to be the perfect nightcap. Rockman prefers a Trinidad sour with “lots of Angostura bitters, rum to settle your stomach, and Orgeat to sweeten your day.”
Colette Dein and Billy Hankey, co-owners of King Bee
Dein goes for a simple mezcal hot chocolate made with espadin, chocolate, butter, and hot water. Hankey likes something a bit more spicy, sweet and floral — a Bonsoir cocktail made with sherry, benedictine, crème de violette, and ginger beer.
Jessica Sanders, co-owner of Drink.Well/Backbeat
"Dessert cocktails have been criticized for so long now because most guest’s have an important caveat to their drink order wrapped up in those three magic words, “not too sweet”. Getting an unbalanced, overly sweet drink is a death knell in cocktail bars. The champagne flip on our Fall menu at Backbeat is a classic that we’ve tweaked a little adding a pear eau de vie. This not only dries the drink out quite a bit but also adds some complexity against the base spirit (cognac). It’s very much like a perfectly baked souffle...creamy and appropriately decadent...but still really light and lively.”