As the cocktail scene really kicks into gear in San Anto, familiar faces are popping up and manning serious wells at area bars. Such is the case at TBA, an industry favorite watering hole now in the hands of new bartender Joshua Brock.
The 31-year-old Brock joined TBA this spring and trained under Jonny Yumol, who first helped open the bar in June 2013 and is now taking his talents to Paramour (not open as of press time, so quit askin'). Although Brock has spent the last 16 years working in some area of the food industry, from back of the house to stints as a server helping James Moore open Boiler House, he's never tended a bar until now. But his background in the food-service world, along with his wife's insistence he learn how to cook, have helped hone his palate—something you definitely want in your neighborhood bar.
TBA's booze and food menus have received interesting facelifts. The beer selection has grown to almost 50, while the bar snacks have been reinvigorated to include a house-made beer cheese, mussels en escabeche with house remoulade and assorted pickled veggies, including spicy cauliflower, spicy pickles, apples, garlicky asparagus and green beans along with a jarred antipasti with hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, marinated feta, olives, caper berries and banana peppers.
"We wanted something that takes less time to make than a cocktail, that's also conducive to drinking," Brock said of the new menu, which still includes cheesy sammies along with a new Cuban.
While classics like Yumol's Juan Collins, South Flores and cheeky Rye n' Gosling are still available, Brock's approach to cocktails mirrors that of his "sensei," but he's also relying heavily on his taste buds to create new streamlined drinks his small staff can recreate.
I stopped in on a recent weeknight for a Rollin' Dry, a take on the classic Boulevardier that uses a guajillo, ancho and Thai chile-infused Aperol. The results are smooth and bright. Brock's also added a Piscombobulator that uses tres sour Becherovka (a Czech amaro), salty ume plum vinegar and a touch of citrus for a wintry Pisco 'tail. But a clear winner that evening was the Apollo's Creed, a spiffy upgraded bourbon and Coke, which combines Cherry Heering, a splash of coffee and a cinnamon simple syrup to tasty results.
As TBA widens its audience by including classes and beer seminars in the coming months, along with a new happy hour, Brock and Moore's ultimate compliment is patronage by fellow industry members.
"Anyone can go home and pour themselves a drink for a lot cheaper but, a lot of the people who come in here are chefs, cooks, people with a palate who can appreciate quality products and [I enjoy] being able to create something for them that meets their standards, that they don't have to do the dishes for and at a price that's not gauging," Brock said.