James Beard Award-nominated Chef Steve McHugh is with Landrace in San Antonio.
What was your first job in the beverage or hospitality industry?
I grew up on a farm in a small Wisconsin town so my appreciation for our land and its natural bounty started at an early age. My first job in the restaurant industry was at age 14, working at a nearby tavern washing dishes. It wasn’t too long before I was elevated to short-order cook, flipping burgers and loving every minute of it.
It was just the beginning! A jazz saxophone scholarship got me into college, but I soon realized that I would rather study cooking — and I made my way to the Culinary Institute of America.
What is your favorite spirit to work with at the moment?
Waterloo barrel-aged gin is a Texas brand, and one of my favorite spirits at the moment. One of my go-to cocktails is an Old Fashioned, but I actually prefer gin over whiskey. At Landrace, we have a custom cocktail cart that roams the restaurant, it shares unique combinations — from house-made bitters and syrups to curated spirits, like this Waterloo barrel-aged gin — to bring guests fun riffs on the classic Old Fashioned.
Landrace uses native Texas ingredients in the beverage program; how do you determine what to use and how?
Seasonality is key to deciding which ingredients will be featured on our cocktail menu. We use native Texas ingredients across the beverage program. For example, the Pequin Your Interest cocktails features Pequin pepper agave, which is complemented by El Jimador blanco tequila, Cointreau, grapefruit and lime.
Are most guests familiar with the more exotic ingredients such as sotol?
Guests who are familiar with Landrace know that we appreciate fun, different and funky ingredients for a robust flavor profile. They may not know of each specific ingredient, and our team loves to be part of the ordering process and share details on the unknown.
What drinks do you see guests enjoying or asking for these days?
We have a great selection of beers from Texas — it is exciting for people to sample a bit of the local brewing culture. When I travel, I love to explore the local beer scene — in the process, I always learn more about the city!
What’s your current go-to cocktail or beverage?
With the warmer weather, gin is my go-to spirit for any cocktail or beverage. I particularly love the Malfy Gin Rosa, which features Sicilian pink grapefruits, Italian lemons and bright botanicals.
Would you share one of the recipes from Landrace?
Here’s one for our Tequila Old Fashioned.
Tequila Old Fashioned
- 1 ½ oz. Añejo tequila
- ¼ oz. Agave nectar
- 3 dashes Mole bitters
- Lime and lemon swath
- Place the bitters in a mixing glass and fill with ice.
- Add the tequila and agave and stir until well chilled.
- Strain into a rocks glass over a large chunk of ice.
- Express the lime and lemon twist over the glass.
- Drop twists into glass for garnish.