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Austin dining: 10 must-try summer drinks before the season slips away

Emma Janzen

Summer drinking should be anything but complicated. Simple flavors, heaps of ice, zesty carbonation, and thirst-quenching fruit and citrus juices take center stage during the long daylight hours and dry Texas heat. Here are 10 must-try drinks served in cool atmospheres to seek out before fall hits.

Build-your-own Sangria at Tapas Bravas

Looking for an effortless twilight picnic spot? Rainey Street trailer Tapas Bravas provides Spanish à la cart dishes and sangria kits specifically for this purpose. If you bring your own bottle of wine, for $11 the staff will provide a non-alcoholic sangria base composed of fruit, juice and secrets to mix with the wine at your table. Co-Owner Alex Hord recommends any Spanish-style wine and says it doesn’t have to be particularly fancy. He suggests Tempranillo for red (if you want to keep things local, Pedernales Cellars makes one that mixes well), and Becker Vineyards Fume Blanc or Voignier for local whites. His guilty pleasure is using Champagne, after a friend in Barcelona suggested the benefits of its extra effervescent sparkle. Note: Only the Rainey St. location is BYOB-friendly, so don’t expect to find sangria kits at their Weather Up residence.

The San Franpsycho at Whisler’s

The city’s newest craft cocktail bar popped up in early May and has already established itself as one of the best places to find clever concoctions in the downtown area. Located in the former Rabbit’s Lounge on East Sixth Street, Whisler’s exudes a sense of laid-back sophistication, confidence and studied creativity with a top-notch drink menu to match. My go-to summer cocktail, the San Franpsycho, was named after a jack-of-all-trades California company, owner Scranton Twohey said. “The two main ingredients of the drink, Fernet Branca and Luxardo Amaretto, are an homage to the predominantly Italian district of North Beach where our bar manager met these guys originally. We bring it back around to Texas by floating some Real Ale Hans’ Pils. Refreshing on a hot Texas summer day.” The combination of minty Fernet, nutty Amaretto, refreshing lemon juice and crisp chilled hops from the Hans’ Pils makes it dangerously drinkable.

Rosso Amaro at Hotel San Jose

(1316 S. Congress Ave. Open 5 p.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday, noon to midnight Friday-Sunday. sanjosehotel.com)

Segregated from the hustle and bustle of South Congress, Hotel San Jose’s garden lounge is one of the most relaxing mini-getaways in downtown Austin. The menu features a handful of simple but hip two-ingredient tipples promising respite from the heat. Taking notes from the traditional mimosa, the Rosso Amaro cleans up what would otherwise be a pulpy orange mess by using fresh grapefruit juice instead. Prosecco brings the bubbles to balance out the tart citrus juice, resulting in a flirtatious, more evening-friendly version of the brunch staple. Looking for something a bit more bold but equally as cooling? Try the Tinto de Verano, a spin on the Spanish Calimocho (red wine and Coca-Cola). Tangerine soda brings perky carbonation and welcomed sweetness to the dry acidity of the red wine.

Lucky Ol’ Sun at Hi Hat

(2121 E 6th St.. Open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday; 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday. hihatpublichouse.com)

It didn’t take long for Hi Hat Public House to attract local craft beer connoisseurs after opening on East Sixth Street earlier this year. Drawing customers in with a thoughtful beer list that rotates frequently, Hi Hat typically offers a diverse percentage of big hoppy IPAs, bold stouts and Belgian-style brews. Bar Manager William Bearden recommends seeking out low alcohol-by-volume options for summer, such as the Lucky Ol’ Sun from San Antonio’s Ranger Creek. At 5.5 percent ABV, the Golden Belgian-style ale is brewed with Pilsner malt, Belgian candi sugar, Kent Golding hops and Texas honey. Gooey honey aromas introduce the light-bodied brew, which then delivers slight banana and pear flavors. The subtle personality and light alcoholic percentage makes sipping several pints an easy feat.

Rosé at Vino Vino

(4119 Guadalupe St. Open 3 p.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 5:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday. vinovinoaustin.com)

When Vino Vino held its sixth annual celebration of rosé, Pink Fest, earlier this June, more than 60 brands were featured. Not all the wines were consumed — good luck for us — so owner Jeff Courington says the liquid will flow by the glass all season. Rosé is his go-to for summer because it’s thirst-quenching and refreshing, yet more complicated than most people give it credit. To start, explore one of Courington’s favorites, the 2012 Domaine du Gour de Chaulé Gigondas Amour de Rosé. A blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault grapes construct a full-bodied structure with an abundant fruity nose. A cold blast of clean strawberry, green apple and rhubarb elements evolve into a big, round mouthfeel that expands and flows through the palate. It’s amplified and complicated enough to stand up to richer seasonal meals like grilled veggies and darker meats, unlike some other milder, light-bodied rosés.

New York Sour at Mettle

(507 Calles St. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. mettleaustin.com)

This 1920s era cocktail is making a big comeback this summer, popping up on local menus and acting as a recurring staple in my own home. A stunning visual of golden-colored whiskey sour with a crimson float of dry red wine sets the tone for consumption. In the cocktail recipe book “Speakeasy,” by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric of Employee’s Only in New York, the drink is described as a “Prohibition-era Cosmo — or any other status-symbol cocktail that clearly advertises itself in appearance.” Dark wood and tannin from the wine complement similar tones found in the spicy rye whiskey, and the lemon juice adds a crisp citrus bite that cuts through the warmth. At the elegant bar at new East Side restaurant Mettle, they serve it up in a coupe with a syrupy maraschino cherry garnish acting as anchor at the bottom of the glass.

Cold brew coffee from Buzz Mill

(1505 Town Creek Dr. Open 24 hours. buzzmillcoffee.com)

Known to some as toddy, cold brew coffee gives you the same buzz as regular java, but at a colder temperature and with less acidity. The Buzz Mill on East Riverside gets its house brew from Bootleg Supply Co., a local coffee roasting operation. Bootleg recently started offering delivery service as well, transporting growlers within a limited distribution area. Because it’s highly concentrated, the cold brew should be diluted with water before drinking. Travis Kizer with Bootleg recommends starting with a 50/50 mix of coffee concentrate and filtered water, served over ice. He says from there, it’s easy to experiment with other ratios, or try using milk in place of water.

Ranch 616 Mezcal Mule

(616 Nueces St. Open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 5 p.m.to 11 p.m. Saturday; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. theranch616.com)

If you’re familiar with Austin’s favorite cocktail, the Moscow Mule, introduce yourself to the drink’s Southwestern cousin, the Mezcal Mule. At the quirky Ranch 616 on West Fifth Street, the bar staff replaces vodka with mezcal in this highball. The roasted agave-based spirit lends wisps of smoke, and slight herbal and earthy qualities to the snappy ginger beer. A squeeze of lime contributes a perky zing to the mix. Tall, cool and carbonated, it’s well-suited for sipping under the shaded cover of the patio.

Barton Springs Punch at Lucky Robot

(1303 S. Congress Ave. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday -Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. luckyrobotrestaurant.com)

It’s easy to work up a thirst while browsing the amalgamation of thrift and boutique shops on South Congress. While there are plenty of places to imbibe on the popular strip, sharing a cool pitcher of punch chock full of fruit from Lucky Robot provides a great option for quenching a whole group’s thirst. While most punches on the menu showcase saké as the base, the Barton Springs, the featured summer punch, uses Zonin Prosecco as the alcohol base, painted up with blueberries, Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Soda, lychee and cucumbers.

House Kombucha at Sway

(1417 S. 1st St. Open 11 am. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. swayaustin.com)

When the beverage team behind Thai restaurant Sway were devising their drink offerings, there was no question that Kombucha, a tangy mostly non-alcoholic beverage, was going to be part of the mix, Director of Operations Nate Wales says. Yet they didn’t want to simply offer existing flavors for customers, so they decided to make their own signature brew by joining forces with local company Kosmic Kombucha. After a handful of tests, they settled on a flavor profile of young coconut water, lemongrass, lime and local honey. A dark, earthy roundness from the coconut water acts as the most prominent flavor, with a light herbal grassy-ness entering from the lemongrass. Warm honey sugar balances out a prominent perky kiss from the lime juice. It’s refreshing and complex, with an almost sake-like quality, which became so popular that Kosmic decided to also sell the flavor in bottles at several Royal Blue Grocery locations around downtown as well.

San Franpsycho at Whisler’s