What Makes This Cocktail Party So Different?

What sets this spirited shindig aside from so many others?

Because it’s just you and me, reader.

You might've been there earlier, yes, but you're here right now …

Just you, with your love of alcohol-inflected refreshments … and your current reporter, who’s got some good news and recommendations and recipes to supercharge a whole summer of sipping a novadose of adult beverages.

So, let’s conjure something ambient via Stillstream Radio, pour out a little good vermouth to the memory of Noël Coward, and get down to imbibing.

Biological servomechanisms standing by, predilection for chemically enhanced mafficking engaged, let's push that glowing red button,
and …

COCKTAIL PARTY, ACTIVATE!

We’ll start off simple, with something that could be a prelude to a cocktail, maybe even (in certain circumstances) an ingredient in a cocktail: We’ll grab one of those hard seltzers. They’re still a thing, after all, hard seltzers – but we’re going to celebrate with a brand that’s both Austin-based and remarkably tasty: Blue Norther.

We mentioned Blue Norther in our cover story about the Yard at St. Elmo earlier this year, because that’s where the father-and-son duo of Austin T. and Austin M. Pittman’s business is headquartered; but at press time for that article we weren’t aware of the three new flavors the company was working on for this summer’s delight.

Joining the original lineup of wild blackberry, agave lime, and prickly pear, now Blue Norther is also available (at your local H-E-B, even) in peach, pomegranate, and watermelon flavors. Mmmm, berries, fruits, melons: These all-natural seltzers bring the bounty of nature to a swiggable state and give a glassful of ice something to smile about.

So, pop the top – fshhhhhhhhhh! – and take a drink while listening to something that William Basinski’s programmed to disintegrate, and r-e-l-a-x.

Next, palate primed with a little hard seltzer, we’ll move on to the more powerful and potentially more complex stuff: actual cocktails.

(Note: For this second phase, we’ll want to switch the audio stream to Michelle Gurevich’s unsurpassably cool Party Girl album.)

But, as you’re well aware, sometimes cocktails come in cans just as conveniently as hard seltzers do. Hell, thanks in part to the ongoing pandemic, the canned cocktail business is booming lately.

And what d’you suppose also has an outpost in the aforementioned Yard at St. Elmo? Yes, it’s Austin Cocktails – so we’ve already got a couple of narrative through lines going here, our journalistic style is strong, and we’ll soon be kidding ourselves that we’re the second coming of Roberto Bolaño.

(Here we pour out a little good tequila to the memory of that revered author.)

Austin Cocktails, founded by sisters Jill Burns and Kelly Gasink, brings the best of small-batch tippling right to your pantry with their tall cans in three popular flavors: Bergamot Orange Sparkling Margarita, Fred’s Ruby Red Sparkling Cocktail – that’s vodka in there, spiking the tartness of ruby red grapefruit – and the Cucumber Vodka Sparkling Mojito. Three classics, done superbly, right here in ATX. Bonus: These cans are labeled with a simple elegance that won’t look out of place at the most sophisticated gatherings. Although, tbh, we think that an impromptu game of horseshoes in the backyard, say, is about as "sophisticated" as a gathering needs to get.

Treaty Oak Distilling out in Driftwood, that powerhouse of potent potables, dodges the canning action and features bottles exclusively; and, in addition to their award-winning whiskeys and gins, they’ve got big beautiful bottles of pretty much the ultimate ready-to-drink Old-Fashioned and, inspired by this year’s Kentucky Derby, a peach julep cocktail that’s as winning as Rich Strike.

(Already so many options here at our little two-person soirée, and the article’s only halfway through. Oh, the tyranny of choice! As if Americans could ever have too much freedom! But of course – tl;dr – you can simply scan the screen and clock the accompanying photos and click among these recos and links at your leisure, n’est-ce pas?)

And, sure, we’re all about promoting the locals. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also make note of refreshing goodness beyond the Lone Star State – especially since we can get it right here within city limits.

Like, for instance, the tiny tins of deliciousness from Tip Top Proper Cocktails. Yeah, those little cans with the gentlemanly giraffe mascot-ing the brand, now appearing in a Summer Classics eight-pack that features two each of Tip Top’s lightest and brightest: Bee’s Knees, daiquiris, margaritas, and Negronis. They say it’s a limited edition, that pack, so it might be gone by the end of summer … but we reckon that array of potent cocktails will always be around in one form or another, and likely sold wherever you buy your booze.

(Note: We tend to prefer the Austin Shaker before checking Twin Liquors or Spec’s or the rest, but YMMV.)

And the most recent spirited and canny face on the RTD cocktail scene is from just across the border in New Mexico – so that’s kind of like getting to know your friendly neighbors, right? These neighbors in particular go by the name of Mixed Up Mule, they’re from the modern alchemists of Little Toad Creek Distillery, and they’re boldly based on rum or gin or tequila or vodka. And, as you do enjoy variety, reckon you’ll be glad to know that the Mixed Up collection includes classic margarita, mango margarita, classic mule, gin & grapefruit, mojito, and watermelon jalapeño mule.

There's even more canned cocktail options out there everywhere, of course.

Hell, we won’t even mention the Finnish Long Drink.

(Note: Oops, we mentioned the Finnish Long Drink.)

But now, like any good host, we also want to be more personally responsible for slaking your thirst.

OMG, we want to build you a cocktail all by ourself!

Yes, even in a town with world-class mixologists working wizardly wonders at the likes of the Roosevelt Room and Midnight Cowboy and DrinkWell and so on… even in a city where the Adult Dreamsicle at Sawyer & Co. will make you swoon in both present delight and flavor-spurred nostalgia… and the frozen rosé-centered, citrus-forward Go Freezy on Me at Aba on SoCo will chill you blissward… and the nonpareil sidecar at Dean’s Italian Steakhouse might make you imagine your happy mouth’s been newly painted by J.C. Leyendecker… and your Austin Chronicle publishes a list of “10 of Austin’s Best Bars…” yes, even then, sometimes a person has to disregard the existence of much greater talents and just whip a thing up themselves.

So, in order to make sure we won’t fail at that DIY gambit, we’re going to base our creation on the herbaceous excellence of St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur.

(Speaking of Leyendecker, is any bottle more gorgeously evocative of art deco than those crystalline vessels that contain St-Germain’s amber elixir? Wouldn’t it be so fucking cool to live in the penthouse of a scaled-up, skyscraper-sized version of that thing?)

But we’re not going all hermetic solo here. For the finale of this brief article, we’re sharing two recipes for cocktails that, when done right, will wow any aficionado of spirited refreshments. And so, with a final soundtrack switch to Ada Rook’s brilliant 2,020 Knives, here we go.


Nouveau Jour

This cocktail puts an unexpected spin on the elderflower liqueur by using ginger beer juxtaposed with sparkling wine to release an effervescent sensation on your palate.

1½ ounces St-Germain
2 ounces dry sparkling wine
2 ounces ginger beer
2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Pour ingredients in a highball glass, add ice, and stir; garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.


Provence Paloma

1 ounce St-Germain
¾ ounces tequila
1½ ounces rosé
3½ ounces grapefruit soda

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in the St‑Germain, tequila, and rosé; top the drink up with grapefruit soda. Give the drink a gentle stir and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

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