For a month devoted to hometown love, what could be more worthwhile than sussing out the recipe behind the cocktail recently crowned the “official drink of Austin“? Every year, our city’s best mixologists go head-to-head in a fierce battle behind the bar, and only one comes out on top. We asked our friends at Qui if they’d be so kind as to share their recipe for this tribute-to-Texas-in-a-glass, and they invited us to stop by the bar to see bartender Justin Elliott in action. While we mixed, I got him to spill on everything from creating new cocktails to his favorite source for tricking out an at-home bar tending kit. Click through for all the details, shot by Buff Strickland.
The “official drink” is made from Balcones Rumble, local honey and Qui’s homemade tepache — a lightly fermented pineapple & spice water. Upon first sip, I realized that the tepache is truly the secret ingredient here — no substitutions would do. Luckily, Justin assured me that tepache is super simple to make at home, and walked me through the DIY steps.
For a large batch of Qui’s tepache, take 4 old pineapples (leave them on the shelf until they’re getting a little squishy and fragrant–we like it funky, after all) and remove the butt and the crown then chop the rest, skin on, into roughly 1″x1″ cubes. Combine with 60 grams of Grains of Paradise, 60 grams of Green Indian Coriander seeds, 30 grams Long Peppercorns, 30 grams Cubeb Berries, 2 lbs turbinado sugar, 2 lbs palm sugar, 8 qts of warm water in a primary fermentation bucket (available at Austin Homebrew Supply).
At this point I add my “mother,” a small, unfiltered portion of the previous batch, which is now on the 7th generation. My mother has been behaving really nicely. We get a nice creamy yeastiness consistent from batch to batch but if you’re getting off-flavors (remember, we like funk…but be honest with yourself: too funky might just mean it’s bad) and you’re a few generations in, you should probably toss your mother and start over. The idea is to be using the beautiful, naturally occurring pineapple yeast that lives on the skin of the pina to break down the fruit and bring out the best in your pineapple drink.
Okay, tepache’s done. Now it’s time to gather your other ingredients: lemon juice, Thai Basil, Balcones Rumble, honey syrup (made from mixing 2 parts honey to 1 part hot water), crushed ice, and mint.
A key step when adding fresh herbs like mint or thai basil? Spanking them. Yeah, I laughed too, but apparently giving the leaves a good hard spank before adding them to the glass releases their essential oils and aromas so that you get the full flavor from each herb.
Add half an ounce of fresh lemon juice.
Justin’s approach to creating new drinks: I get inspired by new ingredients that are part of a global culture, thinking in terms of balanced flavors, always striving to create cocktails that are in the context of the overall meal and complement the entire dining experience.
Muddle 3 – 4 leaves of thai basil with the lemon juice to release all the herbal flavor.
On muddling: The secret to a great drink is to prepare it as you would like to receive it. Gently muddle the thai basil, because nobody wants little shredded up bits and pieces of vegetation in their drink. Make sure you give the whole thing a nice, gentle nudge at the end with the straw or a spoon to integrate all these lovely ingredients. Also, everyone should own a nice jigger and a nice barspoon. Just sayin’.
Add half an ounce of honey syrup, made from mixing 2 parts honey to 1 part hot water (let cool before adding to the drink.)
Add 1 ounce of Balcones Rumble.
Justin’s favorite cocktail at Qui: My desert island cocktail is probably our Pastis Service (actually a blend of Ricard Pastis and Tenneyson Absinthe), presented with house-harvested coconut water. It’s based on the super-traditional French style of drinking pastis but inspired by my honeymoon in Vietnam. Drinking that on our patio while picking at our Filipino Pulutan Menu is one of the great pleasures in Austin, TX.
Top with 2 ounces of tepache.
Add lots of crushed ice and garnish with fresh mint.
The essential tools every home bartender should have: As previously mentioned, a jigger and a spoon are essential for even the simplest drink. A nice shaker set and a Yarai (Japanese mixing glass) are also must-haves if you’re doing more involved cocktailing. Check out the wares at CocktailKingdom.com. You can pretty quickly go pretty deep down that rabbit-hole, as my mother-in-law found out when she had me upgrade her home bar, but some if the stuff on that site is just so sexy. Gold plated? For real? #allgoldeverything
What Justin drinks when he’s off the clock: A lot of cheap beer, a lot of Fernet Branca, a lot of Metaxa Five Star, Americanos (Campari, Italian Vermouth, Soda), and a lot of Pastis. And probably some sparkling rose in there somewhere.
And finally, the full recipe!
Qui’s Tepache Cocktail
- .5 ounces lemon juice
- 3 – 4 leaves Thai Basil
- 1 ounce Balcones Rumble
- .5 ounces honey syrup (2:1::honey:water)
- 2 ounces Tepache
- crushed ice
- garnish: mint sprigs and more Thai basil
Add lemon juice to a collins glass, then muddle the Thai Basil. Add Balcones Rumble, lemon juice and honey syrup. Fill with crushed ice, then top with Tepache. Garnish with mint and Thai Basil.
To see more of Buff’s work, go here.
Share this Post
Love a good cocktail or three! 😉
this looks absolutely delicious!
yet another reason i want to visit austin 🙂
This turned out so beautifully!
I made this with this exact recipe but it taste a little off to me. Nothing like I remember tasting at Qui when I ordered the official drink of Austin. Any tips ?