First Look: Craftsman
Vintage charm and craft cocktails
By Andrew Thomas,
2:45PM, Wed. May 20, 2015
Brandon Testa has been fascinated with barcraft ever since moving to Austin for college. Eventually, that led to his own place. Finding the right location wasn’t easy, but he has now forged his first creation: Craftsman.
The baby blue bungalow features a prominent wraparound porch outfitted with Testa’s grandpa’s patio furniture. The deck setup is homey, giving a house party ambience. Picnic tables sit in front, providing a place to eat after ordering from the Violet Taco truck, the sister trailer of cult favorite Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ.
A spare, open space is inside, with a small stage for live music to the right. The hardwood floors are worn and original as are the wall’s wooden planks. Intimate corners feature a hodgepodge of antique furniture ranging from cast iron lawn chairs to an old, green leather armchair. Everything has a patina – strips of canvas still cling to nail holes and the low lighting mimics the flicker of candles. The building may be Twenties Craftsman, but there’s some turn of the century flair in the pressed tin ceiling, vintage photographs, and Gibson Girl wallpaper around a cooler.
The drinks are plenty contemporary, however. Craftsman has a simple but not limited cocktail menu. Many of the drinks feature prosecco, which the bartender pulls from a tap. The Dead Man Walking adds Reyka vodka, Disaronno amaretto, Chameleon Cold Brew, and orange juice to the bubbles. The sweetness and carbonation from the prosecco complement the bittersweet amaretto and the bitter cold-brew coffee. The acidity of the orange juice brings all the flavors together. The overall flavor is reminiscent of a more refreshing Irish car bomb. If prosecco isn’t your thing, Craftsman offers plenty of other choices, such as the East Side Sour featuring Cazadores añejo tequila, mango, lime, velvet falernum foam, and “Tiki” bitters. It’s sweet and just slightly sour, not tart by any means. The mix of ingredients tempers the bite of the tequila, providing a citrusy sweet sip. Craftsman also features a variety of beer on tap as well as in bottles and cans, and a good wine selection.
Open since April, Craftsman joins Stay Gold and Drinks Lounge on the busy East Cesar Chavez block, forming a mini hub of nightlife. Only time will tell if it will become the next Rainey. The early crowds say it just might.
2000 E. Cesar Chavez
Mon.-Sat., 4pm-2am; Sun., noon-2am