Last night I went to La Condesa, a luscious Mexican restaurant in the true sense of the word, for a tasting of cocktails. Above the funky interior–a mix of concrete and leather banquettes, unfinished wood and Cuban mural–sits Malverde, a bar that will undoubtedly make a huge impact on Austin nightlife. A glassed-in, patio-surrounded black-concrete floored place for more mature audiences to dance and groove to DJ tunes, Malverde will be to Second Street what The Marq was to Fifth–a breath of fresh air. I’m not comparing Malverde to The Marq, for all The Marq’s charm she’ll never be in the same class as Malverde, but The Marq singlehandedly transformed a forgotten strip of bar–5th & Congress–into a downtown destination. And Malverde will do the same with 2nd & Guadalupe, the Lambert’s corner.
Enough analyzing, let’s get down to the dirty details: the drinks. La Condesa will open next week and we’ll talk more about her then, but for now we must talk drinks, and Malverde. (Lest you be confused by the bar being named “BadGreen,” Malverde is the patron saint of liquor in Mexico) Here is what I drank:
Naturally, I did not drink all of all of these drinks. I shared them. And a few others not pictured. But sips only!
Here we have a talented team of mixers: Andrea, a sushi-sake vet who will lead Malverde, the star of the show, world-renowned mixologist Junior Merino in the middle, and David, a former Lambert’s bartender who will take charge of the restaurant’s bar.
Junior created the incredible list of inventive cocktails, drawing on the flavors of the food and local ingredients to create some of the greatest drinks I have ever tasted. The flavors blend and meld and mix and smell divine, the salts that accompany some drinks are Junior’s own, mined from Mexico. Naturally, a Mexican restaurant must have many tequilas, and La Condesa will have around 90 100% blue agave tequilas, plus custom infused liquors, like rose-infused rum, habanera-infused tequila and bourbon infused with vanilla, grapefruit, fig and orange bitters.
It is with these house-infused liquors that we begin our tour. We’ll start with my fave, the one I begged Andrea to name after me (“The Lyssa” clearly has as much potential as “The Cosmo”). It’s mashed corn:
Mashing the corn releases the aromas. Then, it’s topped with habanera-infused tequila. Habanera is sweeter than habanero and milder in spice, though it still has a lovely pep. The salt rim includes crushed hibiscus.
The drinks are kept cold with air-frozen block ice (or something like that), ice that won’t melt quickly and will still keep your drink cold. It looks like this:
And in a drink, like this:
This is one of the craziest drinks, and bartender David’s fave–he calls it “surprising.” It starts with a spritz of mezcal in the glass, then a pour of tobacco-infused whiskey. It smells like a cigar, and when you take the first sip, you think you might be drinking cigar. But it has the most amazing, silky finish, making you want to keep sipping, and pondering how its flavors all came together so effortlessly.
Of course, these cocktails aren’t effortless, they are the result of Junior’s years of experience and scientific dedication–yes, he compares molecular breakdowns when thinking of flavors for drinks. We had amazing margaritas–not too sweet, not too sour–tasty sangria, and a special gin drink made with fresh cucumber and candied ginger. Refreshingly perfect.
The capper, of course, is Junior’s best-selling cocktail around the world: a rose concoction made with muddled roses and limes, something else I can’t remember (hey, it was the end of the night!) and topped with champagne.
Add in the dancing they’ve promised–only the best DJs, and the freedom to spin whatever tunes they want–plus a live band every now and again, and you’ve got my new hangout. I will be frequenting Malverde and La Condesa as soon as they open … if not before. Open Thursday through Saturday evenings until 2am, 400-B West 2nd Street, www.malverdeaustin.com.