Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Texas 35-10 Tour brings San Antonio bartenders to Austin

Arianna Auber
aauber@statesman.com

At Drink.Well on Sunday and Peche on Monday, bar regulars might not recognize who’s serving them a drink.

But Jeret Peña of the Brooklynite and Golden Gloves Social House, Jake Corney of Bohanan’s and Chris Ware of Arcade Midtown Kitchen hope by the time you close your tab that you not only know who they are, but where they work. With a project they’re calling the Texas 35-10 tour, after the state’s two big highways, they’re traveling across Texas this month — Dallas and Houston are their next stops — to unite cocktail fans across the state and get to know the cities’ various cocktail tastes.

“We’re pretty much there in Texas in regards to a united bar scene,” Peña said, noting that the idea for the tour was born during January’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference. “We wanted to help contribute to that by having our boys go out there and rub elbows with some of our fellow bartenders.”

He, Corney and Ware are currently in the thick of a bit of a renaissance with San Antonio’s food and drinks offerings. But for Peña, at least, his contribution to San Antonio’s now well-respected cocktail scene wouldn’t have come about without the help of some mixologist veterans in other parts of Texas and around the U.S.

Completely “by chance,” Peña started getting into craft cocktails about seven years ago, after he was asked to put together a seminar on tequila. He studied up on the subject for a month and continued to gobble up all he could about the spirit.

“I eventually got picked up by Partida Tequila to be their ambassador,” he said. “That allowed me to meet a lot of people outside of Texas who taught me a lot and inside, inside Texas as well — David Alan, Bobby Heugel. Meeting Bobby was sort of the turning point for me. That was three weeks after he opened the Anvil (in Houston). Watching him, I was humbled; I had been really full of myself thinking I knew what cocktails were. ‘Jesus, this is what cocktails and making a proper cocktail is all about.’ I brought that back to San Antonio.”

There, he worked at bars such as Pesca, Bohanan’s, Le Midi and the Esquire Tavern, which under his helm was nominated for a James Beard Award, before he opened the Brooklynite and Golden Gloves Social House, the former of which has become a notable craft cocktail spot.

It was at Le Midi that another Austinite, besides Alan, showed him he had his bartending chops just like Heugel.

“Another person critical to my success was Bill Norris (Alamo Drafthouse’s beverage director),” Peña said. “He came to one of the bars I was working at, Le Midi, and he liked one of the cocktails. He said it was one of the top four he’d ever had. A lot of people will say that just because, just to schmooze. But after talking to a bunch of people I realized Bill doesn’t do that.”

Corney and Ware are no less crucial to San Antonio gaining its reputation as an epicenter for good, well-crafted drinks. Ware has built an award-winning bar program at Arcade Midtown Kitchen; Corney, now eight years in at Bohanan’s, developed his bona fides with some training from Sasha Petraske, one of the founders of New York’s famed Milk and Honey.

The three bartenders will have a special cocktail menu available in addition to Drink.Well and Peche’s usual menus:

Cognac Cruise Cocktail - Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac, lemon, simple, fresh blackberries, vanilla

Corpse Reviver #1.5 - Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac, Carpano Sweet Vermouth, Applejack, Islay scotch, orange zest

Ware’s Waldo - White rum, Aperol, lemon, simple, egg white, cucumber

Zip & A Double Cup - Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac, grape crush reduction, lemon/orange twist

Other stops along the Texas 35-10 tour include the Standard Pour in Dallas and the Anvil in Houston.