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The Allure of Moonshine

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Leah Severe concocts the perfect summer cocktail with Waterloo Gin / By Molly McManus / Photos by Rudy Arocha

It’s Friday night and Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill has an hour wait. Instead of leaving, you head to the Patio Bar to enjoy a beverage or two before dinner. With options galore—a well-thought-out wine menu, local beer by the bottle and a full bar— the decision becomes difficult. Tempted to order a glass of red wine that will complement the flat iron steak you’ll be ordering for dinner, you opt to start with one of Moonshine’s specialty cocktails, the Waterloo Compound, recommended by Bar Manager Leah Severe.

OK, gin skeptics, listen up. Gin lovers, this applies to you too. Waterloo Gin, made by Austin’s Treaty Oak Distilling Co., is a London-style gin with a roundness to its flavor, unlike other gin that gives you that sharp burn at the back of your throat. Guys, think back to college. You know what I’m talking about. The three main components that give Waterloo Gin its distinguished flavor are native Texas grapefruit, pecans and lavender. Treaty Oak’s desire to use Texas ingredients fits in line with Moonshine’s own inclination to support local food, drinks and companies. Buying local not only helps the environment and Austin’s economy, but it meets the demands of Austinites and out-of-towners alike.

“The No. 1 question we get is, ‘What’s local?’” Severe says. “When people visit Texas, they want something local, especially in Austin because it’s the capital. When we support local products, people want that more.”

Moonshine recently teamed up with Waterloo Gin, and Severe makes the perfect summer cocktail with the local spirit. She’s constantly on the lookout for quality local products to bring on board. If you’ve been to Moonshine before, you may recall the corn dog shrimp or perhaps the green chile macaroni, but the real appeal of the restaurant is its rich and unique history. Located on the corner of Third and Red River streets, Moonshine has been in business since 2003. However, the building itself dates back to the early 1800s, making it the second oldest commercial building in all of Austin. German settler Henry F. Hofheintz purchased the Waterloo Compound (the land Moonshine now encompasses) from the State of Texas for a mere $112 in 1854. Today, the restaurant makes millions of dollars each year. Hofheintz would either be proud or rolling over in his grave. Perhaps he is one of the ghosts that many staff members claim occupies the building. With Severe’s help, the Patio Bar, once a carriage house, was recently redesigned to carry more products and make better use of the space.

“Instead of changing things prior, [the owners]worked with what they had, but I couldn’t do it. Visually, to me, it wasn’t working,” Severe explains.

Moonshine gives the impression it’s been there much longer than nine years. Owners Larry Perdido and Chuck Smith designed the restaurant to fit the space, a huge reason for the comfortable and relaxing experience. With its beautiful, original limestone, smiling staff and delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, you feel as though you’re walking into a home.

You may need a stretcher, wagon or wheelbarrow on your departure from Moonshine. Or maybe just a taxicab. With libations flowing, portions that are out of control and food so good you won’t want to stop eating, Moonshine’s down-home cookin’ with a gourmet twist will leave you fully satisfied. You’ll be wondering why and how you ate so much, with fond (if not hazy) memories of that delicious Waterloo Compound.

Try It

Waterloo Compound, $8
➜ muddled cucumber
➜ 2 ounces Waterloo Gin
➜ grapefruit juice
➜ splash soda water
➜ floater simple syrup

Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, 303 Red River St., Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday for brunch, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Sunday evening, 5 p.m.

Waterloo Gin can be found at Twin Liquors and Spec’s.


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  1. This place is awesome and the bartender featured in this article compliments the ambiance and overall setting of moonshine. She is fantastic and great company to have while enjoying a delicious summer beverage. Way to go Leah!

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