Austin tends to be known more for our beer and our tacos (our margaritas, too), but a few of the craft cocktail bars in this booze-loving city have been getting national attention of late.
This week, the top 10 nominees for the Tales of the Cocktail's Spirited Awards — which you might call the Oscars of the bar industry — were announced. Three of Austin's top cocktail bars made the cut, one of them in two different categories: Nickel City, an east side neighborhood bar; the Roosevelt Room, a stately downtown cocktail den; and Half Step, a powder-blue bungalow bar in the heart of the Rainey Street entertainment district.
Each of them have been nominated for the Best American High Volume Cocktail bar award. Nickel City, which plans to open a Fort Worth location this fall, is also a candidate for the Best American Bar Team.
For Nickel City co-owner Travis Tober, the nominations are gratifying, a sign that what he and his bar team are doing isn't going unnoticed.
"Finally letting it sink in," he wrote on Facebook Thursday morning, the day after the top 10 nominees were revealed. "We were all hopeful for getting one nomination for the Spirited Awards. Absolutely blown away that we ended up on two lists. ... I'm also over the moon happy that we received the Best American Bar Team (nomination). It's some serious dedication that we all do and it feels great to have that recognized!"
Nickel City has made waves locally for its laid-back but still well-done approach to craft cocktails. Things aren't taken too seriously there, you might say. In October, the bar transformed into Moe's Tavern from "The Simpsons" for Halloween; in December, it hosted a tiki-focused Sippin' Santa cocktail pop-up.
Half Step and the Roosevelt Room have also become recognized locally for their drinks. The five-year-old Half Step combines craft cocktails with live music, in a perfect Austin mash-up, while the nearly four-year-old Roosevelt Room provides an extensive menu of classic drinks that almost serves as a boozy history lesson.
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The Roosevelt Room team recently kicked off a pop-up tour visiting various bars across the country and Canada, starting with Pouring Ribbons in New York. That spot is also on the Spirited Awards nominations list, in the category Best American Cocktail Bar. (The trio of Austin bars are part of the separate high-volume category because they have a minimum 100-person capacity.)
The winners of the Spirited Awards — there can only be one winner per category — will be announced on July 20.