East Austin bar launches Nostalgic Noel, a new holiday pop-up
You may have vivid memories of waking up on Christmas morning as a kid who couldn’t wait to see all the toys Santa had delivered while you were sleeping. The co-owner of the Cavalier on Webberville Road Rachelle Fox sure does. So she had an idea for a new holiday pop-up that arrives at the East Austin bar next week.
Thanks to fond childhood memories, she decided to feature some of her favorite toys, games and TV shows from the 1980s and ’90s — when she grew up — in the Cavalier’s pop-up, called the Nostalgic Noel. Though the bar is fully decked out for the holidays now, Nostalgic Noel kicks off Dec. 19 with a party that will include a visit from Santa Claus himself (or at least a naughty version of the merry old soul).
“I was a kid in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and for us to celebrate with our favorite Christmas toys and cartoons and all the things I looked forward to around Christmastime, that just sounded so fun,” she said. “My parents were very gender-neutral and got me the He-Man one year, and I was so excited. I mean, I wanted the Barbie, too. But there is just something nostalgic for me about reliving that.”
The Nostalgic Noel menu nods to her love for He-Man — one of a handful of Mattel action figures that inspired the creation of a popular cartoon show in 1983 — through the Hot Buttered BattleCat cocktail. Featuring Appleton’s Rum, spiced brown butter and gingerbread syrup, it’s a twist on the classic hot buttered rum drink. (BattleCat is the armored tiger that served as He-Man’s ride into battle.)
Other beloved icons that Nostalgic Noel will pay tribute to include early-’90s Cartoon Network shows like “Ren & Stimpy” and “Dexter’s Laboratory.” Fox still has her My Favorite Monster stuffed animal, first produced in 1986, and gave the name My Favorite Monster to an eggnog riff containing Old Forester bourbon, Jagermeister and homemade cinnamon- and nutmeg-spiced eggnog.
When Nostalgic Noel launches next week, you’ll decide on the festive drink you want by looking at the cocktail menu in one of 15 old-school View-Masters — binocularlike devices through which images on a circular reel are visible, one at a time. (Paper menus will also be on hand during peak hours.)
My favorite of the bunch is Gin & the Holograms, featuring gin, beetwater, orgeat, blood orange syrup, Tiki bitters and edible glitter. The delicate floral nature of gin has never tasted better than in this richly purple potion that sparkles in the glow of hundreds of Christmas lights. (Do you know this cocktail name’s reference? “Jem and the Holograms” was an ’80s rock cartoon that has spawned a global following.)
No doubt Dexter’s Laboratory will be the drink that makes the biggest splash, however. It’s perhaps the least wintry offering, with Mi Campo Blanco Tequila, pineapple, lime, honey and fire bitters, but it’s also the most Instagram-friendly on a menu full of photo-ready tipples.
Upon ordering it, you’ll be presented with a slightly modified Fisher-Price See ’n Say. Pull the string to see which color the arrow lands on and thus which color the Dexter’s Laboratory drink will be. It can change colors (such as blue, yellow and pink) because of the addition of butterfly pea flower, which bartenders and brewers alike use to create this magic trick-like effect.
Oh, but the bartenders aren’t done yet. A couple of other eye-catching elements about Dexter’s Laboratory include the use of dry ice to prepare it, as though it’s a crazy concoction the cartoon boy genius created in his secret lab. Once that’s removed (because dry ice should not be consumed), Dexter’s Laboratory is served in a beaker.
“It’s a whole production, as Dexter would make,” Fox said of the cocktail.
You could say the same of Nostalgic Noel as a whole. Fox and the Cavalier team — which includes her partner and co-owner, Chadwick Leger — have gone all out with holiday decorations and will have more than pop culture-themed cocktails next week for the pop-up. Get sentimental by playing old NES games and enjoy coloring books and Pogs, too. Food specials from the Cavalier’s from-scratch kitchen are things we loved as kids, such as chicken tenders.
Fox hopes the cocktails will have flavors that evoke feelings of “warm fuzziness” when you try them, recalling the reason many of us tend to love this time of year in the first place.
The holiday season “is about the warm fuzziness you get when you’re with your loved ones,” she said. “I remember being a kid and waking up on Christmas morning, and it brings backs really fun memories for me, especially now that (Chadwick and I) have a little girl. What traditions do we do for her?”
The Cavalier’s Nostalgic Noel, held in lieu of the bar’s monthly themed Tiki nights, kicks off at 8 p.m. Dec. 19 and will be available nightly at that time through Dec. 28. The Cavalier is located at 2400 Webberville Road, Suite A.
For more information, visit thecavalieratx.com.