September 4, 2014
OUTSTANDING BAR PROGRAM WITH INVENTIVE COCKTAILS AND WEEKLY STAFF BRIEFINGS.
AUSTIN, TEXAS At Swift’s Attic, bar manager Jeff Hammett works in a setting steeped in character and colorful ambiance—the historic building in downtown Austin, Texas, that housed Swift Premium Food Company in 1905—but, what he enjoys most about his job is watching how guests react to the restaurant’s exotic and inventive cocktails. “I love seeing how people react when they expect one thing, and then the drink proves to be something totally unexpected,” he says.
The Coin Trick, priced $10, is the one he most likes to watch guests experience. “It tricks the senses completely,” Hammett explains. The drink consists of Cointreau, Citadelle gin, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and soda—all siphoned together, then served with fresh grated nutmeg sprinkled on top and micro-flamed tableside, a sensory experience from the artistic visual production to the drink’s palate-teasing twists.
As for what guests like most, the best-selling cocktail at Swift’s Attic is also Hammett’s personal favorite: the New Fashioned, $12, is a ginger-infused 40 Creek Copper Pot Whiskey muddled with grapefruit zest, Angostura bitters, and tarragon syrup.
“The New Fashioned has great flavor combinations, but another of my favorites, the Je ne Sais Quoi, is also very interesting,” Hammett says. Priced $18, more than the other cocktail selections at Swift’s Attic, it doesn’t sell quite as prolifically but it has a compelling profile: “The Je ne Sais Quoi is aged in a charred barrel with a Sacred Rosehip Cup liquor, Hennessy Cognac VSOP, Carpano Punt E Mes [a sweet vermouth], and apple bitters. The flavors change week to week as the barrel ages.”
In addition to the creative cocktail lineup, Swift’s Attic has 14 draft beers, 24 wines served by the glass, and an ice tap with four liquors that pour out at a refreshing 19 degrees. “The ice tap is a great feature because the drinks don’t get diluted by [melting ice] and you don’t have to shake or stir, just pour and serve,” Hammett says.
To keep servers readily informed of beverage additions and seasonal selections, Hammett conducts training sessions every Saturday afternoon. Topics change weekly, and the focus shifts from beer to wine to cocktails depending on what is new, and what servers need to understand about food pairings. Beverages account for an estimated 45 percent of the restaurant’s revenues, and the bar often serves long past the restaurant—routinely staying open until midnight and, on many nights, running until the 2 a.m. curfew.