Chances are, there's a whiskey for you and every other palate under the sun. One hotel bar in downtown Austin is betting so much on being able to find the right one for you that it has only whiskey on the shelves — and no beer, wine or other spirits.
The Bourbon Bar inside the Hilton Austin, located within the Cannon + Belle restaurant, serves whiskey cocktails, whiskey flights (or whiskey trails, as they're called here) and neat or on-the-rock pours of bourbon, rye and Japanese whisky. A majority of the whiskeys available are Kentucky bourbon, including from venerable producers like Four Roses, Woodford Reserve and Old Rip Van Winkle.
One of its signature offerings is the Build Your Old Fashioned option that has already proven popular, according to the hotel. A simple classic cocktail calling for bourbon or rye whiskey, Angostura bitters and a sugar cube, the Old Fashioned can be made to your specifications — simply choose a bourbon from the menu and then one of the bitters flavors, such as Aztec chocolate, black walnut and blood orange.
Like the bar in general, the Build Your Old Fashioned program is intended to help you discover or deepen your appreciation for the versatile aged spirit.
"As whiskey continues to pick up steam in popularity, we saw an opportunity to celebrate those flavors and make a variety of them accessible through the Bourbon Bar for open exploration," Anthony Ybarra, the Hilton Austin's assistant director of food and beverage, said via email.
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Cocktails are mostly riffs on classics, which besides the Old Fashioned include the Manhattan and the Sazerac. The Pear Hot Toddy (Wild Turkey 101, pear and honey simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and rosemary; $12) will warm you up during the season's remaining cold snaps; the Red River Blvd (Maker's Mark, Aperol, orange bitters, and burnt orange and peppercorn syrup; $14) might bring out your Longhorn school spirit.
And then there are the whiskey trails ($15-$26): flights of four whiskeys in each category. In addition to Kentucky bourbon, Japanese whisky and rye whiskey flights, there's also a flight of American bourbons that were made in New York, West Virginia and, of course, Texas. (Our state has become known for well-made whiskey.) The flights will help you compare and contrast flavors, Ybarra said.
For Ybarra and the others who put together the Bourbon Bar program, it was important to make sure the 60 whiskeys on the menu, as well as the cocktails, appealed to a wide variety of drinkers, including those who might never have tried whiskey and others who know their way around the back bar.
"We want our guests to take a look at our list and get excited because we have their favorite bourbon that they can’t find anywhere else," he said.
The Bourbon Bar will host its first whiskey tasting event on Feb. 15 with Blanco's Ben Milam Whiskey. The event, running from 6 to 8 p.m., features a special $10 Ben Milam cocktail and live music, and a representative from the award-winning distillery will be present to answer questions and talk about the brand.
Cannon + Belle is located in the lobby level of the Hilton Austin at 500 E. Fourth St. The Bourbon Bar inside the restaurant is open 5 to 11 p.m Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, visit cannonandbelle.com/the-menus/bourbon-bar.