Hooch for the heat: Here's what to drink when you're dry
Refreshing beers and cocktails are a summer salvation in Austin
A big glass of ice-filled water is, of course, the best thing to drink this summer to keep you cool and hydrated. But what if plain ol' water just won't cut it? Sometimes, you want something more, with the ability to take the edge off — a frosty can of local beer, or a heaping glass of frozen cocktail. These drinks, in moderation, can also help you handle the heat of an Austin summer that is far from over.
Here's a guide to what you can sip when it's sweltering out. I'm including a mix of beverages you can take to enjoy at home and on the lake and those you can order on the patio of your favorite neighborhood bar or restaurant.
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Although hazy IPAs remain all the rage pretty much everywhere, in Austin, lagers are taking their turn in the sun. They tend to be crisp, clean and lighter in both body and alcohol content than ales, which makes them ideal to consume in the summertime. Yes, the flavors in these bottom-fermented brews are far more subtle. But don't scorn them for that — mistakes can't be masked in such an understated liquid. And did I mention how refreshing they are?
Independence Brewing's Native Texan pilsner. As beautifully balanced as the Old World pilsners it's modeled after, the Native Texan is intended to be the light, effervescent and mildly hoppy accompaniment to all your road trips across the state. Crack open a can decked out in red, white and blue to feel all that Texas pride flood in.
Oasis, Texas Brewing Sunset Cerveza. A fiery orange color as vivid as the sunsets over the Lake Travis brewery, this Mexican-style Vienna lager is rich, malty and also zesty, with underlying notes of orange and lime.
The Brewer's Table Vor Ort. Created as an homage to Central Texas' German brewing roots like the Native Texan, the light lager at this food-focused East Austin brewpub uses German pilsner malt, flaked corn and rotating hops to create a "bright, clean bouquet" of flavors, according to the Brewer's Table website.
The ABGB's Hell Yes Helles lager. No local lager list would be complete without a mention of the ABGB, which has perfected the tricky science behind a well-balanced lager. The helles tends to be among the lightest of all styles, and this South Austin brewpub's version encapsulates the simple elegance you'd find in a traditional German helles.
Frozen is not just a Disney movie
Cocktail-wise, the best thing to drink when it's 100-plus degrees outside is something frozen — a bunch of booze and other ingredients all mixed with ice. (Especially when we're hell-bent on having a nice happy hour on a semi-enclosed patio.) A more complete guide to Austin's frozen cocktails is available online at atxfrozendrinks.gatehouseguides.com, but for now, here is what you shouldn't be missing.
Hotel San Jose's frosé. Plenty of places around Austin (nay, the country) have some form of frozen rosé on their beverage menus. But perhaps none have gained such an esteemed status as the South Congress hotel's millennial pink frosé, divine to drink near the outdoor pool here. The recipe for San Jose's famous frosé is written out on the Wine Enthusiast website, in case we feel like sipping it by our own pool.
El Alma's frozen margaritas. The whitewashed rooftop patio at this South Austin spot is beckoning for a happy-hour visit. Sit back with one of El Alma's colorful frozen 'ritas, like the Mangorita with tequila-marinated mango purée and ever-essential chili rim, to feel those summer vibes in full.
Il Brutto's frozen Aperol Spritz. The other essential summer sipper is a spritz — it’s low in alcohol and comes with bubbles. So this airy Italian restaurant had the brilliant idea to combine the two this spring and introduced a frozen Aperol spritz with the same ingredients as its Il Brutto spritz (Aperol, bubbles and orange). Does the frozen version lose the appeal of the fizz because it’s been blended with ice? Surprisingly, not at all.
Boozy sno-balls at Lefty's Brick Bar. One of our city's newest restaurants, Lefty's Brick Bar at the Arrive East Austin hotel, dishes up Cajun specialties including New Orleans-style boozy sno-balls in flavors of tiger's blood and orange creamsicle.
For bubbles without the booze, Austinites have long been turning to Topo Chico, but we've also got plenty of locally based sparkling water options, too. One of them, Big Swig, recently launched Texas-inspired flavors including my personal favorite, the chile mango, with zero heat but a nice tropical vibrancy. Prickly pear cucumber, watermelon mint and jalapeño pineapple are other new additions, all summer-ready.
WELCOME TO HEAT WEEK
When you live in Austin, extreme heat's a given. For the next week, we're bringing you a series of stories about all the ways high temperatures affect our way of life beyond the weather forecast.
Essential safety tips for hot weather: stay hydrated; watch for the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke; and never leave kids or pets in the car. If you or someone you encounter seems to be experiencing health problems related to the heat, take immediate action to cool down and call 9-1-1. For more tips, go to austintexas.gov.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Family Eldercare's annual Summer Fan Drive delivers fans to seniors, adults with disabilities and families with children who need heat relief and meet the drive's eligibility requirements. Find donation and volunteer information at summerfandrive.org.