Citrus season is in full swing in the Lone Star State. In celebration, I tirelessly scoured the city to find citrus-inspired cocktails. And I’m not just talking palomas and margaritas! I discovered expertly mixed drinks to please gin, vodka, and whiskey drinkers alike. Without further ado, here’s my roundup of some of the best citrus cocktails in Austin.
Thank you to the establishments featured in this article for allowing me to sample their drinks at no charge. All opinions are my own.
1/ Desert Door Distillery
If you’re a fan of mezcal or tequila, head to Driftwood to try sotol, one of Texas’ oldest spirits. Desert Door is taking the desert spoon plant and turning it into liquid gold. The distillery in Texas Hill Country uses sotol to create a version of the classic paloma that features Original Sotol, fresh grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, and a splash of grapefruit soda. This methodically-crafted cocktail is probably the best paloma I’ve ever had, but tasting is believing.
211 Darden Hill Road – Website
➡ Keep reading: “Discovering Desert Door and One of Texas’ Oldest Spirits”
This funky yet cozy little joint near Burnet Road gives us the Derby Sour, which is a spin on the Derby Brown. Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey replaces bourbon and mixes with grapefruit, honey, Aperol, fresh sage, and vegan egg white to create a unique, citrusy cocktail. Take it from me: one is all you need!
207 E. 53rd St. – Website
The only things more stunning than the design and decor at this South Lamar establishment are the cocktails! It’s always sunny with Forever Summer, which features French grapefruit liqueur, lemon, and soda. In addition, teatime gets a fancy-schmancy upgrade at e with the Anytime Tea cocktail. Think Belvedere Vodka, Génépy, Earl Grey tea, lemon, and…wait for it…bubbly prosecco!
This month, Eberly is introducing a new Tasting Hours menu at the dining room bar. Available at the same time as the current happy hour at Cedar Tavern, the new menu features scaled-down versions of popular dinner dishes, allowing guests to sample several different items. The menu also offers half-off select bottles of wine.
615 S Lamar – Website
➡ Keep reading: “History Drenched Eberly Serves Reimagined Classics in a Dazzling Space”
4/ Güeros Taco Bar
I’m about to tell you something that may shock you to your very core. According to recent data, the wildly beloved margarita isn’t Texas’ most popular cocktail. Apparently, the limey concoction plays second fiddle to the paloma. And I guess Güeros Taco Bar knows what’s up because it has a pretty tasty one on the menu. The interior Mexican food restaurant states, “Corzo Silver, freshly squeezed lime juice, and Fresca . . . ¡Como Mexico!” But perhaps they should change it to “¡Como Texas!” in light of the recent news?
1412 S. Congress Ave. — Website
5/ Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Beverage Director David Toby gave me all the details when chatting about Jack Allen’s Kitchen and the inspiration behind some of the restaurant’s most notable cocktails. “It’s really about the balance of sweet versus acidity. If it’s out of balance, the cocktail is no good. Even if it’s a three-ingredient cocktail, all the ingredients have to play well. Citrus is something that Jack Allen’s has always been familiar with because Jack grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and citrus is widely grown there.”
Born out of all this inspiration and knowledge is a vortex of vodka, elderflower liqueur, sage, and fresh grapefruit juice referred to as the Tito’s Sage & Grapefruit Splash. From now on, I’m referring to it as one of the best cocktails in the city, second only to the ones at Pitchfork Pretty.
Multiple locations – Website
➡ Keep reading: “Battle of the Brunches Round 2: Jack Allen’s Kitchen”
6/ Pitchfork Pretty
Stunning cuisine and ambiance help this east Austin establishment live up to its name. Pitchfork Pretty’s citrusy cocktails add to both by layering acidity, while reducing ingredients to bring out their natural sweetness. For instance, The Garden Water poetically combines grapefruit, lime leaf, tequila, and Topo Chico to create a light yet balanced adult beverage.
Another must-try cocktail is the You Don’t Even Cara. The drink which combines Cara Cara orange, orange caramel, strawberry liqueur, white pepper, Fennel flower, and gin can only be described as how it feels to sunbathe on the shores of a tropical island. But seriously, both of these drinks are more than pretty palette pleasers. They’re beautiful works of art.
2708 E. Cesar Chavez St. – Website
➡ Keep reading: “Pitchfork Pretty Dishes Out Inventive Delights With Ease”
7/ The Roosevelt Room
If you’re in search of a citrus cocktail and a show, reserve a seat at Roosevelt Room and order up a Lonesome Dove. This cocktail, named after the neighboring bar, is an unusual take on the paloma. It includes Blanco tequila, grapefruit, lime, cinnamon syrup, rosewater, vanilla, and Himalayan sea salt. Drink it down and enjoy its soft citrus notes while watching the resident bartenders shake, stir, and burn ingredients to create other amazing cocktails before your eyes.
307 W. 5th St. – Website
8/ Salt Traders Coastal Cooking
Head to Jack Allen’s sister restaurant on the north end of the city, Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, to take your cocktail with a grain of salt. Originally, the seafood purveyors wanted a specific salt for every cocktail. But they methodically narrowed the options, so the salt used on each glass rim perfectly highlights that cocktail’s flavors.
If you want to indulge in the flavors of citrus season at Salt Traders, then you have two solid options. Try a Pepe’s Hibiscus Paloma, a mix of Z Blanco tequila, hibiscus liqueur, fresh squeezed grapefruit, and lime juice. A crown of citrus salt made with zested grapefruit, lemon, and lime gently rests on the rim to finish it off.
Your second option is to order a Salty Tom, jokingly named for Salt Trader’s co-owner, who doesn’t like gin or rosemary. The cocktail features Ford’s gin, grapefruit juice, fresh rosemary, and pink Himalayan salt, which is shaved off a salt block and ground down to granular size. The salt is then mixed with fresh lime juice and used to top off the pink-hued cocktail.
2850 N. I-35 – Website
9/ Still Austin Whiskey Co.
If you need a citrus cocktail on the stronger side, head over to everyone’s favorite whiskey distillery and order a Trinidad Sour. Citrus-infused whiskey combines with lemon and Orjeat to yield a seriously citrusy cocktail that’s like a punch to your taste buds.
440 E. St. Elmo Road – Website
10/ Violet Crown Cinema
Whether you want to catch an indie flick or just a cozy, hyperlocal place to enjoy a great cocktail, beeline it to Violet Crown Cinema. This locally-owned movie theater has its own bar inside, in keeping with Austin fashion. Ask for a Trainwreck and let the flavors of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, grapefruit, blood orange soda, and basil tantalize your palette. This summery cocktail is so smooth and refreshing you’ll be glad there’s not a rooftop pool (otherwise things could really get ugly).
434 W. 2nd St. – Website
➡ Keep reading: “All Dates Begin Well at Austin’s Violet Crown Cinema.”
@dollarsaenz wants to know:
Orange you glad for citrus season?