Backbeat, the second cocktail bar of husband-and-wife team Michael and Jessica Sanders, is now open and finding its rhythm along a bustling section of South Lamar Boulevard.
Backbeat, sister bar to Drink.Well, was announced last fall as one of the first standalone bars on South Lamar, where so many of the watering holes are tied to restaurants. Its 2,200 square feet include a rooftop patio with views of downtown Austin, and with that size and status, the Sanders faced a tall order: provide a well-defined, well-rounded cocktail menu to lure locals in.
That’s exactly what they’ve done with a program that brilliantly divides each of the drinks into three sections: Upbeat, Downbeat and Offbeat.
Upbeat cocktails feature “vibrant spirits, often shaken with citrus, fresh herbs or seasonal fruit,” according to a news release. “Exemplifying the Upbeat spirits is Backbeat’s namesake cocktail, a bright and herbaceous variation of the classic Southside cocktail with gin and fresh-pressed celery juice.”
The Downbeat cocktails, on the other hand, are going to be more booze-forward with more robust flavors and “brooding spirits.” These drinks include the Pick-Up Artist, a bittered bourbon julep in which “the bracing zing of Fernet-Branca is balanced with coffee-infused demerara, cinnamon and a zesty dash of cardamom bitters,” as the menu notes. (The menu, it’s worth noting, is written like poetry for cocktail lovers.)
And the Offbeat cocktails, as you might guess, are going to be the oddballs, the ones that don’t fit cleanly into a category: the dessert drinks and tiki offerings the Sanders couldn’t leave off the menu. One such example is the Neon Jungle, a “smoky and electric mezcal and Jamaican rum swizzle balanced with coconut-washed bianco vermouth, fresh pressed pineapple, lime, island spices and blue curaçao,” according to the menu.
(The best part of the Neon Jungle is the straw, but it’s well worth the surprise to find out why for yourself.)
Plus, the bar has six craft beers on tap and 10 wines by the glass — and a rotating champagne program that showcases a single grower-producer champagne house at a time, starting with Jean Vesselle.
These can all be enjoyed in a space with warm colors and natural lighting — and that irresistible rooftop deck, of course.
Backbeat also has a menu of small bites, such as chicken liver mousse and a pate melt with house pork, chicken pate and melted gruyere. With so much to offer, the bar is hoping to become South Austin residents’ go-to spot for fun.
“South Lamar has always been an important cultural destination in Austin and, over time, has become a culinary one as well,” Michael Sanders said in the news release. “We are looking forward to Backbeat being a spirited part of this community and the vibrant social scene here.”
Like they’ve done with Drink.Well, the Sanders are giving Backbeat a big heart, too. The Moon Bridge cocktail on the Upbeat menu, a Japanese whisky highball with verdehlo madeira, spiced tonic and sparkling water, is an homage to Isamu Taniguchi, who single-handedly built the Japanese Garden in the 1960s that’s now preserved at Zilker Botanical Garden. To honor his work, the Sanders are donating a dollar of the proceeds of each Moon Bridge purchase to the Zilker gardens.
“We just think what he did deserves recognition,” Jessica Sanders said during an opening event at the bar.
The Rock Rose district of the Domain becoming another booming bar scene
South Austin isn’t the only part of town with a growing nightlife. With the opening of Saint Genevieve, the Rock Rose entertainment district in the Domain is continuing to round out its bar offerings.
The regal Saint Genevieve, a wine lounge, is now in business following the openings of the more casual Rock Rose spots the Dogwood, Jack and Ginger’s Irish Pub and, most recently, the northern outposts of Lavaca Street Bar and Kung Fu Saloon. One of the latest bars on the block, Saint Genevieve is the only one to offer shared plates, an extensive wine list, and beer and cocktails to boot.
Saint Genevieve is the second of four original concepts from the Union Venture Group, the hospitality company behind many of the Domain’s bars, including the Park at the Domain and Somersault, which are both outside of the Rock Rose district on the east side of the outdoor mall.
In addition to Jack and Ginger’s and Saint Genevieve, the group plans to open the Rose Room, a three-story dance club, and 77 Degrees, a rooftop bar, later this year. They’re all side by side on Rock Rose.
Of each of these new spaces, the visually striking Saint Genevieve is the place you’ll want to go for a sophisticated drinking experience.
“I think one of the things Austin’s having a hard time grasping is that we come off as a restaurant. We’re not; we’re an upscale lounge,” Adam Karam, a managing partner of the bar, said. “Our food is gourmet bar food. We haven’t opened anything as nice as this, so I think it’s taking people some time to adjust and get used to what we are, which is a lounge focusing on mixology and wine.”
Cocktails include the Audrey, a sweet potion of pisco, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, sweet vermouth, muddled fig and thyme syrup — a drink you might say is as lovely as Hepburn herself. Another floral (but not too feminine) option is I Dream of Genevieve, with Bombay Sapphire Gin, rose water and St. Germain, all topped with rose petals.
The wine list features a range of varietals, divided into whites, rosés, reds and bubbles. Texas is even represented with a couple of wines from Duchman Family Winery: the zesty Vermentino and berry-forward Montepulciano. And the beer list is, strikingly, international, with the likes of Italy’s Birra Moretti and France’s Kronenbourg 1664 available. Fans of U.S. craft beer, however, won’t find them here. (For a pint, go next door to Jack & Ginger’s.)
Karam said Saint Genevieve has other delights, such as DJs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Plus, Sunday brunch has champagne deals and a build-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar with the local Bloody Revolution mix. The food menu, he said, “is tapas-like. Worldly items with a twist. Nothing too over-the-top.”
Saint Genevieve, at 11500 Rock Rose Ave., is open from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday. For more information, visit stgen.co.
1300 S. Lamar Blvd.
Open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday-Friday and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday