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It's time for cocktails

Expand your repertoire with our Austin360 cocktail database

Emma Janzen
The Orange Blossom Marcelo of Lucky 13 Cocktail Co.

The American cocktail is a historic artifact of the best kind -- the kind you can drink.

According to the Museum of the American Cocktail, the term was first defined in print in 1806 as "a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters." But in practice, the structure of the cocktail has undergone numerous revisions since then. From the Golden Age of the 1800s, through the dark dry years of Prohibition, the fanciful fruit explosion of the post-war Tiki era and the unfortunate martini craze of the 1980s-90s, American drinking habits are finally coming full circle and revisiting their origins. Bartenders across the country are reaching back into the dusty bartending manuals from the pre-Prohibition era, resurrecting classic recipes and celebrating their traditions in what journalists and enthusiasts fondly call "the cocktail renaissance."

Austin is part of that drinking history. In the 1880s, the area between Guadalupe and Colorado streets in between West Cesar Chavez and Fifth streets was known as "Guy Town," a sort of red light district where saloons were prosperous. For decades, Austin's national reputation has centered in large part around the hordes of college "drinking enthusiasts" that descend on the bars on Sixth Street. Most recently, we have seen our own local version of the cocktail renaissance. Bartenders and mixologists in Austin have embraced the techniques of the golden age of cocktails and are using them as a springboard to create new and exciting concoctions.

Here at Austin360, we've created an online digital recipe book of classic and modern cocktails. The goal is to increase knowledge about the history of American cocktails, challenge personal drinking habits and introduce you to some of the best local drinks and their creators.

More than half the database pays homage to vintage cocktails. You might already be familiar with popular culture staples like the Manhattan, martini and old-fashioned. But have you ever tasted a Martinez, Negroni or Satan's Whiskers? Check out some traditional recipes and taste where the history began.

Some of the most delicious libations from the best and brightest of Austin's local cocktail scene are showcased as well.

You can check out recipes from the nationally recognized bar at Fino, as well as other stellar offerings from the likes of the Paggi House and East Side Showroom.

The recipes are there for you to experiment with at home, or if the task seems too daunting, take a visit to see how the experts make them (and don't forget to tip your bartenders).

Go to Austin360.com/go/cocktails to check out our hand-selected mix of recipes, complete with photos and a handful of instructional videos to help you learn the right way to make the classics at home. Cheers!

Here's a sample of what's in the database:

The Velpar

1½ oz. Treaty Oak rum

½ oz. lemon juice

½ oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur

1 barspoon St. George absinthe

lemon twist and sour cherry garnish

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake until chilled. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with lemon twist and sour cherry.

— Recipe by Adam Bryan, Congress, Second Bar + Kitchen and Bar Congress

Margarita La Condesa

1½ oz. Cazadores tequila

½ oz. Damiana Mexican liqueur

1½ oz. fresh sour mix (see instructions below)

lemongrass-nopales salt

Combine the tequila, Damiana liqueur and fresh sour mix in a cocktail shaker and shake until the tin feels cold to the touch. Strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with the lemongrass-nopales salt.

* The fresh sour mix is made with ¾ oz. pineapple juice, ¾ oz. lime juice and a splash of agave nectar.

— Recipe by Junior Merino for La Condesa

Fall Manhattan

¾ oz. Laird's Bottled in Bond Straight Apple Brandy

¾ oz. Carpano Antica vermouth

¾ oz. Benedictine

¼ oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

1-2 dashes Barcode Organic baked apple bitters

1-2 dashes angostura bitters

Flamed lemon peel and Luxardo cherry garnish

Combine the spirits and bitters in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Flame the lemon peel over the glass by cutting an oval-shaped piece of rind, approximately 1 inch by 1½ inch. Hold the peel gently by the edges over the drink and light a match under the peel, skin side down. Squeeze the peel so that a spray of lemon oil ignites and leaves caramelized lemon oil on the surface of the drink. Then attach the lemon peel and cherry as a garnish.

— Recipe by Chauncy James, East Side Show Room