Whether you feel like a fancy cocktail, a nice beer, or just relaxing at a low-key establishment, downtown Austin offers all kinds of options to satisfy even the pickiest palate.
I feel like fancy drinks
Austin’s self-proclaimed “first absinthe bar” serves up some of the smoothest drinks in town. Even if there are too many options to choose from (they have an amazing selection of rare varieties of gin, absinthe, and chartreuse), the Péché mixologist should be able to make something for you based on your preferences. You will not be disappointed!
- What to get: I highly recommend the “Grasshopper” from their adult milkshake section.
- Like a local: Péché offers a “burger of the day” that is always delicious. If you want a bite to eat, be sure to try their burger with duck fat fries!
TenOak has a great variety of different bourbon, whiskey, and gin, and they have mastered the art of the perfect ice cube. In addition to whiskey and gin, TenOak offers some pretty inventive cocktails, like a “Pop-rock-tini” that tastes just like the 1980s (pet rock not included).
- What to get: I highly recommend the TenOak Mule, but if you’re feeling adventurous and don’t mind a little pink in your drink, get the Pop-rock-tini.
- Like a local: Get the Frozen Edward. No, not Edward from Twilight, but Edward as in Austin-based Deep Eddy sweet tea vodka, an Austin favorite!
“Exquisite” is the word I would use to describe the Parkside experience. Parkside is a great option if you’re looking for a nice, solid cocktail and excellent food. Parkside specializes in oysters and other seafoods, as well as beautiful, inventive desserts. Anything you get here is amazing, really. I especially like their basil sorbet!
- What to get: Get the Aviation martini, and definitely the ceviche.
- Like a local: Check out their happy hour from 5:00 – 6:30 with half-off bar menu and cocktails! It’s one of my favorite happy hours in town.
Yes, this bar has an odd name. We honestly don’t know if it should be pronounced “see you twenty nine,” or “copper,” but regardless of the name, this new bar in town offers a delicious variety of hand-crafted cocktails and has quickly become a staple of Austin nightlife. The menu is curated regularly and features some really interesting and inventive cocktails.
- What to get: These guys are some of the best mixologists in town. The best I can recommend is for you to talk to them, tell them what you like, and have them surprise you.
- Like a local: CU29 changes their cocktail menu on a daily basis, so you may want to come back to see if you can get their Brisket Bourbon or Creme Brulee Martini.
If you’re looking for something special make sure to visit Midnight Cowboy. Once an oriental massage house, the place has been cleaned up a bit (okay, a lot) and has become a must stop on a self-guided Austin cocktail tour. Step 1. Visit the Midnight Cowboy website and make a reservation, which are only offered in two-hour blocks. Step 2. Arrive for your cocktail appointment and ring the buzzer for entry. Step 3. Enjoy delicious cocktails prepared table-side — an experience you’ll be bragging about for years to come.
- What to get: Their menu is in constant rotation so ask for a recommendation based on your spirit or flavor profile preference. These guys know their cocktails, so don’t be afraid to try something new!
- Like a local: Don’t have a reservation? Don’t want to make a reservation? If a walk-in table is available then the vacancy sign above the entry will be on. Ring the buzzer marked “Harry Craddock” and hope they let you in.
East Side Showroom
If you’re looking for ground zero of the Austin cocktail revival then make sure you stop in at the East Side Showroom, located on the west end of the infamous East 6th bar corridor. Prohibition era atmosphere and some of the best cocktails in town, prepared with love.
- What to get: The Daydreamer, made with mezcal and aloe, is bound to be a summertime favorite. Usually I order anything they serve with a house-made maraschino cherry and always ask for double cherries.
- Like a local: Settle in at the bar, chat up the bartender and ask to be the guinea pig for a recent cocktail creation. They are always trying new combinations.
I feel like beer
Welcome to Beer Town, USA. You have the good fortune to be visiting Austin during a craft beer boom. You almost have to try to not drink local beer. In addition to our establishment suggestions try some of the delicious suds from one of our many local breweries including Jester King, Austin Beerworks, (512), Twisted X, Adlebert’s, Live Oak, and many more! If you’re staying past the con go on a brewery tour — or three — you won’t regret it.
I bet you are going to visit Easy Tiger more than once during your Austin stay — it’s become a staple in downtown Austin. Not only do they have an excellent beer selection of local and imported beer on tap, but they also bake their own bread! Pretzels, sandwiches, cookies, you name it! Easy Tiger actually provides freshly baked bread to many restaurants in Austin, so you can go straight to the source.
- What to get: Try the Austin Beerworks Black Thunder! A gold medal winning brew from last year’s Great American Beer Festival and a Web Chef favorite.
- Like a local: A secret nod to the “made for TV” edit of Die Hard, ask for a Mr. Falcon. It’s a concoction that is half Austin Beerworks Black Thunder and half Austin Beerworks Fire Eagle.
The Gingerman is a “family of American pubs,” which can be found all around Texas and New York City (among other locations). For years, The Gingerman has been the official unofficial pub for the local tech community to gather for drinks, meetups, or “beer summits.” They have an excellent selection of beer on draft, which changes seasonally.
- What to get: For a summer beer, I would highly recommend the (512) Wit, a local refreshing beer perfect for a hot summer day out on their patio.
- Like a local: Most visitors to The Gingerman don’t realize they also serve food! You may want to pair up a delicious French Dip with your beer.
Craft Pride is truly the best way to experience Texas beer. No, really. Craft Pride only serves beer crafted here in Texas, all on tap! They have over 54 Texas-brewed beers, as well as wines made here in Texas, for those who are not into the whole hops thing.
- What to get: I would highly recommend the Hops and Grain Alt-eration.
- Like a local: Come to Craft Pride hungry if you like pizza! The Via 313 pizza trailer located at Craft Pride offers delicious Detroit-style pizza that is a must-try! They also have gluten-free pizza, for those interested in a pizza experience without the gluten.
I feel a little divey
Legend has it that Mugshots is where comedians hang out when they’re in town. I even heard Jon Hamm was spotted there once while he was visiting Austin. They have a spacious back patio with tables and chairs that is a good option to hang out if you’re looking for a low-key atmosphere.
- What to get: It’s a dive bar, just get a pitcher of Lone Star.
- Like a local: If you’re looking for late night grub, a local food trailer called Kebabalicious sets up right across the street from Mugshots. Grab a kebab and head on over to Mugshots to wash it down.
Casino El Camino
Casino El Camino is known for their giant burgers and unique atmosphere. Many bars play sports on the tube, but not this one. Casino El Camino plays non-stop horror movies all day. Their indoor space can get pretty dark (notwithstanding their gothic decor), but they do have a patio outside, if you’re looking for some sunlight.
- What to get: Their Bloody Mary is a must-try! It comes with blue cheese and a slice of bacon.
- Like a local: Texans like it hot, and the Armadillo Burger brings on the spice. Try it if you dare!
Rio Rita is a bit of a staple in East Austin. Day and night, Rio Rita offers coffee and strong poured drinks. What makes Rio Rita a great experience is their mini lounges adorned with funky furniture. You can come in with a small group of friends, find a mini lounge area and have a nice, relaxed vibe.
- What to get: Get the Bloody Mary, hands down. Try it with their Habañero infused vodka if you really like it hot.
- Like a local: Rio Rita offers some food options, like pizza by the slice from East Side Pies, a local pizza shop.
Don’t forget to grab your tickets to Office Space!
We’re putting together a very special, private screening of Office Space the Monday of DrupalCon Austin. Get your tickets here, seating is limited!
This post is part of our #4Daysof4K Guide to Austin series. Be sure to check out the other guides:
Photo credits: pecheaustin.com, cecycorrea’s Flickr, ATOD Magazine, Serious Eats, Dishblogger, Go Mighty, Good Food Stories, Eat Your World, Austin Globe Trekker, Yelp, Culture Map,