Bar Congress // Austin, TX
You don’t hear many bad things about Austin. The only complaint I’ve heard from people is that they have way too much fun and let’s be serious that “way too much fun” complaint joke is old. Bar Congress is a sophisticated cocktail lounge where you’ll find handcrafted cocktails from Brian Dressel. He’s innovative, likes aggressive flavors and agrees with country singer, David Lee Murphy – there might be a little dust on the bottle, but don’t let it fool ya about what’s inside.
As our first featured Austin bar, can you tell us a bit about how Bar Congress fits into the Austin bar scene?
Downtown Austin is growing up very rapidly (literally and figuratively), and the options are endless on what type of bar you want to visit. All the areas of downtown are slightly different — Red River, warehouse, 6th street, West 6th street, and now Second Street — each offers something for everyone, I suppose. We’re geared a little more towards those who appreciate unique and handcrafted cocktails. It takes a little longer but you get a great drink, served by people who are truly enthusiastic about what they do.
If going to Bar Congress for the first time, is there a signature drink I should order from you?
Our menu offers up plenty of choices, in-house creations and classics. But I think your best bet is to tell one of the bartenders what you like and let us whip something up for you.
What are your favorite ingredients to use at the moment?
I like playing with ingredients with aggressive flavors, things like mezcals, single-malts, heavy doses of bitters, or amaros.
With more calorie conscious drinkers ordering “light” and “diet” alternatives, are you accommodating or laughing?
I feel like most people ordering “diet” drinks just want to be told its low-cal anyways. Make them something that taste good and is not full of sugar or heavy cream and they are happy. So I guess, while I am accommodating, I’m not going to start making drinks with Splenda any time soon. I guess I could explore more with agave nectar.
What’s your favorite drink to serve? Favorite drink to enjoy yourself?
I love making Sazeracs. There is so much tradition behind the obscure ingredients and the preparation; it’s like a history lesson in a glass. Also I enjoy making tiki-style drinks, mostly because I love putting together the over-the-top, ridiculous garnishes that go along with them.
I don’t think that I have a favorite cocktail. I like variety. You’ll rarely see me order the same cocktail more than once.
Any trend predications for the second half of 2011?
Well, since the Rapture-thing didn’t really pan-out, unfortunately…
Seriously though, I think people are starting to recognize the beauty of vermouth and bitters. For a long while, both were four-lettered words at bars in America. There are so many different styles and varieties that have some much to offer both on their own and in a cocktail.
Any tips for our home bartenders?
Don’t be afraid of those dusty bottles at the liquor store. Just because you’ve never seen a glossy advertisement for a spirit, doesn’t mean you might not love it. Try something new.
Most memorable night behind the bar was when _______.
I did a tequila shot with a certain “sharp-dressed man” during SXSW. That was pretty memorable from what I remember of it.