Gin is about to be in, in a big way.
A new hotel in the heart of East Austin has already introduced a couple of restaurant concepts, as created by Lenoir owners Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher.
But they had another idea in mind for an outdoor bar at the Arrive East Austin that wasn't quite ready when the rest of the hotel opened last month. Now, guests and locals alike can head to the Gin Bar three nights a week for an in-depth exploration of the clear, botanical-heavy spirit. The upper-level bar has more than 60 varieties of gin from around the world that are available to try neat or in cocktails.
The minds behind Vixen's Wedding and Lefty's Brick Bar — the East Sixth Street-facing dining concepts at Arrive East Austin — Duplechan and Maher thought the Gin Bar would nicely round out the food and drink offerings at the hotel because gin is a refreshing spirit to enjoy in the Texas heat.
Their enthusiasm was clearly infectious. Arrive East Austin's beverage director, Lindsay Drew, can tell you about some of the bottles she's tracked down and sourced for the Gin Bar with a gleam in her eye.
"Across the street (from the hotel), Whisler's has a mezcal-focused bar. Seven Grand downtown is all about whiskey," she said. "We're starting to introduce the idea of exploring different liquors at certain bars. With the craft cocktail wave that has been happening for a while now, there's a lot of guest interest in learning more and exploring more. So when Todd said gin, I said, 'Sign me up.'"
Gin is a particularly fascinating spirit, she said, because it's so versatile. There are a number of botanicals to choose from — juniper being the only required one, others including coriander, citrus peel and lavender — that can be added in different proportions. And even the base spirit can vary. Still Austin Whiskey makes its gin with rye, for example, and Drew found one from Mexico distilled from agave.
Called Gracias a Dios Agave Gin, "it has 32 botanicals from all 32 Mexican states, which I thought is really cool," Drew said. These include nuts, coffee, passion fruit, mate, green tea and even Bougainvillea ﬂowers.
The Gin Bar menu lists all the gins that are available for trying, either neat or in classic cocktails such as a Negroni, Bee's Knees, or gin and tonic. Specific cocktails are also listed — including three types of martinis and additional classics that may be lesser known. Among them is the passion fruit-loaded Saturn, Tiki's only gin drink, and the Daisy featuring the Gracias a Dios gin.
Helping to elevate the craft at the Gin Bar is general manager Adam Nystrom, previously of New York's Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Los Angeles' Red Medicine. Like Drew, he recognizes the gin's considerable range but also understands that it can be a polarizing spirit for people who might not like that botanical taste. His goal at the Gin Bar, he said, is to "hopefully change some minds."
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"Gin is a very multifaceted spirit, as almost every country in the world has their own take on it," he said. "With so many interpretations on the distilling process, gin can mimic numerous flavor profiles, from vodka to tequila, and even whiskey. So when someone says they don't like gin, it could be that they haven't really given it a chance. We're here to shine a light on the craft behind this refreshing spirit."
Still not sure you can be persuaded to like gin? That's OK: Wines, beers and ciders are also on the menu, and Lefty's and Vixen's Wedding are a quick walk from the upper-level hangout. (Lefty's has boozy sno-balls that will help to offset the heat at both outdoor concepts.)
Take the lobby elevator to the second floor to access the Gin Bar. It's open 6 p.m. to close Thursday-Saturday. The Arrive East Austin is located at 1813 E. Sixth St.
For more information, visit arrivehotels.com/eastaustin.