Crafting a gem: 1910 making drinks by their own rules

Published 2:01 pm Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gonzalo Cibils shakes out a samba caipirnha at the 1910.

Gonzalo Cibils shakes out a samba caipirnha at the 1910.

Cocktails that include serrano pepper aren’t available at just any bar, but The 1910 is adding a little spice to local drinks.

Co-owner Gonzalo Cibils and Israel Gonzalez opened The 1910 Mexican Kitchen & Pub in February of 2014. Cibils said the goal of the restaurant is to bring authentic Mexican dishes to Austin, but with a different spin than other Mexican restaurants in Austin. One way they’re doing that is through their craft cocktails — or specialty hand-crafted drinks — and specialty tacos.

The 1910's Mango Cucumber Margarita sanwiched between a couple of the restaurant's craft tacos. Eric Johnson/

The 1910’s Mango Cucumber Margarita sanwiched between a couple of the restaurant’s craft tacos. Eric Johnson/

“We just take pride in doing what we think is really quality drinks, and we try to stay with fun flavors,” Cibils said.

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The house cocktail menu lists eight signature drinks, but Cibils said they offer about 12. The drinks include ingredients like cucumbers, blackberries, chia seeds and serrano pepper. One drink even features beef jerkey. One of the big differences between The 1910 and other bars is that instead of using pre-made syrups in their drinks, they use local honey, fresh fruit, vegetables and berries, and they cook some of their other ingredients in the kitchen.

“This is like my little lab right here,” Cibils said as he pulled bottles of honey and different alcohol out from behind the bar.

Since many restaurants use pre-made syrups and mixes, Cibils wanted The 1910 to stand out. Many of the drinks include ingredients people wouldn’t normally associate with alcohol, like black tea leaves. The leaves are used in a specific beer shandy to add some herbal infusion. Cibils said they try to add a lot of the flavors from the kitchen into their drinks, and even use some of the taco ingredients.

“It’s not only just pouring drinks out of the bottles,” Cibils said. “It’s a little bit of you making your own infusions and flavors yourself. Basically a lot of that happens in the kitchen.”

 ‘Simple and good’

Customers expressed mixed emotions initially concerning the size of the glasses for the cocktails. Many times people are served a margarita in a 24 or 32 ounce glass, but the glasses at The 1910 are 10 ounces.

“Sometimes people at first say, ‘Hey, where’s the rest of my margarita?’ but then they understand it’s actually a pretty strong margarita, but it’s simple and good,” Cibils said.

The margaritas include fresh lime, agave nectar, tequila and cognac, and Cibils said people like the mixture. People often come into the bar and order regular drinks, like a rum and Coke or a vodka-Sprite, because they are unsure what they should order. If they’re willing to wait a few minutes, Cibils said they can get a house cocktail that they cannot find anywhere else.

“We’re trying to show them that there’s other types of cocktails,” Cibils said.

Currently, the most popular drink is the mango cucumber margarita, as Cibils said they’ll make about 100 of the drinks during a busy weekend.

But The 1910 isn’t only about making craft cocktails. They are also developing a line of craft artisan tacos with handmade tortillas. The goal is to be able to pair craft tacos with craft cocktails, but do it in a casual and fast-paced environment. Cibils and Gonzalez also hope to bring in more craft beer, along with a nice selection of tequila.

“We want people to relax, have a nice cocktail, have good craft tacos and just chill,” Cibils said.

ah.06.22.b From the West Coast to Austin

Cibils has a background in bartending, and he brought knowledge about creating craft cocktails from the West Coast. After attending bartending school in San Francisco, he realized he didn’t want to pursue a career in sport bartending. So he got involved in craft bartending, going to different bars to garner ideas and gauge the trends. Cibils has a collection of menus from the bars he visited. In Los Angeles. he managed a few bars, and that’s when he first started implementing his own craft cocktails.

When he came to Austin, Cibils looked at what the bars and restaurants had to offer and was disappointed to see there was no culture for craft cocktails. So when the opportunity arose, Cibils and Gonzalez opened the restaurant.

The craft drinks have caused a few complications. The specialty drinks make it a bit harder to train bartenders at The 1910, since there is not a lot of experience in Austin for craft bartending versus regular bartending, according to Cibils. Every server gets a chance to learn bartending, and every bartender gets a chance to serve. Cibils said they want everyone to know how to do everything.

 Ensuring taste

Sometimes, Cibils even asks workers to come in a few hours early to help cook and cut ingredients for the food and drinks.

Cibils said people joke about his method of ensuring the cocktails taste good.

“I pretty much taste all the drinks; people joke about it. It’s pretty much the best part of my job, which is why I do it,” Cibils joked.

He explained that some of the ingredients can vary in flavor. Limes, for example, vary thanks to the acidity of each lime, which can require adjusting the recipe.

Cibils and Gonzalez are starting to hear positive feedback from customers. Many people wouldn’t think a restaurant like this would be found in a small town like Austin, so people appreciate the business.