Austin is known for drinking. Second only to New Orleans, Austin’s “Dirty Sixth” is filled with gaggles of basic, slightly overweight girls squeezed into matching hot-pink wifebeaters, led by their slightly less overweight (shedding for the wedding) bachelorette friends, stumbling from dive bar to dive bar to attract the attention of the hordes of beer-swilling fraternity boys.
We’ve done the Dirty Sixth route a few times - it’s fun - but it’s also pretty damn painful the
morning afternoon after.
Craft cocktails seems to be a more recent phenomenon there, but there are few places. There’s the recent brothel-turned-speakeasy Midnight Cowboy - and the Firehouse Lounge, a large cavernous room hidden behind the bookshelf of a hostel. There, the crowds are still young and the ambiance still rowdy, but the cocktails are classic and well-made - although the menu also features a fair share of approachable, sweeter concoctions.
But where should a cocktail aficionado go to experience something new?
Enter Seven Grand. Hailing from Los Angeles, the whisky-obsessed Seven Grand bars has just opened its third location in Austin as of fall 2017.
The exterior and its neon sign is reminiscent of a trailer park dive. Inside is a different story. The luxurious bar features a tremendous range of whiskies, housed behind a long sleek counter with interspersed, matching lamps perched on a brass bases shaped like stag heads.
The menu focus is on the Old Fashioned, with a list of different recommended whiskey bases.
But the highlight of the menu is the newly developed Glenfiddich Experience ($40 USD). Upon ordering, you receive a wooden box with three bottles (labeled #1, #2, and #3), two booklets, a dart, a wooden coin, and a schizophrenic collection of convenience store snacks.
The experience is remarkable - and worth much more than the price tag. The first book, written by bar manager Jeramy, paints the story of a dystopian future ruled by Siri, in which you are tasked with joining a secret society of the remaining humans by proving your whisky tasting prowess. The second book is the mission book. It instructs the whisky and food pairings, which is quirky but work surprisingly well: for example, the 2nd bottle is paired with a package of Nutter Butter. After the tasting mission, you are instructed to throw the dart at the dart board (located in the backyard of the bar) and record the number you hit.
When you return to the bar, you can trade in the wooden token and announce the number you hit with the dart, upon which a bartender crafts the cocktail that corresponds to your dart number. Beneath the cocktail sits an envelope, in which you find the names and ages of the whiskies that you have tasted.
The entire experience is entertaining and educational, and if this is the type of fun I’m going to have in a dystopian future, then I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords.