I heard about a speakeasy called Here Nor There in passing. The entrance was hidden. You needed to make a reservation on an app to get in. You could become a member for an annual fee. They served some of the best drinks in Austin and I had to visit because it was “an experience.”
For my second article spotlighting Austin’s best speakeasies, I visited Here Nor There downtown, to separate fact from fiction and see what the experience entailed.
A Welcoming Enclave
I downloaded the Here Nor There app to my phone and made a reservation for a weekend evening. Upon arrival, I punched the provided code into a small keypad that hangs outside 612 Brazos Street, and the gate opened.
I walked through the alley ahead of me and was welcomed at the door by the first of many Irish accents I’d encounter during my visit. I was led downstairs into the darkened, exquisitely decorated bar, where I accepted a glass of champagne and was shown to my table. The experience had begun.
The bar glowed in the dark when contrasted with the dimly lit seating areas, and I immediately felt the intimacy of my surroundings. You come here to relax, to get away from the outside world, to take a break from the craziness upstairs.
That’s not to say there isn’t conversation and engagement between parties, as was taking place amongst those sitting at the bar. But Here Nor There ensures the experience (there’s that word again!) allows visitors to be themselves. That’s part of the reason photography is prohibited.
Once seated on the plush sofa, I took note of my surroundings. This was unlike any bar I’d been to in Austin.
A Worldly Feel
Here Nor There, which opened in July 2018, isn’t an especially large space. It has a capacity of 55 people, hence the necessity for reservations during weekends.
Saying it’s decorated deliberately would be an understatement. “Because we are creating an experience, we pay attention to every single visual element,” Jessica Thompson, the speakeasy’s creative director, later explained to me. “This includes the design of the menu, the design of the coaster, and all of the art that is in the space.”
The walls of one room, for example, are covered with antique plates collected from all over the world. Hand-blown glass light fixtures from the Czech Republic hang from the ceiling.
The design is an eclectic mix of the old and the new. “We want to show things that people aren’t used to seeing in Austin,” Thompson told me. These are uncommon stylings in our beloved city of Austin, but they remind me of my visits to larger cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and London. This, it turns out, is the intent.
The international mindset is prevalent in everything the speakeasy stands for, said Nik Zoylinos, or “Nik the Greek” as everybody calls him. Zoylinos, hailing from London, is a partner in this experiential endeavor. The rest of the team, including business partner and Managing Director Terance Robson, hail from Ireland (hence the accents), and they’re joined by one “token” Texan.
Everyone is well-traveled, having worked in some of the top bars and restaurants in the world. Their worldly influences shape their Austin venture. Here Nor There is a melting pot of culture and taste that affects both the aesthetic and the menu(s).
Here Nor There Menu
I arrived at Here Nor There expecting greatness from the mixed drinks. I left believing this speakeasy was home to some of the best concoctions in the city.
The current menu (it changes about every nine months) is themed around “Global Exploration.” Given the well-traveled team of mixologists, the menu is an ode to their favorite countries and regions in the world.
Each drink is an interpretation of various styles of drinking and cultures. The menu has a drink per page, and I was offered guidance and suggestions as I jumped from country to country, drink to drink.
I started with The Milk and Honey, an ode to London that recently gained national recognition. The drink contains a combination of five rums, a hint of lavender, and the characteristics of milk: the creaminess, oils, and flavors. The Milk and Honey took five years to create and, like the decorations on the walls, every detail was labored over. How does it coat your mouth? How does it feel? The drink is so smooth it’s difficult to compare.
“For me, the preparation before service is my main focus. Creating drinks that take over 30 hours to perfect, like The Milk and Honey, takes conscious effort,” Robson said.
I’m not speaking in hyperbole when I tell you I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this drink since I first tried it. That’s the effect the team hoped for, with all the time that went into its creation. “Bartending for us is about flavors; it’s the same principal as with a chef,” Zoylinos told me. “The taste should be simple for you, but it’s not simple for us.”
Next I tried the Irish coffee, which may be the best I’ve ever had (the other coffee drink on the menu is inspired by Ethiopia). “There are two things we do well in Ireland: Guiness and Irish Coffee,” Zoylinos said. Yes, Here Nor There has Guinness on tap–the only beer available. “If you have 10 Irish guys working for you, you can’t negotiate on the Guiness.”
I finished with The Casablanca, which was tropical and refreshing.
Some of the top drinks, like The Milk and Honey, will remain on the next iteration of the menu, to be released in spring 2019. The upcoming theme is based on minimalism and fermentation, and will build on the idea that “drinks are simple to look at, serve, and experience, but when you taste them, it’s a whole new ballgame,” according to Zoylinos. “It’s effortless effort.”
Count me as excited to try the new drinks when they arrive (paired with The Milk and Honey, of course).
➡️ Keep reading: Austin’s Speakeasy Secrets (Shhh): The Good Life Bar Bar
A High End Cocktail or Pint of Guinness
Here Nor There is different from other bars in Austin. A visit often requires a reservation to guarantee there will be space, and the bar has members who pay an annual fee. There’s an international feel and the design is eclectic. The drinks are years in the making, and you’re assisted by servers rather than waiting to order at the bar.
This Austin speakeasy reminds me of my travels, and my favorite bars in other cities I’ve loved. There’s a lot to take in at Here Nor There. Yet, at its core, the mission remains clear: “We just want people to have a good time, love all of our drinks, and love what we do,” Zoylinos told me. “It doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can come down and have a high-end cocktail or a pint of Guinness.”
612 Brazos. St. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
Which Austin speakeasies have you visited?