When it comes to Texans, one thing is certain, we love our booze. Recently cocktail expert, Nico Martini decided to put this love into his latest book, Texas Cocktails, a five star cocktail guide for the long star state. Released this month, Texas Cocktails is more than just a cocktail book, Nico has written a love letter with a collection of over 100 of the best cocktails from Texas. Complete with food pairings and Texas hotspots, Martini gives us all another reason to be proud of the Lone Star State.
First, I’d like to congratulate you on the release of your book and your recent TEDx Talk. Those are two amazing accomplishments. When did you know that this book had to be written?
I was approached by the publisher who found me through my work with the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. We chatted about how we should approach a book like this and once we figured out that this would be a snapshot of the current Texas scene, I said I’d love to write it. The Texas cocktail scene is one of the most underrated in the country and hopefully this will open a few eyes, not only from our state but nationally as well.
What was your process like for choosing the different bartenders featured in Texas Cocktails?
Honestly, I kept visualizing this map of all the bars and the last thing I wanted was for all of the pins to just be in DFW, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. I needed to find bars all over Texas with craft cocktail programs. The Blue Door in Midland and Abihaus in Abilene are great examples. If you’re out East, check out Black Pearl in Tyler or the West End Elixir Company in College Station. As far as the bigger cities, most of the bartenders are friends and I’ve been familiar with their work for a while. The Texas scene is a very tight-knit group, but it’s much bigger than most people realize.
It’s true that beer is definitely king in Texas. We’ve seen multiple breweries pop up across the state. What are some Texas brews that you always have to have chilling in the fridge? Furthermore, how do you feel about the rise of the cider in Texas?
All I have in my fridge is vermouth. LOL, can’t help you on this one… I never got into beer. If I’m drinking, it’s a cocktail or whiskey neat. I have liked the way that places like Ranger Creek in San Antonio have been able to use their roots as a brewery to become a more interesting distillery.
Were the foods you chose to discuss in the book based on how well they paired with particular cocktails?
Of course! We have an amazing food culture in Texas that’s greatly influenced by traditional Southern roots, as well as the number of transplants streaming in. Throw that on top of our history as a Mexican territory and you’ve got an incredibly culture-rich food scene. And with our food, we find the best drinks to pair with them. So, you know, chips, salsa and margaritas on the patio.
Unfortunately, not all margaritas are created equally. How does one make the perfect margarita?
While working on this book Nico, what did you learn about yourself?
I was reminded how much I love this state. Texas is a magical place and having the opportunity to represent it in this way is one of the coolest opportunities I’ve ever had. I also learned that the Ranch Water is my favorite cocktail of the moment.
This is so much bigger than a recipe book, besides recipes what do you want your audience to absorb most?
I want to show people what we have happening here. The biggest impact we’re going to have is with our spirits. The Texas spirits scene is going to be known as the best in the nation, behind only Kentucky. It might be now, but it absolutely will be within 10 years. Also, cocktails aren’t going anywhere. This isn’t a fad, this is a trend.
Having researched different bartenders, distilleries etc., is there anything you feel is missing when it comes to Texas alcohols?
I would love to see more distillates from our natural resources. I’d love to see someone working with pecans or cactus. We’re finally getting to the point that our spirits here can mostly use source materials from our state. I think there are even people growing rye up near Amarillo. It’s an exciting time for the Texas spirits industry.
What do you think the future looks like for Texas wines?
I love Texas wine. I use it as an example of what’s about to happen in the spirits industry. 20 years ago the winemakers here were just getting started and now there are wines from Texas that can hang with anyone. Calais in Hye is absolutely incredible and I’d put his reds up against the best from California. (I should note that you have to check out his rum while you’re there, Hye Rum.) I think that Texas wine and Texas spirits are on similar trajectories, and considering the quality of Texas wine now, I can’t wait until you start to see 12-year-old Texas whiskeys and distillers who have been improving over a couple of decades.
Would you like to add anything else to this interview?
This is a love letter to Texas. If you want a glimpse at what Texas and Texas cocktails are all about, I think you’ll like it. I hope so. (Photos courtesy of Nico Martini) TXMB