The owner of Calais Winery has already delivered a French flair to his Texas wines — and now wants to offer his take on rum, another popular drink in his native France.
Benjamin Calais, the winemaker at his Hye-located winery in the Hill Country, has partnered up with friends James Davidson and Stephanie Houston to open Hye Rum not far from the winery on Highway 290 West, with Davidson taking on the role of head distiller and Houston all of the sales and marketing.
Calais felt passionate about diving into rum, in addition to wine, because he noticed a very different attitude toward rum in the states than abroad.
“I just don’t feel like rum has the place it deserves in the U.S.,” Calais said. “It’s used as a mixer, so it’s often as neutral as possible, and I just don’t think that’s part of the rum tradition. Bigger, fuller spirits, like a Jamaican-style rum but not as rough around the edges, that’s what we’re going for.”
When people visit the distillery and its accompanying tasting room, the centerpiece of their experience will be cocktails, he said: an opening menu of 10 “traditional Caribbean-style and New Orleans-style drinks, like Mai Tais and Hurricanes.”
“We will have everything from sweet dessert-style cocktails like the Painkiller to more bone-dry options, like the Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned and Navy Grog,” Calais said. “We will have a daiquiri, our version of the Cuba Libre, a Dark and Stormy, a mojito, a piña colada… I feel like those are the fundamental rum cocktails.”
The distillery is aiming for an early April opening; in the meantime, rum lovers can get an early taste of what’s to come with Tiki! A Hye Rum Event on March 25, which will have a whole hog roast, buffet-style dinner and a preview of the distillery and its pot still. Tickets range from $65-$595.
Having a pot still rather than a column still will help Hye Rum’s mission of producing flavorful, full-bodied rum products using molasses — a boozy mix that will include a white rum and others that have been aged in a variety of French oak barrels, most of which have originally come from Calais Winery. Column stills, he said, traditionally make more neutral spirits.
“We’re going to run an old-fashioned pot still, fermenting from scratch, and distilling twice,” he said. “We’re not taking any shortcuts on the production side to get a bigger, heavier, deeper flavor. We’re using all the fermentation tricks that I’ve learned in the wine business to create a fuller product; I just have to remember we’re working with molasses instead of grapes.”
He and Davidson — whose first love, he said, is whiskey, but who jumped at the chance to open the distillery with Calais and has done a lot of research on rum — have drawn inspiration for the rum they’ll make from Caribbean islands like Jamaica.
Although Calais loves rum from French islands like Martinique and French Guyana, the spirits there are primarily made using sugarcane juice, versus from a sugarcane byproduct like molasses, the base of Hye Rum. The sugarcane juice gives the rum a floral character that Calais and Davidson will replicate only in very small releases. Because the distillery isn’t located in the Caribbean, they don’t have regular access to fresh juice, he said.
“There hasn’t been a craft revival for rum as there has been for gin and whiskey,” he said. “There is not much interesting rum produced in the U.S. for the U.S. market. People design them as vodka-like.”
For that reason, he expects to have to educate visitors to the tasting room once it officially opens, but having run Calais Winery for nearly 10 years in a state still being introduced to its own wine, he is well-versed in what it takes to get people used to and preferential toward his beverages.
“If you have a good product and people don’t know about it, they want an education, and we can show people actual fermentations, what the products look like and taste like, and the results we get out of it,” he said. “Being able to show our product straight and in cocktail form should help people understand this is the right way to do it.”
Once Hye Rum opens, tours and tastings to the distillery at 11247 Hwy. 290 West will be by appointment only so the staff isn’t overrun by what Calais has seen as strong initial interest. After that, he said, Hye Rum will move to regular tasting room hours.
Bottles of the white rum will be out in the next two weeks. Although the bottle designs for subsequent rum releases will be different each time, people can at least expect that the bottles will always hold rum.
“We’re only going to make rum. We’re going to stay focused on that and try to be the best at it,” he said.
Texas Independence Day with Yeti, 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 2. Buy a custom Yeti drinkware product and the new flagship store and bar will fill ‘em up on the house, with proceeds going to the Austin Music Foundation.
Bell’s Brewery Launch Party at Via 313, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 2. Michigan pizza with Michigan beer, united at last: Via 313’s brick-and-mortar locations will bring back a pizza special for the occasion.
Circle Brewing’s 6th Anniversary Party, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 11. This year’s celebration coincides with a big rebranding and Circle’s first-ever cans, as well as a new seasonal, M’Lady English IPA.
St. Patrick’s Day at North by Northwest, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, March 17. Special cask tappings, Irish stew and Irish music promise fun for the whole family (even a bouncy house and balloon artist for the kids.)
The Beer Train with the Bluebonnet Beer Co., 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 18. The Austin Steam Train is hosting another boozy train ride, this time with beers from Round Rock’s only brewery. This event has been rescheduled to May 20 due to mechanical issues.
Sophia’s Bubble Brunch Launch, 12 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 19. The supper club is debuting a monthly brunch with prosecco-based cocktails, champagne bottle service and brunch dishes with an Italian twist.
SXSW Recovery Party at Irene’s, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, March 20. Hair of the dog is sometimes the only way to recover from a week-long fest, so Irene’s will have drink specials on wine, beer and Tito’s Vodka.
Astronomy on Tap, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21. Three out-of-this-world talks will be accompanied with pints of beer, astronomy-related art on display from local artists, and more at the North Door.
Yes Chef Beer Release at Black Star Co-op, 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday, March 23. The brewpub’s beer team collaborated with its kitchen staff to come up with a beer perfect for the end of a long, hot kitchen shift: an adjunct cream ale.
Fourth Saturday at Real Ale Brewing, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 25. In honor of the brewery’s 21st birthday, Real Ale is debuting two more beers in the Mysterium Verum series: Magnum Trux and Rex Indomitus.
Red Line Brewery Tour, Spring 2017, 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 25. Train-hop to check out three local breweries near the Capital MetroRail Red Line: Zilker Brewing, Black Star Co-op and Circle Brewing.
Tiki! A Hye Rum Event, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25. A new rum distillery from the makers of Calais Winery in the Hill Country is hosting a whole hog roast buffet-style dinner. $65-$595.
That’s what many other Qui projects (including East Side King and Thai-Kun at Rock Rose) call happy hour, and Kuneho’s looks like a good one. The restaurant, which serves sushi and globally inspired bites at 1600 E. Sixth St., will now have happy hour deals on both food and drink from 5 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Here’s the “happy happy time” menu:
Asahi Super Dry, $3
Super Ape: Smith & Cross rum, Giffard Banane du Bresil Liqueur, lime and turbinado sugar, $8
Punch glass: daily concoction, $5
Carpe Diem: blanco tequila, London dry gin, rose, coconut water, lemon and grenadine, $20 (serves 2 to 4 people)
Perfect Bites: morcilla a la dinuguan, $2; tuna larb tostada, $3; enoki mushroom and tamari, $2; crispy onion, $2; and salmon nigiri with marinated ikura, $2
Crudo: saba escabeche with East Coast mackerel, ponzu and tomato, $7; kinilawin with cobia, coconut vinegar, coconut milk, red onion, and cilantro, $8
Maki mono: Austin roll with fish cake, pickled salsify, avocado, sweet chili vinegar, $5; fried shrimp roll with green apple and dashi aioli, $6; Mama Mia with big eye tuna, cucumber, avocado, kuro tempura flakes, $6
Snacks: seasonal tempura vegetables and tensuyu, $3; root vegetable lumpia with daikon, cilantro and peanut sauce, $6; kimcheese with kimchi, velveeta and an egg roll, $4; and chicken karaage with fish caramel, $4.
Kuneho (which means “rabbit” in Qui’s native Tagalog) has a variety of other cocktails, sake and wine available beyond happy hour as well through the restaurant’s Borough Bar, such as the playful Rockin’ Bird with pisco, Fruity Pebbles, curacao, pistachio orange syrup, lemon, orange and an Aperol float.
Starting Monday, Austinites will start noticing drinks with a literary theme in some of their favorite local bars. Places like Weather Up, Backbeat and the Wheel are offering these cocktails on special as part of Literary Libations Week, which benefits the Texas Book Festival’s Lit Crawl event in the fall.
Each of the participating bars made drinks inspired by books — a diverse range of tomes, from Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” to Gabriel García Márquez’ “Love in the Time of Cholera.” The cocktails are similarly wide-ranging. And it’s not just Austin bars participating, either: Houston and San Antonio spots, such as Mongoose Versus Cobra and the Esquire Tavern, have also mixed up some booze for the love of books.
“Nothing complements summer reading better than a summer cocktail,” Julie Wernersbach, literary director of the Texas Book Festival, said in a press release. “As a team that lives and breathes books and that celebrates the end of every week with a regular Friday wine-down, we’re excited to take our literary conversations to some of the state’s finest bars.”
Among them is the Townsend on Congress Avenue, where beverage director Justin Elliott crafted the Samizdat, with Scotch, Topo Chico and Cointreau Liqueur de Camomille, after a long winter reading David Foster Wallace’s hefty tome “Infinite Jest.”
“It’s transportive in much the same way that many of the world’s finest spirits are transportive,” he said in the release. “I think about books I’ve read, and I can recall being transported to the world of the book while reading. And in the same moment, I’m transported to where I was in life when I was reading the book. And then I think about what I was drinking while I was reading it.”
Here’s the list of Austin bars participating in Literary Libations Week and the cocktails they are making for it. A portion of the proceeds go toward the Texas Book Festival in November.
Backbeat: A Farewell to Armagnac, with Tariquet VS Armagnac, Batavia Arrack, Averna, Pierre Ferand Dry Curaçao and Angostura bitters
Freedmen’s: Life Finds a Way, with rye whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse and sweet vermouth, topped with orange bitters and garnished with T-Rex-shaped orange swath. Inspired by “Jurassic Park.”
Gibson Street Bar: No Good Deed, with Bar Hill Tom Cat Aged Gin, Tempus Fugit Alessio Vino Chinato Vermouth, blue curaçao, Lightning Rod Adobo bitters, lime juice and an edible flower. Inspired by “Wicked.”
Nightcap: Tequila Mockingbird, with Don Julio Blanco, chartreuse, lime juice, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and pineapple
Searsucker: Cachaça on a Hot Tin Roof, with Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça, Aperol and cinnamon syrup
Small Victory: Love in the Tom of Collins, with lemon, simple syrup and Old Tom Gin
The Dogwood: A Cocktail of Two Cities, with Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, Bar Keep Lavender bitters and champagne
The Roosevelt Room: Ahab’s Odyssey, with Bombay Sapphire Gin, white grapefruit-lime cordial, Cubeb berry-infused manzanilla sherry, Capillaire syrup, Bolivian rose salt water and wine tannins. Inspired by “Moby Dick.”
The Townsend: The Samizdat, with Bruichladdich Rockside Farm Islay Barley 2007 Vintage, Cointreau Liqueur de Camomille and Topo Chico
Weather Up: Our Man in Havana, with Cuban rum, maraschino, Pimm’s, grapefruit, lime, strawberry and a cucumber slice
The Wheel: Around the World in Eighty Proof, made with Tullamore DEW, Tanqueray London Dry Gin, Aperol, Lillet Blanc and Peychaud’s bitters
Each of these cocktails will be available through Aug. 19 next week.
77 Degrees Rooftop opens this afternoon as the third of four original bar concepts from the Union Venture Group, one of the development companies transforming the Domain into such a North Austin hot spot.
“With cocktails designed specifically to make guests feel like they’re on vacation, 77 Degrees is the perfect addition to Rock Rose,” Jeff Van Delden, co-owner of Union Venture Group, said in a press release. “Partying on the roof will be a must for everyone who stops by Rock Rose — the sunsets are a great way to end any day.”
So are the cocktails, which 77 Degrees’ Ryan Baird designed to make visitors feel like they can enjoy tropical fun all year round (and not just at Texas Tiki Week). The drinks include El Niño, with Myers’s Dark Rum, Bacardi Oakheart, lime and ginger beer and the Norman’s Cay with Bacardi Cocnut, Bacardi Mango Fusion, coconut water and lime.
The bar also pays homage to some of the tasty tropical classics, like the Singapore Sling with Bombay East Gin, cherry heering, Bénédictine, pineapple and lime juices, and soda.
Although the drinks are quite boozy, the bar offers bites that will keep you feeling fine. Try the fresh ceviche with lime juice, red onions, avocado and diced sweet plantains served with a spiced wonton chip or the Chickpea Lettuce Wraps with ancho spice mix, lime crema, pickled onions and jalapeño.
And if you stop by from 3 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, you’re just in time for happy hour. According to the press release, happy hour includes $5 appetizers, $5 wells and $4 Mexican beers. 77 Degrees also has a Party on the Roof event on Sundays from 3 to 8 p.m. And don’t worry about the rain, either: There are both covered areas and open-top spots on the rooftop bar.
The bar is opened daily from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. and is located at 11500 Rock Rose Ave. (The entrance is located between Jack & Ginger’s and Saint Genevieve.) For more information, visit 77-degrees.com.
Treaty Oak Distilling is opened every weekend to offer you cocktails made from the Treaty Oak spirits lineup — including Starlite Vodka, Waterloo Gin and Red-Handed Bourbon Whiskey — but next weekend, the distillery is hosting a class to teach you how to make these cocktails yourself.
The cocktail class on Dec. 19 is being taught by Treaty Oak’s cocktail guru Matt Moody, which means you’ll be in good hands if you’ve never mixed up a drink before. He’ll teach you how to make two classics: an Old Fashioned featuring the bourbon and a daiquiri featuring Treaty Oak Rum. His “fun and informative session will explore the history, the process and the methods needed to rock these recipes at home,” according to a press release.
For $38, you’ll also get a light food buffet paired with the drinks, a branded Treaty Oak rocks glass and recipe cards of each of the featured cocktails. Or, if you really want to go all out, upgrade your ticket for $117. That’ll get you a full bag of professional cocktail tools and a bottle of one of Treaty Oak’s clear spirits — you can choose which one. Reserve your spot ahead of time here.
Once the 2 to 5 p.m. cocktail class is over, stay for an evening of games, cocktails and live music from Sophia Johnson, who’s performing at the rickhouse from 4:30 to 8 p.m. The Treaty Oak ranch is located at 16604 Fitzhugh Rd., in Dripping Springs.
Treaty Oak isn’t the only booze maker in Dripping Springs ready to turn you into your own home bartender. For anyone who prefers vodka, Deep Eddy Vodka is offering another “Dive in to Mixology” class on Thursday. This one is $37.92 and gets you small bites, cocktails and a souvenir glass to take home. Tickets to the class are here.
Isla, the downtown rum bar next door to sister bar Peche, might look the same tropical haven as it has since opening earlier this spring, but staffing and menu changes have tweaked its concept slightly.
Trey Jenkins, whose love of tiki helped to form Isla’s original bar program, has left his position behind the bar to become staff mixologist at a local distributor. But Isla owner and founder Rob Pate doesn’t doubt that Lopez will succeed in his shoes.
“We believe he will make a great addition to our team,” Pate said in a press release.
He decided to change up the food, drink and happy hour menus after noticing that Isla visitors were wanting something different out of the island-focused bar and restaurant.
“Isla has always been about island-inspired eating and (imbibing) in a laidback atmosphere,” Pate said in the press release. “We’ve learned quite a bit since opening this past March and sensed our customers were looking for more of a ‘Caribbean cantina’ vibe from our menus — more comfort food but still with an island flare.”
The simplified beverage program, according to the press release, “highlights rum and tequila that is meant to complement the food, with less of a tiki focus.” That means cocktails like the Rum Old Fashioned, with aged rum, orange, lime peel and five-spice bitters, and the Pineapple Margarita, with reposado tequila, pineapple, dry curacao, lime and coriander salt. But popular Isla drinks like the Painkiller, with navy-strength rum, coconut cream, orange juice and pineapple, are also joining the newcomers on the menu.
Happy hour is your best bet at getting to know the new Isla. Running from 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays — and all night on Wednesdays — happy hour includes specials like $5 cocktails and half-priced food items such as oysters, empanadas, sandwiches and tacos.
Austin’s fourth annual Texas Tiki Week — the one time each year you’ll almost wish, by the end, that the rum were gone — is returning just in time for the summer doldrums, when a boozy pick-me-up is just the ticket for making it through the next few weeks of never-ending heat.
But that’s not all. The Austin chapter of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild, which has been throwing this week-long rum bash since 2012 to celebrate what’s become known as tiki culture (you know, the only remaining appropriate situation for wearing a Hawaiian shirt), has gotten many other Austin bars involved. Here are the events that you can participate in this year.
Monday: Tipsy Texan David Alan and Dallas bartender Mate Hartai are taking over the Jackalope’s patio bar for a happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. with Pyrat Rum.
Tuesday: Croon into the microphone for a late night of tiki-oke at the King Bee Lounge. Starting at 10 p.m., the King Bee will offer a special cocktail menu featuring Mt. Gay Rum and other spirits, which will, of course, get you all loosened up for that surf rock song you’ve secretly been dying to cover.
Mai Tai Tuesday is an earlier option for tiki lovers who don’t want to be up too late on a work night. Try the classic tropical drink at bars like the Tigress, Half Step, Weather Up and the King Bee Lounge (which is preparing ’em frozen, and if they’re anything like the bar’s frozen Bee’s Knees, these mai tais will be very good). The Corner Bar at the JW Marriott will also have a Texas Mai Tai made with Treaty Oak rum.
Wednesday and Thursday: Bartenders from the famed Chicago-based tiki spot Lost Lake are stopping by the courtyard at Hotel San Jose for a happy hour pop-up, from 3 to 6 p.m. both days, that will feature cocktails from Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, Rhum Clement and Plantation Rum.
Friday: The Jigglewatts Burlesque Revue will take you on a tropical holiday to the glamor of the silver screen’s golden era at this live entertainment show at the Roosevelt Room. Starting at 9 p.m., this Hollywood Havana party will have a special cocktail menu featuring Caña Brava Rum.
Saturday: Cool down and close out your tiki week adventures with the Tiki Takeover Pool Party at Rio on West Sixth Street. Tiki tunes will have you swaying poolside as you sip on tropical cocktails from Grand Marnier and Kappa Pisco.
In addition to those official Texas Tiki Week events, there will also be special tiki nights at various local bars through Aug. 9, when the days of boozy rum punches, bright tropical shirts and elaborate island decor sadly come to a close.
Among the fun side events is Whisler’s 3rd Annual Tiki Takeover on Tuesday with collectible tiki mugs galore. Weather Up will also be throwing a pig roast with daiquiris starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, and the Volstead will have an island-style cook-out with yet more daiquiris for you to drink up. For weekend tiki fun, visit Searsucker downtown starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, when $8 tiki cocktails such as the Peg Leg and La Sirena will transport you to a tropical paradise.
No Va on Rainey Street, Bar Congress and Drink.Well, which have been spotlighting tiki drinks throughout the summer on their cocktail menus, will also be good spots to visit (especially on Tuesday).
Even a local liquor store is getting in on the fun. Throughout the week, Twin Liquors is celebrating Tiki Week, but the big event is Thursday, when Tiki Fest will bring in Treaty Oak Distilling, Liber & Co. and Austin Cocktails for free tastings.
When Pleasant Storage Room closed unexpectedly late last year after less than a year in business, Austin lacked a good rum bar where colorful island culture, complete with bright Hawaiian shirts, coconut-shaped mugs and drinks with names like the Zombie, could be regularly celebrated.
But the bar’s next door neighbor, the French-centric Péché, decided not to change the focus of the space very much when Péché’s owner Rob Pate bought it — now Isla, it’s all about tiki, all the time, the only bar in Austin to fully embrace the tropical-themed bar trend currently on a resurgence across the country. Tiki bars have been opening all over the U.S. thanks to the earlier mythologizing influences of Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic’s and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and Isla has joined their ranks. (The previous extent of Austin’s participation in the tiki movement had been through Texas Tiki Week for the past few years.)
Walk in and you’ll see how easily the new bar, now open seven days a week, lives up to its name: Isla’s cool tropical vibe, highlighted by vintage art in mismatched frames and teal, yellow and burnt coral seating, “will bring the paradise to you,” as Isla’s general manager Trey Jenkins put it.
So will the drinks, of course.
For Jenkins, transferring from Péché’s absinthe-tinged bar program (he was the assistant bar manager there) to Isla’s rum-soaked one wasn’t a big transition. He had been spearheading Péché’s Tiki Sundays for the past seven months, after all. He and a couple of regulars would pick out a cocktail to make from one of Beachbum Berry’s tiki books — Berry is essentially the historian of the modern tiki movement and has now opened his own tiki bar in New Orleans — before the weekly night of rum became official, with a menu featuring a mix of Berry’s staples and some riffs on them.
“I like rum because it’s a rogue spirit,” Jenkins said. “Rum doesn’t play by the rules like the other spirits do. It just has to be made from sugar. No specifications on aging or where it has to be made. Not even any rules on how it has to come from sugar. No wonder the pirates drank it so much.”
Isla will have about 105 different rums on the shelves once all the bottles Jenkins ordered come in, the selection representing the full range of flavors and complexities that rum can have, from Martinique’s rhum agricole, a very grassy and vegetal version, to Guyana’s Demarara rums, full of spice and vanilla notes. (Quick rum lesson: Rhum agricole, or rums from French-speaking islands, he said, are produced from pressed sugarcane juice. These preserve the soul of the sugarcane flavor more than the rums from English-speaking islands, such as Jamaica or Guyana, which will have a fuller-bodied taste more reminiscent of molasses. And these are just two of the regional varieties you’ll see on shelves.)
Because all these rums can taste so wildly varied, cocktail recipes often specify which type of rum should be used, Jenkins said.”With a lot of tiki drinks, you can’t replace the rum with another because the ingredients are meant to complement the characteristics of that rum, whether it’s Puerto Rican gold rum or Jamaican rum or Demarara rum,” he said.
The drinks menu at Isla is no different, with every item detailing what rum should be used. He’s divided the bar menu into three sections: classics, featuring timeless favorites like mojitos, daiquiris and a Rum Old Fashioned; tiki drinks popularized by the mid-20th century’s love affair with cocktails full of fruit juices and topped by lots of garnishes, like the Zombie or the Painkiller; and Isla drinks created by Jenkins, like the Isla Barrel of Rum with house-spiced rum, 12-year Nicaraguan rum, grapefruit juice, lime juice, passionfruit syrup and Angostura bitters.
Within the tiki drinks section are two cocktails offered on draft, the Mai Tai and the Zombie. Jenkins is batching them ahead of time, he said, because the Zombie has a whopping eight ingredients, far too many to be whipping up one at a time each night. And the Mai Tai is sure to be popular, so it’s also a good one to have prepared early.
One of the bar’s original concoctions is the Kill Devil Cobbler, made with 12-year Jamaican rum, sherry, sugar, pineapple and orange juices, and nutmeg sprinkled on top. It’s an ode to Isla’s original name, the Old Kill Devil (a 17th-century moniker for rum), that Jenkins said “is more the name of a basement tiki bar where men in tattoos serve you” — not exactly the sort of exotic island paradise Isla hopes to transport visitors to, he said with a laugh, but worthy of a cocktail all the same.
Isla also has island-inspired food, such as grilled octopus and a Caribbean seafood pepper pot of shrimp, scallops and more cloaked in a spicy broth. That’s yet another prominent reason Isla is the place to go if you’re wishing for a tropical sojourn, Mai Tai in hand.
“Not many places in town are doing tiki on this level,” Jenkins said. “We’re proud to be one of them.”
Isla, 208 W. Fourth St. C. Open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays-Fridays, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays-Sundays. http://www.islaaustin.com.