Icenhauer’s Julie Campbell talks Dulce Vida / By Chad Swiatecki / Photos by Rudy Arocha
Candy canes, Lemonheads, chili peppers and even Skittles—just about any flavorful goody is likely to make its way on to the menu and in to your glass at Icenhauer’s, the stylish Rainey Street bar that’s given Julie Campbell a chance to serve just about anything she can dream up since it opened in September 2010. But instead of using those unlikely ingredients as decorative garnish, Campbell uses them as infusers and lets the bar’s stock of spirits draw out the strong flavors before mixing them into specialty cocktails on a drink menu she works to keep fresh and fun.
Those cocktails aren’t Icenhauer’s only strong point. Its 10 beer taps feature eight local craft brews, along with the ever-present Shiner and Lone Star, and it’s jumped in to the local craft-spirits craze by stocking vodka by Tito’s, tequila from Dulce Vida, whiskey by Garrison Brothers and more on a menu in which the priciest cocktail totals $11 and the most expensive drink in the house—a Glen Livet scotch—comes in at $25.
Campbell says the freedom she’s been given by first-time bar owner Michael Icenhauer has allowed her to experiment (she recently tried a whiskey infused with rosemary and fennel seeds that was a hit) and gives a special character to drinks named after women in the Icenhauer family. There’s the Caroline (Champagne with St. Germaine elderflower liqueur and lemon ginger syrup), the Jennifer (cucumber-infused gin with lime juice), the Katie (lime infused vodka, fresh lime juice and ginger beer) and many more.
Designed by lauded Austin architect Michael Hsu, Icenhauer’s was created with three concepts in mind: classic, clean and modern. The result is a space that’s sophisticated and open enough for large parties and features tucked away areas for quieter exchanges. With a standard calendar of special events like all-day happy hour on Mondays, half-off wine Wednesdays and a Thursday pints and trivia night, Icenhauer’s seeks to be a place where well-appointed professionals straight from the office or a group of friends celebrating a softball or other victory can gather in refined comfort. And with Campbell behind the bar, their taste buds are certain to be in for an experience that will stay with them long afterward.
There are several upsides to a 100-proof organic tequila. The first is obvious, since that extra 10 percent alcohol content over a standard 80-proof variety comes with a punch. But Icenhauer’s bartender Julie Campbell says the hidden benefit of a liquor like Dulce Vida tequila is that drinks made with it don’t suffer from fast dilution and it preserves flavors like the chili infusion she’s been making for the Linda cocktail instead of using a supplemental flavor for added heat. That trait also shows in standard tequila drinks like a margarita or straight up and sipped, as Campbell says a growing number of tequila connoisseurs are ordering with the Austin-based spirit that’s smooth before it kicks.
icenhauer’s specialty: The linda, $11
1 ½ ounces chili-infused Dulce Vida tequila
2 ounces fresh lime juice
Mix ingredients and pour over ice
into a salt-rimmed glass with
miniature chilis added for garnish.
Icenhauer’s, 83 Rainey St., Icenhauers.com. Food and drink served Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Dulce Vida Tequila can be found at Twin Liquors, Specs and Davenport Wine and Spirits.