People have been staying in more, perfecting their cocktail-making skills and building out their home bars with all sorts of liquors. And the perfect addition to any bar, really, is Central Texas alcohol. It makes for a thoughtful holiday gift for friends, family, and coworkers, or, honestly, for yourself, and it helps support local businesses. Eater Austin asked about local bartenders for their favorite Central Texas-based liquors, wines, beers, and other booze accompaniments.
For more holiday booze, check out Eater Austin’s guide to holiday pop-ups offering takeout drinks.
Erin Ashford, beverage director, Olamaie and Little Ola’s Biscuits
Fronks ‘Nog: The best local nut milk, just got a little better. For the vegans in your life, this vegan eggnog is the perfect gift. Just add bourbon or brandy, and you’ve got a delicious boozy vegan nog for the holidays.
Kooper Family’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo Bourbon: This is my favorite whiskey to gift because it’s smooth, has the perfect balance of vanilla and oak, and the branding is eye-catching. It’s a small distillery (based in Ledbetter, Texas) run by husband-and-wife team Troy and Michelle Kooper, who humbly make some of the best sipping and cocktail-friendly rye and bourbon. I’ll be giving a bottle to my brothers-in-law this year.
Kosmic Kombucha’s Salty Dog and Desert Door Sotol: I love mixing cocktails at home with kombucha. It’s the easiest way to make a simple drink quickly. The Austin-based company’s Salty Dog flavor, made with grapefruit, orange, lime, ginger, sea salt and agave, pairs perfectly with a bottle of Desert Door Sotol (based in Dripping Springs). You can find the
Fairweather Cider’s Floaties: This Austin cidery makes the most fun and chuggable Basque-style ciders with the cutest packaging. Floaties is a collaboration with the newer local brewery Hold Out Brewing, and is a perfect entry point for beer lovers looking to get into cider.
Rambler Sparkling Water and Dripping Springs Vodka: Highball lovers should flock to this sparkling water. Perfectly effervescent, refreshing, and the Austin-based company just released a lime and grapefruit flavor. Gift a six-pack along with a bottle of local favorite Dripping Springs Vodka.
Where to find it: Fronks: various markets/restaurants, deliveries through Farmhouse Delivery or Prep to Your Door; Kooper’s Family: various liquor stores; Kosmic: various retail stores/markets; Desert Door: place shipping orders directly, curbside pickups at Austin Wine Merchant; Fairweather’s Floaties: pickups at both Fairweather and Hold Out; Rambler: various retail stores/markets; Dripping Springs Vodka: various liquor stores, curbside pickups at Austin Wine Merchant, deliveries through third-party services
Christina Torres, co-owner, School House Pub, Mi Madre’s Restaurant, and Techo Mezcaleria & Agave Bar
Our favorite would have to be Treaty Oak Distilling’s Red Handed Whiskey Bourbon (based in Dripping Springs). Treaty Oak does an amazing job with this whiskey: they barrel-age it twice, and we barrel-age it in our small barrel one more time. Those barrels are available on Etsy for gifts to go with the bottle. They also sell ready-to-drink old fashioneds straight from the bottle, where you just pour it over ice.
Laura Maddox, bar manager, Small Victory
We’d like to recommend Swift Distillery’s whiskey. It’s the only local whiskey that has passed the Small Victory smell test (not literally a smell test of course, our real test involves tasting at room temperature and neat, even the vodkas). Nick and Amanda Swift, who own and operate the distillery, are so kind, so amazingly knowledgeable, and serious about making high-quality whiskey in a traditional manner. Their facility is very impressive, and they are so hardworking. The whiskey is single-malt and just as good as many of the scotch brands we carry, despite being distilled and aged here in Central Texas. They don’t cut corners when making their whiskey, they go the extra mile to guarantee quality. We love their stuff.
Where to find it: various liquor stores
Kevin Kok, bar manager, the Peached Tortilla and Bar Peached
Dripping Springs Vodka; Garrison Brothers’s Cowboy Bourbon; Tweaked Distilling’s gin, a clean and aromatic gin made in Austin entirely from pure cane sugar and natural spring water. The gluten-free spirit makes an extremely polished martini.
I like these, because they have character. The first impression for me is always important. When you take that first sip, and you want to go back for more, just makes you wonder if your palate will find more surprises on each sip you take. Just like the Police song, “Every Breath You Take.”
For bitters: Bento Picnic’s Saba San’s Original Bitters, made in-house. The bitter is an amazing bitter that has a beautiful aroma. I used it for a sazerac; it turned out wonderful with a Christmas flavor coming from the rosemary, coriander and cardamom.
Where to find it: Dripping Springs Vodka: various liquor stores, curbside pickups at Austin Wine Merchant, deliveries through third-party services; Garrison: various liquor stores, place shipping orders directly; Bento Picnic: place pickup orders directly and there are DoorDash deliveries
Kaylee Kulich, general manager, Craft Pride
At Craft Pride, we would recommend a growler fill, particularly the Austin Beerworks’s Pearl Snap for a few reasons. It is one of our top-sellers — we have a regular who comes in almost every day for a couple pints of it. It’s an approachable, crisp, German-style pils that many palates find comforting and the name “pearl snap” screams Texas.
Jeremy Murray, co-owner, Kitty Cohen’s and High Noon
If I could gift anything it would be Southhold Farm & Cellar’s Piquette. I picked this up on a whim during a trip through Fredericksburg, we bought some of the last six-packs they had and I was blown away. It was like drinking Starburst candies in a can, and it’s super low-ABV, which means it’s perfect for all-day chugability. Sadly, this is not available right now, it’s so good, they ran out. We should see it again this spring or summer.
So with that being said, you may need a product that is available, my second go-to would be Still Austin Whiskey Co.’s straight bourbon. 100 percent of the grains were sourced from Texas farmers. I’ve been to the distillery multiple times and what these guys are doing in Austin is legit. With notes of orange peel and vanilla, it’s perfect in an old fashioned.
Adan De La Torre, bartender, Draught House Pub & Brewery
I have been drinking Still Austin Whiskey Co.’s new straight bourbon, the Musician, a lot. It’s just a great all-around bourbon. It’s a little hot (booze burn), but it’s also smooth. Flavors like cinnamon and toasted nuts carry you to a caramel-y oak finish. It goes great in just about any bourbon cocktail, but makes a wonderful hot toddy. If you’re feeling fancy, replace water with hot earl grey tea, along with honey and lemon juice.
Alex Wheatley Bell, beverage director, Aviary Wine & Kitchen
I don’t think there could be a better choice to both safely social-distance and indulge in the wine revolution currently happening than to get to the uniquely diverse, local Texas wine scene. Spend a day and take a trip out to visit the four key players out around Hye, Johnson City, and Fredericksburg: the jovial and juicy natural offerings from Henry Crowson at Crowson Wines’ the OGs in the game and for good reason: William Chris Vineyards; the classically charming Bordeaux blends that bleed Texas from Benjamin Calais and Calais Winery; and the wild gunslingers of Reagan Meador and Adrienne Balou crafting funky, fun, “fill the glass full” wines of Southold Farm & Cellars.
Yet we can’t stop there. You aren’t doing yourself a proper service and selection of Texas if you don’t take yourself out to the newly opened C.L. Butaud and Wine for the People’s tasting room opened by Randy Hester & Rae Wilson down Fitzhugh Road. Two magicians of fermentation under one roof, these low-intervention winemakers champion completely different wines, but keep the heartbeat the same: Texas grapes and the glorious juice that can be crafted to complexity from them. Stuff these selections in your stocking and wash away 2020 the right way.
Where to find it: Crowson: place shipping orders directly; William Chris: various markets,/liquor stores/restaurants, place shipping orders directly; Calais: place shipping orders directly; Southold: various liquor stores/restaurants, place shipping orders directly; C.L.: various markets/liquor stores/restaurants, place pickup orders directly; Wine for the People: various markets/liquor stores/restaurants, place shipping orders directly
Mike Sharp and Lauren Ward, bartenders, Yellow Jacket Social Club
We’d like to recommend Garrison Brothers’s whiskeys. We love them because they’re a family-owned Texas whiskey, and it’s delicious. It makes a great gift because, while some may consider it exorbitant, we think it’s a staple for anyone’s shelf.