First Look: Drinks Lounge

Cocktails and comfort via Brixton and Shangri-La

photo by Adrienne Whitehorse

When prompted for his opinion of the new digs, a neighbor – and already a regular – looks around, leaning on the bar with crossed arms. He nods, “Yeah, it’s pretty good.” [Pauses.] “I like shitholes, though. This place is too clean.”

I suggest that maybe it’s too bright, that the lights could be dimmed a bit more. He suggests that he vomit in the corner on his way out. He’s pleased to find out he can bring his dog into the bar, since they don’t serve food (yet). “Yeah, it will get there,” he concludes.

Drinks Lounge quietly opened their doors at 2001 E. Cesar Chavez, just east of Chicon, late last month. The owners of East 6th dive the Brixton, Tim and Sara Lupa, linked up with another husband-and-wife duo, Shangri-La owners Tyler and Emily Brooke Van Aken. The longtime friends spent two years scouting the perfect scene for their joint venture before signing the lease on the former Big D’s space, historically home to a revolving roster of watering holes.

Noting that his Brixton regulars avoid East Sixth – and the live music, tourists, and traffic – on weekends, Tim Lupa explains, "We kind of wanted a bar that we'd like to hang out at all the time." While they won't rule out live music at Drinks, it won't be a focus. "There's lots of competition for live music. Lots of bars that already do it well."

photo by Adrienne Whitehorse

Picnic tables and bike racks brace the front patio, while ample parking is found on bordering streets. Walking through the front door, a bearded bartender offers a “howdy” and a cocktail menu, and towering, plush, black leather booths beckon. The interior is spacious; much larger than the facade lets on from the street. Abundant tables with Louis XVI chairs occupy the center of the room, and large framed black-and-white photographs of iconic musicians keep watch from above. Two pool tables, a photo booth, and a horseshoe bar round out the classy, yet comfortable lounge.

Draught selections feature favored locals: ABW Pearl Snap, Karbach Lager, Shiner White Wing, Live Oak Big Bark, and soon-to-come Founders All Day IPA. A growing list of canned beers already includes most of Austin Beer Works’ lineup, and a Lone Star will only set you back two bucks.

The cocktail list is comprised mostly of classics, with a few unique variations. Their Old Fashioned, for example, made with Bulleit Rye, adopts a muddled lemon wedge in lieu of an orange slice and cherry – in actuality a throwback to the original recipe long forgotten by "classic" cocktail bars. Original concoctions such as the Orange Fancy (Dripping Springs Orange Vodka, POM, Champagne) and Gin Henry (Austin Reserve gin, cucumber, lime, ground black pepper) offer a welcome reprieve from the usual French 75 or gin and tonic, without completely taking you out of your comfort zone. Red and white wine and an Austin Eastcider punctuate the menu.

Gin Henry (photo by Adrienne Whitehorse)

A grand opening is planned in the coming weeks. And Dirty Drunk Sunday debuts soon with a Bloody Mary and mimosa bar, free cereal, and local celeb bartender Justin "Homeboy" Adame (of "Justin is my Homeboy" bumper sticker fame). "Dirty Drunk Sunday is your walk of shame; your pajama party," says an enthusiastic Lupa.

Soon enough, inebriated patrons will attempt to smoke their cigarettes inside. Paw prints and spilled pints will give the concrete floor some character, and the shiny leather furniture will break in. With its friendly staff and solid libations, Drinks Lounge will likely soon reign as the Eastside’s favorite new neighborhood bar, whether its clientele wants to admit it or not.

Drinks Lounge
2001 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/524-0130
Open daily, 4pm-2am

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Drinks Lounge, Brixton, Shangri-La, Tim Lupa, Sara Lupa, Tyler Van Aken, Emily Brooke Van Aken, Big D's, Justin Adame

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