Austin, Texas’ taco scene gets snazzy with modern eats and handcrafted cocktails, including this splashy drink.
Ask anyone in Austin what kind of town the Texas capital is at heart, and they’ll tell you it’s a taco town. Although most of the city’s favorite tacos are served out of trucks and of the breakfast variety, there are places like the Austin Taco Project. The tortilla-focused concept in the Hilton Austin hotel downtown is taking the idea of the taco to its extreme. Alongside classics like barbacoa, carnitas, and pastor are curry chicken, brisket, and jerk shrimp. Beyond tacos are takes on bar snacks like General Tso baby back ribs, deviled eggs with habanero bacon, tater tots loaded with fried cheese curds and beef barbacoa topped with a sunny-side up egg and poblano gravy. Austin Taco Project is no mere taco joint.
The same is true of the restaurant’s beverage program. A solid draft beer selection is matched by draft cocktails, including a prickly pear margarita. There are also signature cocktails concocted with house-made foams and tinctures. Austin Taco Project’s Smoke on the Water cocktail requires no foams, sous vide machines, or chemistry sets. As you’ll see in the recipe below, you’ll pretty much only need a tolerance for chile peppers.
Smoke on the Water
Splash Mestizo Reposado Mezcal (or preferred mezcal)
2 ounces 1800 pepper-infused tequila (recipe follows)
2 ounces watermelon water (recipe follows)
½ ounce lime juice
¼ ounce agave nectar
1 jalapeño wheel, for garnish
2 watermelon cubes, for garnish
Pour splash of mezcal into coupe and set aside.
Pour remaining ingredients (except garnish) into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until frost forms on outside of shaker.
Wash mezcal around coupe and then discard mezcal.
Strain cocktail into coupe.
Slide one watermelon cube onto a long toothpick. Slide the jalapeño wheel onto the toothpick and then add the second watermelon cube. Garnish cocktail with it.
Chile Pepper-Infused 1800 Tequila
1 liter 1800 silver tequila
2 Fresno peppers
Take all peppers and remove veins and seeds. Add directly to bottle and allow to infuse for a minimum of 2 days. Heat level will intensify with each passing day. Once desired heat level has been obtained, remove peppers from bottle.
1 whole seedless watermelon
Cut and core entire watermelon. Discard the rind. Place in blender until all pieces have been blended. Pour liquid through a china cap or cheese cloth. Discard pulp. (Note: shelf life is 1 week if refrigerated.)
For more information on Austin Taco Project in the Hilton Austin, visit the restaurant’s website. Images courtesy Austin Taco Project. Subscribe to the forthcoming monthly Taste of the West e-newsletter below.