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Qui wins Official Drink of Austin competition

Arianna Auber

It’s been a busy week for Qui. On top of being named best new bar in Texas by Texas Monthly and best restaurant in the country by GQ, the restaurant by James Beard winner Paul Qui received another accolade: winning big at last night’s Official Drink of Austin competition, a collaboration between Tipsy Texan’s David Alan and the Austin Food and Wine Alliance.

The goal of the competition was for bartenders from local bars and restaurants, including Whisler’s, Drink.Well and Weather Up, to create three Austin-inspired cocktails using Texas-made spirits. Drink.Well, for example, paid homage to Lady Bird Johnson with grapefruit-heavy “Lady Bird’s Pearls,” and Whisler’s had local butcher shop and salumeria Salt and Time smoke maple syrup for the “Mighty Oak.” Six judges (one of whom was the Statesman’s food critic, Matthew Odam) and a sizable crowd at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center tried the various drinks – each bar team in charge of making a long drink, an up drink and a shot – and voted on which one they thought was deserving of the official drink of Austin title.

Cozy craft cocktail lounge Midnight Cowboy and the Four Season’s Trio restaurant both crafted drinks that were chosen for the final round, along with Qui, but it was Qui’s “Tepache” that ultimately took top prize.

Midnight Cowboy’s “Joe Buck” (named after the main character in the 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy”) and Trio’s “Red Handed Stranger” (named after, yes, Willie Nelson) couldn’t best the “Tepache,” a cocktail that Qui currently offers on the menu, although last night’s version didn’t feature Lone Star beer as it usually does. Balcones Rumble, lemon juice, Texas honey and Qui’s homemade Tepache (a cold, fermented beverage made out of the flesh and rind of pineapple) all went into the winning drink.

“I’m immensely proud to have been able to make a cocktail that celebrates something as esoteric as tepache and have it received that warmly,” Justin Elliott, head of Qui’s bar team, said.

Bar teams from Midnight Cowboy, Trio and Qui prepared the finalist drinks on stage for the judges; Trio’s played Willie Nelson tunes on a portable stereo.

The event, which returned after a two-year hiatus, raised money for the Austin Food and Wine Alliance’s culinary grants program.