As sporting events go, the Formula One Grand Prix may be the least mouthwatering. The Kentucky Derby luxuriates in its verdancy and the Superbowl urges a last bit of winter crisp, but F1 is all petrol and rubber. While that may have built-in sex appeal for some, it's hardly the kind one wants to drink up.
Thankfully for F1 fans, the W Austin's resident mixologist Joyce Garrison has created a signature COTA cocktail that appears to take more inspiration from the Central Texas locale than the event itself. The quaff was debuted last night at a gear-up party for the upcoming United States Grand Prix weekend.
Like the Churchill Downs' Mint Julep, the COTA Flame heavily relies on home grown components. Tito's Handmade Vodka provides the base. That is no surprise. As the official vodka of Circuit of Americas, the Tito's logo is plastered at F1 events like a Louis Vuitton monogram. But pervasiveness aside, it does add a clean base to the coming bath of citrus.
The first splash comes from Paula's Texas Orange, followed by fresh orange and lemon juice. A tart kick of cranberry adds some depth, amped up with bitters. The bitters component could have been a mistake, bitters being the current Austin formula for elevating potables to an "upscale" perch. Like St. Germaine before, bitters run the risk of being the cocktail equivalent of truffle oil – a flavor profile so ubiquitous that is belies any utility as a "special" ingredient.
That said, all bitters are not created equal. The COTA Flame uses Fire and Damnation Bitters from Austin small-batch purveyor Bad Dog Barcraft. The company founders have a rich pedigree. Both Bar Congress Bar Manager Jason Stevens and Tipsy Tech educator Lara Nixon are known for deft shading of the cocktail palette. Their side venture follows suit. Fire and Damnation, with elements of pepper and black tea, is a far cry from the treacly fruit bitters being recklessly dashed about town. Best of all, it is grounded with a hint of smoke. In the flame, the bitters provide a clever way to mimic Ferrari exhaust without the resultant asphyxiation.
With that trick up her sleeve, Garrison makes the COTA Flame an evolved affair. It sips like the platonic ideal of a Texas ruby red grapefruit – maybe not those dimpled goliaths found in grocery store mounds, but in the childhood memory. That is to say that despite all the complexity, the Flame is all sunshine. And because of that, it's worth a reminder that the Flame does have ample horsepower. It's easy to gulp down, but it may be best to leave the racing on the track.