Only one bar that participated in last year’s Official Drink of Austin competition is returning to try and make the cocktail that defines Austin. North Loop pub Drink.Well will be joined Feb. 26 by newcomers Garage, Half Step, Odd Duck, Licha’s Cantina and Vox Table, an upcoming restaurant on South Lamar Boulevard.
The competition, which I announced last month would return in late February, pits local bar teams against each other in a friendly match-up to find out who has the best Austin-inspired cocktail. Although the five judges have the ultimate say in who will take that title, you’ll also get to try each of the offerings from the six bars and vote on which one is your favorite for a people’s choice prize. (And in case you’re worried all that boozy sampling might be too much, you’ll have bites from local eateries such as the Hightower, Gardner, Freedmen’s and Epicerie to keep you sharp.)
Judging this year’s Official Drink of Austin are Jason Kosmos, co-founder of the 86. Co. and a pioneer of New York’s cocktail scene; Jack Gilmore, chef and owner of Jack Allen’s Kitchen; Justin Elliott, last year’s competition winner and bartender at Qui; Jason Stevens, bar manager of La Corsha Hospitality Group’s restaurants; Dan Gentile, Thrillist writer; and Gina Chavez, an Austin-based singer/songwriter. They’ll be looking for an original, expertly made cocktail that in some way reflects Austin’s quirky spirit.
Although Vox Table is new this year — expect it to open in late February, early March — the small plate-focused restaurant’s beverage director, Travis Tober, sure isn’t. A longtime bartender, he competed for the Official Drink of Austin title last year with the Four Seasons team, helping it to take home the people’s choice award for the Treaty Oak bourbon-based Red Handed Stranger. Expect Vox Table’s drinks program to be centered around low-alcohol cocktails, house sodas, boilermakers and even a “Market Price Old Fashioned menu” that “sells drinks by weight rather than by the glass,” according to Details magazine.
The boozy event, held from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 26 at Fair Market on East Fifth Street, raises money for the Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s culinary grants program. To purchase the $55 tickets, visit the organization’s website at austinfoodwinealliance.org.