How to Drink for a Living

Anthony Jones | March 26th, 2024 (Volume 3)
Anthony Jones recounts his journey from Olive Garden server to The ATX Drinker, Austin's leading guide to the 512's drinking scene. The inspiration for the account began during the COVID-19 pandemic. Him and a friend started trying new whiskies and sharing their reviews on a new Instagram page, The Whiskey Boys. The page's success inspired Jones to launch The ATX Drinker, focusing on cocktails and bars in Austin. Eventually, he monetized his platform through events and brand partnerships, allowing him to quit his banking job, promote lesser-known bars and meet celebrities like Post Malone.


I review bars and cocktails in Austin, Texas, one of the biggest drinking cities in the US. We like to drink here. So I thought this was a good opportunity to tell my story about how I became the guide to drinking in the 512. But I’m going to start from the beginning before I even got here.

So at first I was a server just trying to make some extra cash from the weekends, and I worked at Olive Garden bringing out soups and salads to everybody. But my family was like, “You got to do something better. We got to do some better with our life.” So I found my 9:00 to 5:00 job, and that was becoming a banker. I worked for Wells Fargo. It was good, but it wasn’t something that I was really passionate about. I went there, paid the bills, but I still always wanted to do something else.

When I was at work, I just filled my extra time with researching online what bars I could go to that weekend, what events were in town. I just lived for the weekend like a lot of people do. So it was great, but never something I really loved doing.

Covid came and then me and my buddy couldn’t go to those bars and restaurants any more like we liked doing. So we got this idea that, hey, let’s go to the liquor store that is still open and let’s start doing some whiskey tastings. Well, we had an absolute blast doing a whiskey tasting. We had some great conversations, played some music, and then as you know, Covid continued. So just like Covid continued, we decided to continue to go to liquor store. Week after week, as you can see, we started collecting more and more whiskey and it became a fun little hobby to fill the time and not think about everything else that was going on in the world.

Well, we got the idea to start an Instagram page. So we started a page called The Whiskey Boys. This was really just a way to keep track of the bottles that we loved and the bottles we didn’t. We didn’t really think much of it. It was our first time really getting into social media. Well, it ended up being a hit. People loved it. They used it as a recommendation to go out and buy the whiskey bottles to make cocktails at home, to do their own tastings.

We learned a lot from doing it. One of the things we learned is that Instagram is kind of like advertising because you are having an impact on the people that are following your page. When we first realized this, a distillery reached out to us and said, “We want to send you a bottle to post to your page.” We were blown away. A $30 free bottle of whiskey. Are you kidding me? This was the best thing that ever happened in my life.

The Whiskey Boys was a fun journey, but I still worked at the bank, didn’t think much of it. That was my side hobby. Then I got the idea that as much as I like drinking whiskey neat, and most people can’t drink it neat, it’s also very challenging to drink it in 110 degree weather in Austin, Texas. So it would be nice to have cocktails from time to time, and I got the idea to start The ATX Drinker. As you could see at the caption, it says that this is going to be a backup to The Whiskey Boys. I thought it would be, once again, just another side hobby.

But for me, this was more than just a side hobby. This was a way for me to explore and continue that creative outlet that I was looking to do. Well, it ended up being a hit just like The Whiskey Boys was. So what I found out was the reason why it was a hit was a couple factors. First, in Austin, there’s a ton of foodie pages. There’s a ton of lifestyle pages, but nobody was doing a drinking page, which is crazy because Austin is a huge drinking city. So why was nobody doing that before? But whatever. I’ll let my liver get damaged. I’ll be that guy.

So on the left here, another thing that I started doing was best bar in Austin tournaments. This is when I first started. I got this idea because I know that a lot of people have their favorite bars and people also are looking for new bars. So this was a way for me to find those new bars, for other people to find those new bars. It was very basic. When I first put out this tournament, I only had 3000 followers, and by the time the tournament ended and everybody voted on their favorite bars, I had over 10,000 followers. So it was a hit. People were a fan of it, and they were able to use it as a resource. I’m going to be honest with you, I even used it as a resource. I didn’t know all the bars, but people would tell me, “Hey, can you please add this bar to the tournament? I think it’ll be great.”

On the right here, this is 64 bars in Austin, Texas. I did this about three months ago, and Armadillo Den won best bar in Austin, Texas. Love Armadillo Den. Another thing that I did that helped grow my page was doing top fives. So as you can see here, top five bars that are haunted. This was a huge hit because people are like, I swear, I saw a ghost at that bar.

Then I did top five speakeasies, top 10 speakeasies. Top five brunch spots. These were a hit. So instead of when you go to Instagram, you don’t see just a post with just one single cocktail, or you don’t see one single bar. If you’re a fan of downtown, I have a post that says, “Here’s five downtown bars you can check out.” So it was a valuable resource that people could use.

Well, what happened was my page kept growing, people kept using the posts, and I was able to grow to over 100,000 followers in just two years. Well, here I am now. I am The ATX Drinker full time. About six months ago from today, I went into my bank job and I gave my two weeks because I was able to monetize my page. I was able to monetize my page because of a lot of the events that come into Austin. South by Southwest, ACL Festival and also a lot of brands wanted to work with me, liquor brands.

I remember the first time that somebody reached out for South By. They said, “Hey, we want you to come to our tent.” I thought, this is cool. I’m going to be able to post them content and then they said to me, “What’s your pricing?” My pricing? You’re going to pay me to come? They were. A couple of influencer friends told me, “Yeah, you can make money doing this.” So I was able to make money to it over time, I was able to grow my brand, and then I put in my two weeks at my job six months ago. I told my boss it was because I was going to another bank. I wasn’t going to tell them, hey, I’m going to go on Instagram. That’s crazy. I mean, you should hear what my family thought when I told them that.

But overall, at 32 years old, I finally was able to quit my job and do something that I was passionate about. Which now not only does making money doing this allow me to pay my bills and do something I love, but it also allows me to go out to the places that are gems. The places that nobody knows about, the bars that don’t have a lot of money, that can’t promote their bars, and I’m able to use the money I’m making to help promote them.

This has put me in some pretty crazy places. Just a week ago, I got to have a drink with Post Malone. I’m a huge fan of Post Malone. That was pretty wild. Then I also got to meet some of the Breaking Bad guys, share drinks with them. So to be a guy that several years ago I was sitting in front of a desk, to be able to share drinks with celebrities has been truly a dream come true.

Just like I do with my page, I want to leave you guys with some recommendations. So I’m going to give you three bars that I truly love in Austin, Texas. To start, let’s do speakeasy. I love speakeasy. Everybody love speakeasies. Here Nor There, It’s in downtown. Great bar. It gives you that real speakeasy feel because there is a challenge to get in. I’m not going to give that away, but they take their cocktails very seriously. If there’s not something on the menu that you don’t want, they’ll actually make something special for you.

Another great bar is going to be Armadillo Den. They did win best bar in Austin, but that’s the place that I feel like really gives you that Austin feel. Live music, food trucks, easy to get drinks, and then everybody there is just having a great time.

Then last, the question that I get all the time, what’s your favorite bar in Austin? I hate that question because there’s so many bars and there’s so many different categories, but if I had to just pick one, I would have to go with Nickel City. I feel like Nickel City… Yes, I love it. Nickel City is the place that you can get a little bit of everything, whether you’re looking for good food, a quality cocktail. The bartenders are so talented, they can make a quality cocktail, but it also gives you that dive bar feel. If you want a beer and a shot, you can also get that. Then whenever you walk in, you feel like you’re just with family. So if you ever see me out, please come take a shot with me. Let’s cheers a drink together. Thank you for letting me speak.

Anthony Jones
THE go-to expert on Austin's drinking scene.