Nestled beneath one of San Antonio’s oldest running bar-rooms lies Downstairs at the Esquire Tavern -- a slightly elevated and somewhat elusive downtown public house where the best of the classics meet modern technique and genuine hospitality. The paradigm of the contemporary cocktail bar, Downstairs features a massive selection of life’s greatest alcoholic elixirs in addition to small dishes to accompany them in an exciting and unobtrusive manner.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Dakota Nate Contributing writer
Eighteen years into the new millennium, and boy, what a time we live in. With the world at our fingertips, it doesn’t take more than the click of a mouse or the press of a button to have all sorts of goods brought to your door in less than twenty-four hours — yeah, even booze. Better yet, in the case that you decide to peel yourself off the couch and go out for the night, most bars keep the drinks flowing into the early hours of the morning. For those of you who regularly imbibe, imagine that this is not the case. Imagine that you’re living in 1933 in the midst of prohibition, and maneuvers like Blind Pigs and bathtub gin are only a few of the rather odd and downright illegal tactics used by bootleggers and common drinkers alike in order to slide past the law. Scary huh? Now imagine after 13 sad, dry years, the 18th Amendment is finally repealed, and you once again can drink your giggle-water legally and in peace.
make your descent into Downstairs at The Esquire and discover your new favorite downtown drinkery this side of the the San Antonio River.
Meanwhile, in downtown San Antonio besides the San Antonio River, The Esquire Tavern opens its doors on December 5th, 1933 in celebration of Prohibition’s repeal. Rich with history and adored by locals and travelers from around the globe ever since, this James Beard Award-winning haunt has stuck to spinning up fine cocktails, pouring ice-cold brews, and dishing out crafty eats since their inception. After a short hiatus from 2011-2016, Downstairs at The Esquire Tavern opened beneath the floorboards of the 82-year-old watering hole. Just a few steps from the Riverwalk lies an unconventional cavern with a parlor-like presence running through its veins. Enter through The Esquire down the staircase into a chamber of dark wood and leather, lit by antique lanterns and the illuminated back bar displayed proudly at center stage. Oh, and shall we mention that the walls are ridden with taxidermied fish?
An intrinsically straightforward menu of small-scale dishes such as oysters and packed charcuterie boards is lead by Chef Brooke Smith and shines brightly alongside a clever cocktail menu teeming with a set of libations to amuse the senses. A set of classic cocktails are also offered to those who know what they like and prefer to stick to it; however, the cocktails aren’t all there is to write home about, CYTIES traveler. Downstairs boasts a formative list of some of the finest inebriants on the planet, including a selection of rare and unusual spirits, cider, sherry, bottle conditioned beer, and much, much more. Also, for any of you winos out there, a gracious selection of wine including fine reds and whites, port wine, and grower Champagne are available to sip and savor.
As the bar upstairs at Esquire holds its own classic character, Downstairs is on the more intimate and refined side of the stick, which is ideal for a little tête-à-tête over drinks with your honey or a few thirsty friends. Holding down the value of the grounds’ rich history, the air of a speakeasy flows throughout the room while some of the best bartenders in the city demonstrate their skills with ingredients of only the highest quality. Open every evening except Sunday and Monday, make your descent into Downstairs at The Esquire and discover your new favorite downtown drinkery this side of the the San Antonio River.
As of December 2018, the Esquire is 85-years-old — welcome to a part of Texas history
CYTIES cocktail recommendation: TEXAS IS THE REASON – bonded corn whiskey, Cynar, grapefruit, honey, brimstone, Angostura bitters. Shaken and served on the rocks
When you get to Esquire, find the hallway that leads to the basement bar, it’s where there magic happens
Esquire is an award-winning bar, drop by with confidence knowing it’s a San Antonio classic and a favorite by the locals