If Austin had an official cocktail, what would it taste like?
An annual competition between local bar teams has explored that question for several years and will again with the return of the Official Drink of Austin event in September. The competition, which allows attendees to taste samples of each of the drinks being judged, is co-hosted by and benefits the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. Tickets are on sale now at the alliance's website.
On Sept. 12, the eight finalists chosen from an initial competition will go shaker to shaker to create Austin-inspired cocktails. Each one must contain at least one local ingredient, whether that's a spirit, a liqueur or some other edible option. Here's who we'll see competing for the Official Drink of Austin title.
Apis Restaurant and Apiary: In Spicewood, the seasonally focused eatery made the Statesman's top 25 restaurant list for three years in a row, and you can bet the cocktails are just as good as the food
High Note: Kerbey Lane Cafe's health-focused concept opened this spring keeps cocktails simple, and just as filled with fruits and veggies as the food menu
Geraldine's: The gorgeously decorated restaurant inside Hotel Van Zandt has a drink featuring Tacodeli's famous house-made doña sauce, so an oddball local ingredient in Geraldine's Official Drink of Austin entry wouldn't be totally out of the question
Live Oak: Last fall, the Four Seasons Austin renovated the lobby bar and restaurant one floor below. But one thing the downtown hotel never had to worry about was the quality of the cocktails offered, which are as solid as ever
Midnight Cowboy: The Sixth Street speakeasy's most recent themed cocktail menu focuses on flavors from around the world, but it's no doubt getting hyper-local for this September competition
P6: Views of Lady Bird Lake have never been more beautiful than those from this rooftop bar at the Line Austin Hotel, which launched with drinks from venerated bar industry veteran Brian Floyd
Rules & Regs: Fairmont Austin opened downtown with four restaurant and bar concepts, including the poolside Rules & Regs, which specializes in refreshing, outdoor-friendly tipples
Suerte: Considered our city's best Mexican restaurant — and one of Austin's best new restaurants, period — Suerte wouldn't have earned all the accolades without also having stellar booze
The bar teams representing each of these spots — who were narrowed down from an initial competitor pool of nearly 50 — will have quite an audience tasting their locally inspired creations.
Besides locals who can vote on their favorite drink, there will also be a panel of judges with impressive resumes: Masahiro Urushido, owner of New York's Katana Kitten bar; Emma Janzen, digital editor at Imbibe and former Statesman writer; Ashtin Berry of New Orleans' Radical Xchange; Ryan Foster of Domo Alley Gato Tatsu-Ya and the forthcoming Tiki Tatsu-ya; and Rae Wilson of Austin's Wine for the People. (Foster led a previous Official Drink of Austin-winning bar team, Juniper.)
There will also be spirits tastings, bar food bites, live music and more. Early bird general admission tickets are on sale for $55. Once those run out, general admission goes up to $65; there are also $95 VIP tickets. Tickets will be $85 at the door.
The competition runs from 7 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 12. For more information, visit austinfoodwinealliance.org.