Drinking San Antonio: The Esquire, Part I

I haven’t posted in a while because I was out of town for a few days at a conference in San Antonio. I stayed at the Drury right on the Riverwalk, and I was excited about it because of their free extras. They give you a hot breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes, and then there is the 5:30 Kickback, which amounts to chips and beans, some kind of reheated chicken dish, and baked potatoes. Heck, it works for dinner. What I was really excited about was their bar service that gives you three drinks a night free between 5:30 and 7:00.

But the drinks were terrible. I asked for a martini, and it counted as two drinks because it has both gin and vermouth. And it came on the rocks. Cripes. 

But later that night I wandered across the street to the Esquire Tavern. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I fell in love with the place. First of all, it’s one of the oldest continually operating bars in San Antonio, originally opening in 1933, right after the noble experiment ended. And it also has the “longest bar in Texas” (meaning that the physical bar that you lean on is the longest). It’s also downright hip and has gotten tons of great reviews after reopening only two weeks earlier.

I walk in, and I look around, notice the guy in suspenders behind the bar, and then I see a bar menu. Awesome. There was a drink on the menu called a “Chingoni” that I just had to try. It was a mix of Citadelle Reserve Gin, Aperol, and Carpano Vermouth. Absolutely masterful. As I was drinking it, I couldn’t help but just stare at it because of how good it was. As I was walking off to enjoy my drink on the back deck overlooks the Riverwalk, I told the bartender Leighton to think of another drink to make for me. His choice.

When I came back, he said, “Do you trust me?” I was in his hands, and he came back with what amounted to a smoky martini, a drink made with a couple ounces of vodka, a half ounce of Carpano, and a barspoonful of Laphroig. Ah, Laphroig, my favorite Scotch on the planet.

I also got to meet one of my blog heroes, David Alan. You should know him as the Tipsy Texan. He’s the bar consultant from Austin hired to create the bar program at the Esquire. He and the head bartender Jeret Pena have created a good thing.

Next time I will talk about my second and third visits to the Esquire. Yep, I couldn’t get enough.

If you’re in San Antonio, go. And if you’re not in San Antonio, well, maybe you should visit.

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