I Can Eat 50 Eggs: Bar Congress

In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
Day 27: Bar Congress
200 Congress Ave. at the Austonian. 827-2760, www.congressaustin.com/bar-congress.
Hours: 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday-Saturday.
UPDATE: Bar Congress has closed; Jason Stevens is now at Boiler Nine
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.27.12
If you want to watch the drink scientist come out in Jason Stevens, ask him to mix something off-menu, with an egg. Even better, tell him what you’re having to eat. The bottles, jars, eyedroppers, juices and knives come out then, and the new director of Bar Congress starts formulating.
When Stevens took over for Adam Bryan behind the bar Jan. 19, I already knew his work from Pam Pritchard’s Tigress Pub, where he customized an Aviation cocktail for me based on a linear array of questions. Drier or sweeter? Drier. Your tolerance for cherry? A little goes a long way. How do you feel about juniper? As a flavor or an airborne allergen?
The result at the Tigress was a bracing appreciation of gin and juice rimmed with a Luxardo-soaked cherry on a toothpick across the top as an aromatic booster. At Bar Congress, my request was something with an egg to fold into this 50 Eggs series, a flip (whole egg) or silver (just the white), it didn’t matter to me. I’d already ordered a trio of deviled eggs pickled with beets and dressed with deviled goat cheese, arugula and a dash of espelette pepper dust, a $6 feature on the ever-changing bar menu, which cherry-picks from the menus of Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen.
Stevens brought out Junipero gin from Anchor Distilling in San Francisco and Krogstad Aquavit out of Oregon, the latter a study in caraway and anise. He brought the two bottles to his nose to check their balance, then built the cocktail with mixed-berry jam, Peychaud’s bitters, lemon juice and the white of a hand-separated egg. Properly frothing an egg-white cocktail means shaking it long enough to take a drink of water with one hand while shaking the other. He finished the cocktail with an eyedropper of red bitters crafted into a cross over the white semi-meringue top. A $12 variation on the Maltese Cross cocktail, improvised with the stock from Bar Congress.
The result was a cocktail like a winter trifle, a layered meritage of egg-white lush, sweet berry and lingering toasted licorice aromatics. It was an appropriately astringent complement to the rich and twangy deviled eggs. A man with an eye for detail, Stevens matched drink and dish down to the color, a shade of self-conscious fushcia you wouldn’t touch for your Super Bowl party. Until you tasted it. Go Big Pink.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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