Top Cocktails of 2009

Claudia Alarcón's quest for unique signature drinks

Red Headed Stranger at Frank
Red Headed Stranger at Frank (Photo by John Anderson)

To the delight of those of us who are always on the lookout for exciting flavor combinations, Austin has evolved into a mixologist mecca. While there are many capable bartenders who can make a perfect margarita or dry martini, my quest here was for unique signature drinks that inspire, quench a thirst, or instigate an appetite. Congrats to all the creative forces behind these drinks. Keep 'em coming!

1) REDBUD AT PAGGI HOUSE Homegrown mariachi peppers muddled with sea salt, mixed with Tito's vodka, grapefruit bitters, house-made grenadine, and lime juice, garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. My No. 1 at the Austin Cocktail Throwdown.

2) GAZPACHO MARTINI AT FINO El Jimador tequila infused with a mélange of roasted vegetables, mixed with tomato juice and lime. They go down way too easy on a summer afternoon.

3) ZANAHORITA AT EAST SIDE SHOW ROOM Tequila reposado, fresh carrot juice, agave nectar, cilantro, served on the rocks in a mason jar with a Turkish salt rim. Gorgeous, good, and good for you. Love the play on words!

4) ALMA BLANCA AT LA CONDESA Habanero-infused Siembra Azul blanco tequila, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, agave nectar, pineapple juice, muddled fresh corn and hoja de hierba santa, with a hibiscus-rose-infused salt rim. Just try it.

5) YULE THYME MARTINI AT THE FOUR SEASONS LOBBY LOUNGE Dripping Springs vodka infused with fresh sage and thyme, topped with a dash of Oban scotch and a slice of smoked maitake mushroom. Killer aperitif, inspired by the flavors of turkey stuffing. Wow.

6) CAESAR AT PERLA'S A classic drink up north, unfortunately bypassed around these parts. The combination of Tito's vodka with Clamato, lime juice, and spices, garnished with pickled green beans and a celery salt rim, is lighter than a Bloody Mary, so you can actually enjoy more than one. Great with seafood!

7) FRENCH 75 AT JUSTINE'S While many local bars offer this newly popularized classic, Justine's is right on – not too fizzy, balanced on the citrus, and boozy enough. Plus, it comes in a large martini glass. Pas mal!

8) ENDLESS SUMMER AT THE GOOD KNIGHT I don't think a bad cocktail is made at this awesome gastropub, but the combination of smoky mescal, muddled pear and fresh jalapeño, pear brandy, and sparkling wine was just incredible. Garnished with thin slices of fresh pears and seedless jalapeño strips, it's refreshing like a summer drink but made with seasonal fall pears.

9) RED HEADED STRANGER AT FRANK Bacon-infused Dripping Springs vodka mixed with house-made Bloody Mary mix, garnished with a celery-salt rim and a skewered jalapeño-stuffed olive, pepperoncino, and a cheddar cheese cube, with a strip of crispy bacon as a "stirring stick." It has a double dose of bacon, people!

10) WATERMELON SAKE COOLER AT TOMODACHI SUSHI Simple, refreshing, palate-cleansing mix of fresh pressed watermelon juice, chilled sake, a touch of citrus, and a shiso leaf garnish. Another one that goes down easy and pairs incredibly well with Tomodachi's fabulous fish fare.

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cocktails, Paggi House, Fino, East Side Show Room, La Condesa, Four Seasons, Perla's, Justine's, Good Knight, Frank, Tomodachi Sushi

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