This winter, it’ll be a lot easier to stay warm in Houston, with an ever-increasing collection of bars proving the city’s cocktail game is downright on point. Prepare to drink outside the box a bit and let these expert bartenders guide the way, for they will not steer you wrong.
Alex Gregg first swept onto Houston’s cocktail scene in 2010, with the opening of Anvil Bar & Refuge. After earning some considerable attention and a handful of bartending accolades, he went on to create several bar programs around town before becoming a partner at Moving Sidewalk, which debuted this past fall. You are greeted with a visual cocktail map, which explains where each cocktail lands according to flavor (vegetal? bitter? herbal? fruity?) and strength (light or boozy). The White Lady and Corpse Reviver arrive as one cocktail atop another, separated by a thin sheet of ice formed by liquid nitrogen, and transform as you sip. The Little Reed Horses is another unexpectedly delicious creation — pisco, yogurt, cucumber, lime, bitter lemon, soda and celery seed come together in cool, creamy harmony.
Cocktail savant Alba Huerta, like Gregg, has roots in Anvil Bar & Refuge, where she was recruited to be bar manager before opening mezcaleria The Pastry War with Bobby Heugel. Late last summer, she opened Julep in a refurbished 1880s uniform factory, giving the industrial space a dose of Southern charm with the addition of lace curtains, fresh oysters served on silver platters and beautifully garnished regional cocktails. Naturally, there are plenty of juleps and other classics from which to choose, but Huerta’s spins on tradition are the highlight. For example, Cider & Milk Punch features apple cider, Rittenhouse rye, milk and turbinado syrup, while the Cherry Bounce Sour, once a historical preservation method using cherries, spices and spirits, is kicked up a notch when shaken with 100-proof bourbon, lemon, turbinado sugar, bitters and egg white.
Mongoose Versus Cobra
All year long, Mongoose Versus Cobra will celebrate its building’s 100th anniversary with a series of events and commemorations. The former grocery store, paint shop, print shop and post office now slings exceptional drinks to the masses, both classic and inventive. Start with the gin and housemade tonic, a quinine bark-based concoction that’s the color of cola and arrives in its own bottle for you to pour at your leisure. Also be sure to sample bold creations like the Peyote Campfire, a cocktail inspired by a staff trip to the Chihuahuan Desert; the blend of mezcal, yerba mate, black pepper syrup and lime will surely put a spring in your step. Gearing up for a night on the town? Kick it off with the Cobra Kool-Aid, a choose-your-own-adventure (see: customizable), large-format drink served in a punchbowl to groups of four or more.
Stop for a drink at Sanctuari Bar before your dinner reservations and you might just end up opting for a liquid meal instead. The cocktail program at the recently launched bar and lounge located within Triniti restaurant is just that impressive. Beverage and creative director Laurie Sheddan Harvey and her team masterfully create one-of-a-kind blends like The Smoking Jacket (scotch infused with rosewood and cedar, white port, Dolin genepy, flamed apple bitters), which arrives literally smoking out of a snifter, and The British are Coming, a perfect herbal marriage of Earl Grey-infused gin, Dolin dry vermouth, honey, dandelion and burdock bitters. It’s best to settle in with some of the upscale bar bites (steak tartare, caviar, tuna poke) because the sizable cocktail menu simply deserves a full perusal.