The Undertow & the Still Fly - Wine & Spirits Magazine

The Undertow & the Still Fly

Cocktail Improvisations from Chris White

Red Headed Stepchild‘s Chris White creates creative cocktails, sometimes off of guests’ dreams. (Photo courtesy of Chris White)

Recently, in Austin, I stopped in at the dark, moody speakeasy, Red Headed Stepchild. The sign outside reads “Floppy Disk Repair Co.” and you need a custom code to open the lockbox on the front door; the bar doesn’t even have a website or instagram.

The bar is the brainchild of Chris White, whose previous experience includes Las Vegas’s XS Nightclub and New Orleans’s The Mercury Room. White is a great listener. He likes to create cocktails for his guests after getting to know them and their tastes, and sometimes, their dreams. One of the people in our party offered up a vivid dream he had of swimming in the ocean underneath a parking lot, followed by a chance encounter with a long-lost relative while holding a pineapple in a grocery store. White returned with a drink called Undertow, made with 1.5 ounces Still Austin Rye, 0.75 ounces Averna, 0.75 ounces pineapple gum syrup, 0.75 ounces lemon juice, 1 egg white and 2 dashes lavender bitters. He dry shook all of the ingredients then reverse shook with ice, straining the drink into a coup and garnishing it with edible flowers. White had incorporated the ideas of fresh ocean water and tropical fruit into this whimsical, creamy concoction which elicited the feelings of the dream.

White says that creating cocktails is like painting or composing music: He starts with a classic for inspiration and then adds a personal twist. The Undertow is a twist on an Industry Sour, a staple for bartenders. Soon, we got to talking about Still Austin Rye. When I described the complexity and flavor of the spirit to him, he decided to enhance those flavors rather than covering them up with a mixer. So, he created a twist on an Old Fashioned. Where the traditional recipe uses sugar, his version used Montenegro Amaro and Trader Vic’s Macadamia Nut Liqueur to provide sweetness and body, while cinnamon syrup played off of the spice quality of the whiskey. The result? The Still Austin Rye was the star, but I could happily sip this delicious cocktail without the alcoholic burn of straight whiskey.


Still Fly

    By Chris White

    • 2 ounces Still Austin Rye
    • 1/2 ounce Montenegro Amaro
    • 1/2 ounce Trader Vic's Macadamia Nut Liqueur
    • 1/4 ounce Cinnamon Simple Syrup
    • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
    • 1 Orange twist


    • Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add all ingredients and stir until well-chilled.
    • Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube.
    • Express the oil of an orange twist over the glass, then drop into the glass to garnish.

    Spirits Type:

    Still Austin ‘The Artist’ Rye Whiskey




    Still Austin Whiskey Co, Austin, Texas



    Still Austin The Artist Rye Whiskey
    Still Austin is the first distillery to be founded within Austin, launched in 2017. Head Distiller John Schrepel and Master Blender Nancy Fraley created their Straight Bourbon The Musician, made from Texas-grown corn, rye and malted barley, later releasing The Artist, a savory whiskey made with Texas-grown rye grains.

    This complex rye leads with florals and clove spice on the nose. It has an initial sweetness filled with fig and caramel flavors, followed by pepper and citrus dominating the midpalate—pretty, playful and complex with undertones of orange-oil and maraschino cherry.

    Based in Los Angeles, California, Alissa Bica is the Spirits Editor and Critic at Wine & Spirits. She is also a Certified Sommelier and co-runs the home wine tasting company, Côte Brune and Blonde. In any rare moments of free time, she writes about obscure grape varieties in the blog Off the Beaten Wine Path.

    This story appears in the print issue of Winter 2022.
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