Coseppi Kitchen

Inclusive Vegetarian Cooking by Taylor Cook & James Seppi


Coseppi Kitchen’s adventures in spirits, fine liqueurs, bitters, and all other things cocktail.

Best Austin Liquor Stores for Fine Spirits

AFBA City Buide 2013

I love liquor stores. I love browsing for new products, recognizing subtle differences in organization, noting prices, and – of course – responsibly imbibing the products. One thing that makes shopping for and purchasing liquor even more pleasurable for me is that I am also an economist. Economics is not so much something that a person studies as who they are. Everywhere I go I subconsciously collect a set of data points that my brain computes using a highly specific algorithm to then tell me if and under what circumstances I will return to that establishment. I am not special – everyone takes a complicated set of factors in to consideration to determine preferences – but an economist knows that this is happening which makes us want to understand.

Inside Spec's

Inside Spec’s

So, for this post rather than provide an opinion based on intangible factors, I wanted to conduct a mini experiment and see how my favorite central Austin liquor stores measure up given a set of indicators I theorized to be significant in forming my overall opinion. A team of researchers (thanks James and Gabe) fanned out across Austin to collect six price, 14 selection, and four service data points. We intend to continue to update these numbers and study more stores (it is tough work, but someone has to do it). What follows are our preliminary results:

Price Ranking Selection Ranking  Service Ranking Average Ranking
Chris’s Liquor Stores N/A 1 6 3.50
King 5 5 6 5.33
South Lamar Spirits 3 4 4 3.67
Spec’s (any) 1 3 4 2.67
Triangle Wine and Spirits 4 7 7 6.00
Twin (any) 2 2 1 1.67
World Liquor and Tobacco 6 6 2 4.67
Standard Deviation  $ 1.17 1.51

What is presented in the columns are rankings for each category. Spec’s, on average, offered the best price. Chris’s had the best selection. Finally, by having someone on staff who knew the ingredients for Negroni, Twin ranked highest in service. You can see by the standard deviation in average price that you are likely to get a fair deal in any Austin establishment and standard deviation in average ranking also indicates that the competition was very close.

In conclusion we did not find any evidence that there is a bad liquor store in this list. We have also walked away from the experience with these notable conclusions:

  • Liquor stores aim to please. Whenever a store did not have a specific item that we included on selection they most often said that they could order it. 
  • It is not what you know, but what you are willing to learn that counts.  In only one instance did an employee fail to offer to look up the ingredients for a nigroni for us. In an age when everyone has a computer in their pocket good service should only be a Google away.
  • Liquor stores are almost universally under the impression that they are competing on cost. The Austin market is dominated by two large chain stores that, by virtue of their size, will have the lowest prices. However, I don’t know anyone who is going to drive across town on a Friday afternoon in Central Austin traffic to get to one of these box stores to save, on average, $2.05. Customers want shop close to their destinations, find exactly what they are looking for, and above all, be treated well.

View Austin Fine Liquor & Spirits Stores in a larger map

Mini Allspice Dram Cakes

All Spice Dram Cakes

Mini Allspice Dram Cakes with Mayfair Icing


  • 2 cups gluten-free flour, divided
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons Allspice Dram, divided
  • 3 tablespoons non-margarine butter substitute
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil


  1. Combine 1/2 cup of gluten-free flour, brown sugar, chopped pecans, and 1 teaspoon Allspice Dram in a medium bowl. Cut non-margarine butter substitute into the mixture and set aside.
  2. Combine coconut milk and vinegar in small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine remaining flour, white sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the vegetable oil, remaining Allspice Dram, and coconut milk mixture.
  4. Coat the cups of a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. put one table spoon of topping in the bottom of each cup. Top with 1/2 cup of cake batter.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until they pass the toothpick test.
  5. Turn the cakes out on to a rack to cool.

Note: For a little extra kick, drizzle the cakes with Mayfair Icing.

Mayfair Icing


This icing is inspired by the Mayfair Cocktail.


  • 2 teaspoon Apricot Brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon Allspice dram
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water


  1.  Mix all ingredients until smooth.
  2. Spread on cooled baked goods as desired.

Old School Pisco Punch

This old school San Francisco-style Pisco Punch is sure to be a hit at your next fancy (or not so fancy) party!  To properly prepare it, you will need to give yourself at least 3 days advance notice so the ingredients can adequately meld and mingle.  This punch can be served either in a punch bowl or by the glass.  For this recipe and lots of other great classics, check out Imbibe! by David Wondrich.


  • 1 pineapple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cups turbinado sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 750-ml bottle of Pisco
  • 7 lemons


  1. Place the pineapple chunks in a large bowl.  In a separate pot, bring the water to  boil, turn off heat, add sugar, and stir until completely dissolved.  Pour this simple syrup mixture over the pineapple chunks.  Let cool, cover, and then refrigerate for about 24 hours.
  2. The following day, use a fine mesh strainer to separate the syrup (which now will have a delicious pineapple flavor) from the sweetened pineapple chunks.  Store the pineapple chunks in an airtight container in the refrigerator
  3. In another jar or large bottle, combine the entire bottle of pisco with 1 cup of the pineapple syrup.  Store this mixture in the refrigerator for at least 2 days before using (it should last for weeks – the longer the better). Store the remaining syrup in a jar in the refrigerator (it is great for tiki drinks!).
  4. On the day you are serving the punch, you can either serve in a large punch bowl or by the glass:
    • In a Punch Bowl: Combine the pisco-syrup mixture with 16-ounces cold, filtered water, and the juice of all 7 lemons.  If desired, sweeten with more of the leftover pineapple syrup.  Add a large block of ice (see note below), and serve in small punch glasses, garnished with a few of the sweetened pineapple chunks.
    • By the Glass: Combine 2 ounces pisco-syrup mixture, 3/4 ounce filtered water, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice in a shaker with several cubes of ice.  Shake vigorously, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a couple chunks of sweetened pineapple.

Note – Making a Block of Ice:  We’ve found the easiest way to make a punch bowl-sized block of ice is to use an empty milk or juice carton.  Just cut the top off, clean the inside with warm water, fill with filtered water, and freeze.  It will probably take at least 12 hours to freeze solid, so take this into consideration when planning your punch party.

Homemade Ginger Beer

If you enjoy strong, spicy, full-flavored ginger ale or beer, then this recipe is for you!  Making your own ginger beer is actually pretty easy and doesn’t really require any special equipment other than an old 2-liter bottle or growler.  If you don’t know where to get dry ale yeast, try searching for a local homebrew store (such as Austin Homebrew Supply).

Homemade Ginger Beer

Homemade Ginger Beer


  • 3/4 lb fresh ginger root (use less for a less pungent end product)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar (white can also be used)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry ale yeast (such as Danstar Nottingham) *


  1. Give the ginger root a good wash and cut off any funky-looking skin (you can leave it mostly unpeeled).  Then cut the ginger root into rounds, about 1/8-inch thick.  Place the pieces into a large heat-resistant glass (such as Pyrex) bowl, and crush slightly using the back of a wooden spoon or a cocktail muddler.  This helps express some of the juice and aids in flavor extraction.
  2. Heat the water to boiling, then pour it over the ginger in the bowl.  Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  3. Use a citrus zester or Microplane to zest the entire lemon, being careful to avoid the white pith.  Juice the now-naked lemon and add 2 tablespoons of the juice to the mixture, stirring to incorporate.
  4. Let the mixture cool to room temperature (this usually takes around 1 hour), then sprinkle the yeast over the surface.
  5. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth or paper towel and let sit out for 24 hours.  After a few hours you should see some yeasty activity (slight bubbling) in your bowl.
  6. After 24 hours are up, carefully strain the ginger beer into a clean 2-liter bottle or 1/2-gallon growler.  Screw on the lid tightly and let sit out for 12 – 24 hours longer.  During this time, the yeast will continue to reproduce, carbonating the ginger beer.
  7. After this period of 24 hours, move the sealed bottle to your refrigerator, let chill, then enjoy straight or in a cocktail of your choice (I suggest a Dark and Stormy).  When you open the bottle for the first time, do it over a sink because there is a good chance it might bubble over.
    The ginger beer will keep in refrigerator for a long time, but you might want to open the lid every day or two to let off excess carbonation.

* For bonus points, make your own “ginger bug” and use some of it instead of dry yeast!

Ginger beer base

Ginger beer base

Introducing the Spaghetti Western Cocktail


Spaghetti Westerns are a genre of Western movies that were made in Italy. They resemble the typical American-made Westerns, and the better ones feature unusual music and heroes with unnaturally good fighting skills and an unlikely partner.

Like Quentin Tarantino, we are  fans of quirky multi-national fusions. However, we are not in the movie business and so our Django Unchained-equivalent works are more likely to appear on small plates or glasses, rather than big screens.

Jake from Haus Alpenz pouring samples

Jake from Haus Alpenz pouring samples

We recently found a healthy dose of inspiration at Hopfields. If you have not made it there yet, Hopfields is a fantastic restaurant with a great beer selection and a gifted bartender – Carter – who makes some o f the best “17 [% ABV] and under” drinks in Austin.

On January 16th, Hopfields hosted a small tasting with Jake Parrott from Haus Alpenz. Haus Alpenz is an importer of unique international spirits and liqueurs, and has taken an important part in revitalizing America’s cocktail movement.  We sampled a variety of their offerings, including Cocchi Americano Rosso (the first bottle in Texas!), Cocchi Barolo Chinato, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Bhyrrh, and a few others.

Spaghetti Western Cocktail

Spaghetti Western Cocktail (Photo by Gabriel Hasser)

One of our favorites was Cardamaro Amaro, a wine-based bitter flavored with cardoon (not cardamom as the name might lead you to believe).  Jake suggested the this cocktail to us (and even gave us the name), so after the tasting we hurried to the liquor store to gather our ingredients.  After a few variations, we decided the following preparation was our favorite Spaghetti Western Cocktail, which mixes spicy American rye whiskey with the sweetly bitter Italian Cardamaro.


  • 1 ounce Rye
  • 1 ounce Cardamaro
  • 1 dash orange bitters


  1. Stir the rye and Cardamaro together in a mixing glass with several ice cubes until chilled, about 30 seconds. 
  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  3. Garnish with a healthy orange twist.


Corsicana Dawn from Hopfields

Corsicana Dawn from Hopfields (Photo by Gabriel Hasser)

Coseppi Michelada

Coseppi Michelada

Coseppi Michelada

As long as you have a healthy amount of lime juice and a beer, there is not a wrong way to make a michelada. We tried our fair share in around Mexico, and almost each one was different from the last, varying in spices, garnishes, and type of beer.  This is a very good version that James developed at home using nice dried Mexican chili peppers.


  •  3 dried chiles guajillos
  • 20 dried chiles de arbol
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 4 key limes
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican hot sauce (such as Valentina)
  • a few ice cubes
  • splash of tomato juice (optional)
  • 1 cold bottle of Mexican lager or a beer of your choice (we used the Alt from Hops and Grains)


  1. To make the rim spice, remove the tops of the dried peppers and shake the seeds loose. Toast the chilies in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about two minutes. Process the peppers in a food processor until finely ground. Add salt and sesames seeds. This makes enough spice for a number of micheladas.
  2. Pour the rim spice in a saucer or small plate. Run a slice of lime around the rim of a pint glass and rub the moistened rim in the spices like you would with a margarita glass.
  3. Add the remaining lime juice to the rimmed pint glass. Mix in the hot sauce, a splash of tomato juice (if using), and add a few ice cubes.
  4. Top the glass with your cold beer and enjoy!  Store the remaining rim spice in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Michelada Rim Spice

Michelada Rim Spice

Bourbon Tasting

This past weekend we hosted a small bourbon tasting with a group of friends at our house. Taylor and I have wanted to get more into and understand the different flavors of bourbon for some time, so this was a great way to sample several nice selections without having to stock our own liquor cabinet to the gills. We prepared several small dishes to pair with the bourbons. First up we had Blistered Shishito Peppers, which have a slight amount of char just like the inside of the bourbon oak barrels. Following the peppers was Smoky Baba Ganoush with carrots and olive bread and sweet, slightly spiced Caramelized Onion Crostini. For a more hearty course, we enjoyed Miniature Mushroom Wellingtons (recipe forthcoming). Last but not least, we had Roasted Peaches with Vanilla Honey Whipped Cream (recipe forthcoming also) for dessert.


As for the bourbons, we sampled Baker’s, Cyrus Noble, Evan Williams 1783, Eagle Rare, Four Roses, Knob Creek 9, Pure Kentucky, and Woodford Reserve.  The flavors of this variety of bourbons ranged from aggressive spice to smooth, silky honey.  We can definitely say that not a single bourbon was was unappreciated.  I personally liked the smoothness of Eagle Rare the best (my own selection for the evening), while Taylor really enjoyed the  spiciness of Knob Creek 9.

Watermelon Mojito


Working at the farmer’s market we are often asked for cooking and recipe advice. This recipe came from our market manager, Abbi Cheek, who was asked for advice on one particularly hot afternoon.

To make watermelon puree, place sliced sections of whole watermelon in a blender and process until smooth. Then, transfer the puree to a fine mesh strainer and allow to separate for at least 10 minutes. Use the separated liquid in this recipe.


  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 10-15 mint leaves
  • 3 or 4 ice cubes
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 3 ounces watermelon puree
  • 2 key limes, juiced
  • 2 ounces soda water


  1. Muddle mint and simple syrup in a 16 ounce glass
  2. Add ice, rum, watermelon puree, and lime juice. Stir.
  3. Top with soda water and garnish with mint or a lime wedge. Serve.

« Previous Page

© Copyright 2012 Coseppi Kitchen and Coseppi Partnership (Taylor Cook and James Seppi). All Rights Reserved.