In doing my craft cocktails bar research for Austin, I came across the Duck Fat Sazarac at Haddingtons. I debated if this would be a good thing and knew I could only decide if I tried it. After dinner at Parkside, I headed west on 6th street to Haddingtons. Touted as an “American tavern,” I also thought the food would be the sort I’d like. I met Kevin, a bartender who just moved to town the week before and he said I should come back for brunch when he worked. I thought that was a fine idea but first cocktails.
The Duck Fat Sazarac was created by Bill Norris, a local bartender who recently left Haddingtons to head up the bar program for Alamo Drafthouse and its various endeavors. In the works is Midnight Cowboy, a reservations-based bar opening up just in time for SXSW. Gee, that sounds familiar. What sounds neat about this bar is the space was a former brothel and the “massage” rooms are now private rooms for a different sort of entertainment- drinking.
Fat washed cocktails were so trendy a minute ago but the Duck Fat Sazarac incorporates duck fat infused rye, Peychaud’s bitters in an absinthe rinsed glass. It had a slight bitter bite and was not at all oily or gross or even ducky as I expected. While I could never call it my favorite thing, I am glad I tried it.
There were so many interesting cocktails on the list. Fortunately for me, I was stumbling (er, gracefully gliding?) distance from my hotel. I tried the Some Like it Hot (rye, Aperol, yellow Chartreuse, orange, Cholula hot sauce, whiskey barrel aged bitters). Yes! This is my favorite kind of cocktail.
I was going to go with the Fernet Me Not (Fernet, sweet vermouth, honey, orange bitters) but my bartender this evening “didn’t like the bitter stuff” and said I should try the classic cocktail, Lion’s Tail (bourbon, all spice dram, lime, bitters) which was just fine with me.
The next night, I stopped in for a drink after a long day of sight seeing. I tried the Park Merry (gin, Aperol, Cocchi Americano, lemon bitters, lavender spice bitters). It was a refreshing and a great way to wind down.
I was debating the Fernet Me Not again when Brian, my bartender this night, said I should try the Devil’s Mustache (Mezcal, Cynar, lime, orange bitters). He said if I didn’t like it, I can always get something else. True, so very true. Of course I liked it. Smokey and with one of my favorite amari, it was a winner.
By the time I came back for brunch, I felt like a regular. Kevin was working. Brian was working. The managers I met greeted and welcomed me back. I almost waved to the other regulars I saw (no, not really).
Haddingtons has about four brunch cocktails on the menu including Bloody Mary, Corpse Reviver, Brandy Milk Punch and Mimosa. Kevin seemed eager to learn the art of craft cocktails so I asked for a Ramos Gin Fizz. I normally don’t order these knowing how much work these take but what the hell, he seemed happy to make one. Naturally he didn’t find the recipe in the handout behind the bar but Brian gave him the specs. I probably should have filmed the process because it was so unbelievably funny to me. I am not poking fun at all but it was one of those situations that I’m sure Kevin will always remember. First he went to the kitchen to get some eggs. As he started to crack one, he discovered it was hard boiled. Laughter ensues. He got the right eggs while Brian and I enjoyed a hard boiled egg as a snack. He told me that when he was in Kansas City, the USBG meetings generally started with Ramos Gin Fizzes made by whichever bartender was late to the meeting. They called it getting “ramosed.”
Kevin adds all the ingredients to the shaker but before he gets to the ice, Brian advises him to dry shake it. Then he shook it with ice. He poured it all out, ice and all, into a rocks glass. Brian told him to strain it into a glass. He poured all of it back into the shaker and tries to strain it but Brian told him he needed to double strain. Ah, the art of fine straining. “You have to, just to make sure you don’t get any egg shells in the drink.” Yes.
It was lovely. I was tempted to get another but got busy thinking of another cocktail for Kevin to try out. I next ordered one of my favorite rum cocktails, the Queen’s Park Swizzle but they didn’t have any mint. Brian mentioned they didn’t have any mint in the building. I almost laughed as he didn’t know The Minty was in the house.
My food arrived. I had debated the foie gras biscuits and gravy, the burger or the fried chicken eggs benedict. I decided on the Bennie since I haven’t seen such a thing anywhere else and I can get a burger any time. Oh, it was great. How can it not be with the rich Hollandaise sauce, spinach and crispy fried chicken?
Haddingtons’ Corpse Reviver (gin, Paula’s Texas orange, Cocchi Americano, lemon and absinthe) was interesting to me as they used a local orange liqueur in place of the traditional Cointreau and Cocchi Americano instead of Lillet Blanc.The result was a teeny bit more bitter. I liked it though as I like more bitter drinks.
I was sad to leave Austin and Haddingtons. If I lived there, you would see me parked at the walnut bar all the time enjoying things liked deviled eggs, truffled egg custard, mini duck meatloaf, pork cracklings and they have whole roast animal events. Roast pig, anyone?