Creative Cocktails Star of Austin Mezcal Festival
Takoba Restaurant & Cantina hosts Saturday tasting
By Gracie Salem, 12:05PM, Tue. Oct. 23, 2012
New back porch cantina behind East side standard, Takoba, mixed mezcal, mixers and music into an interesting weekend evening.
Note to self: wandering into the final hour of a mezcal tasting is going to make for some interesting people watching. By the time we arrived at Takoba on East 7th street last Saturday evening for the 2nd annual Austin Mezcal Festival, much of the hoopla had ended, but we still caught the spirit of the event via some terrific cocktails, listened to some excellent Cumbia, and watched a young woman in a long blue dress climb a tree. Like I said, people watching.
Four mezcal companies, Wahaka Mezcal, Del Maguey, Agave de Cortes, and Illegal Mezcal, set up tables and offered tastes of their smokey spirit, discussing how it is made and aged, and encouraging folks: “You sip it. Don’t shoot it.” We aimed our sights on the bar where Takoba’s bar manager, Brent Dobey, created, shook, and poured some amazing drinks, all featuring a different mezcals, all striving to find a balanced flavor, which is, of course, the challenge when working with such a strong, unique base. I have to say, having sipped many Wahaka mezcals without any mixers or modifications at the Papi Tino’s culinary school competition last month, I have come to truly appreciate the liquor, which I once thought too strong with smoke, or just perhaps too strong for me. And while I am recently really enjoying cocktails made with mezcal, I do think it is often best enjoyed on its own, in small, delicate sips.
That said, the Rosa del Nopal was the most brilliant color of the bunch of specially-created drinks this night, featuring Alipus San Juan mezcal, prickly pear puree, lemon juice, agave nectar, and maraschino, shaken and served on the rocks with a zest of lemon. The sweet balanced the smoke, the citrus balanced the strength. The Sin Dolor was a play on the pina colada with creme de coconut, pineapple, Agave di Cortez Reposado mezcal, and shaved cinnamon. The Illegal Old Fashioned with Illegal Joven mezcal, bitters, and orange peel nearly knocked us off our bench with the bitter and smoke clashing in the most grown-up of ways.
The newly-remodeled Cantina El Milamores behind Takboa is a fun, open patio that boasts the largest selection of mezcal in Austin as well as a bounty of Latin-American and locally-made beers. The tables overlook the Texas State Cemetery right across the street, which is beautifully maintained and the burial site of many prominent Texans and Civil War Confederate soldiers. As with the people-watching at a mescal festival, the quirky atmosphere here is built right in.