A Side of Fresh

The bevy of bars near 7th and Red River in downtown Austin may not be the first destination for a seasoned locavore, but revelers in search of a uniquely farm-to-glass cocktail should dive into the side bar. Behind its long, L-shaped bar, under a Bob Wills poster and next to the beer taps, sit two giant decanters filled with delectable vodkas infused with locally sourced, seasonal produce and spices, just waiting to delight the most discerning foodie’s taste buds.

Depending on the season, bar-goers might try a cucumber martini, a bacon or habanero and garlic Bloody Mary, a peach tea, or a pumpkin or gingerbread White Russian. Other infusions have included fresh jalapeño and lime, cherry and orange, and spiced apple and cantaloupe. The possibilities are endless; if it grows on a local farm or is found at the farmers market, the side bar will find a way to transform it into a cocktail.

If farm-fresh flavored vodka seems somewhat incongruous with the otherwise decidedly un-swanky bar, that’s just fine with owners and longtime Austinites Trey and Soo Lee-Spaw. “We were a Lone Star-and-shot-of-whiskey kind of place,” explains Trey. “But we’re always trying to think of something different and have fun!”
For the food-loving Spaws, the recent explosive growth of Austin’s local food movement inspired the infusion idea. “The trend of local food and drink is thrilling and inspiring,” says Soo. “It only makes sense that thoughtful eating would go hand in hand with thoughtful drinking.”

Bar Manager Jason Kendrick takes the infusions from concept to reality. “I throw out suggestions, and he makes them happen,” Soo says. “I get the honor of being the test taster.” The infusions are made with Tito’s Vodka, another nod to local sourcing. “Being small-business owners, we try to support [sourcing] as local as possible,” says Soo.

Trey enjoys being able to offer something for everyone—from the hipster twentysomethings to the more veteran patrons—and has found that the whole spectrum of customers appreciates the Austin-centric infusions. “The food revolution thing is real, and it’s transgenerational,” says Trey. —Cari Marshall

the side bar
602 E. 7th St.
Sat.–Sun. 6 p.m.–2 a.m.
Mon.–Fri. 5 p.m.–2 a.m.