Now that Vox Table has been opened for a couple of months in the Lamar Union development, beverage director Travis Tober is finding his groove — and refining the kinds of cocktails he wants the drinks program to focus on.
He knew from the start that he wanted to launch a menu of Old Fashioneds made with various spirits beyond the usual whiskey, a pet project that’s helped him to get smarter about the more scientific side of making cocktails. He’s also releasing a new drinks menu this week that will feature several new boozy beverages.
“The first (cocktail list) was a ‘Let’s get to know each other, Austin,’ kind of thing, and this one’s ‘let’s get weird, Austin,'” he said, adding that one big focus of the bar menu is to have riffs on classics like martinis to make these cocktails even better than they are.
The Old Fashioned menu — which is listed separately from the other cocktails on a board by Vox Table’s sleek gray-and-white bar — is simple but effective. It will always offer three Old Fashioneds with whiskey and two with “aged wild-card spirits” like rum and cachaça, Tober said, as a way to showcase how three basic ingredients (a 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. simple syrup and 3 dashes of bitters) play off each other.
Currently, the menu features Old Fashioneds with High West Double Rye, Vox Table’s blend of Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Glenfiddich 5-Year Scotch, Waterloo Antique Gin and Avuá Amubrana Cachaça. Try the rye version for a bold burst of spice on the palate or the cachaça one for oaky sugarcane funk. They all range between $6 to $8 — based, rather remarkably, on their weight in ounces.
Tober came up with the idea for this type of Old Fashioned menu after a trip to London’s White Lyan, where bartenders serve only what they’ve previously made, sans common ingredients like ice and citrus, and have broken down each cocktail to an almost molecular level, knowing a variety of variables about each one, from their weight to their temperature to the amount of acidity present in each one. Although Tober hasn’t gotten quite that in-depth, he and his bartenders have figured out just the right dilution rate “to get a perfect Old Fashioned each time.”
“Next to spirits, ice and dilution are the most important things in cocktails,” he said.
The Old Fashioned menu is intended to demonstrate that — and to explore whether rye and bourbon are really the best spirits for the classic drink. Tober said that he eventually wants to get 1 oz. flight boards to make that boozy exploration even easier.
Among the new cocktails on the menu is Vox Table’s take on other standbys, like the shandy, the Cosmpolitan and the Mexican Martini. The Cosmpolitan is a “mellowed-down” version with lemon-infused Reyka Vodka, Leopold Bros. New England Cranberry Liqueur, fresh lime and orange bitters. The Mexican Martini (which Tober admits he has a soft spot for) has gone through a similar makeover, with Casamigos Silver Tequila, Bad Dog Fire & Damnation bitters, lime juice, a salt tincture and olives that have spent 24 hours in a vacuum-sealed bag with peppers, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel and vermouth.
Another new cocktail is sure to get a lot of attention thanks to its presentation. Basic Beach, with cachaça, rum, a coffee tincture, lemon juice and vanilla orgeat, will be served in a glass sitting in the middle of a small box with sand in it.
“It’ll be like you’re at the beach in Austin,” Tober said.