Anyone can pour a vodka soda. But if you're looking for a finely made cocktail that requires a bit of skill, you've come to the right place. Your mission: Go explore these potent potions from some of Houston's top spots.
Don't be scared off by the lounge name. Absinthe Brasserie does serve several cocktails made with the neon-green rocket fuel, but fortunately, it also serves the bubbly and delicious Champagne Pearl, too, made with pomegranate-flavored pearl vodka and champagne. Food here is unexpectedly good. Go for a flat-bread pizza like the Van Gogh with an assortment of "select world cheeses" or the Gauguin topped with tomato, basil and goat cheese.
Set on the eclectic Westheimer Curve, Anvil Bar & Refuge is known for it's top-shelf sips made with hand-pressed juices, house-made bitters, simple syrups, ginger beer and herbal infusions. The bar also gets kudos for presentation, serving up perfectly-prepared concoctions in vintage glassware scored from several local thrift stores. If the bar isn't packed, go for the Ramos Gin Fizz or, during peak times, sip on a refreshing Pimm's Cup made with Pimm's No. 1, lemon, dry gin, cucumber and soda.
Midtown’s Community Bar isn't the kind of place where you'll find a lot of loud crowds and late night dance parties. From its old-school bar that dominates most of the space to the little nooks with comfy sofas and soft candlelight, the bar is decidedly laid back. On nice Houston nights, head to Community Bar’s back patio to enjoy a refreshing Moscow mule made with vodka, homemade ginger beer and fresh lime juice.
Situated in a narrow 1920s-era space near Washington Avenue's Catalina Coffee, Darkhorse Tavern is a dimly-lit, no-fuss neighborhood bar that's a perfect spot for curing a lingering, er, headache. Inside, the historic charm remains with original pressed-tin ceilings, mica lamps and an old oak bar. Head there for daily drink specials and $3 Bloody Marys on Sundays. The spot serves up the tomato-and-vodka-mixed goodness spicy with a celery-stalk garnish or skewered olives.
Created by a couple of Poison Girl alums, Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails is more than just a place to grab coffee. In the AM, stop by for a cup of jo or espresso made with locally-sourced Greenway Coffee and return in the evening for well-made cocktails that delight with freshly-squeezed juices, real sugar syrups and a quality spirits list. Locals can’t get enough of the frozen Paloma. The secret? The bar uses a granite machine to freeze the ingredients, which allows them to use fresh juices instead or powdered mixes.
Alba Huerta’s busy Washington Avenue cocktail bar, Julep—named after the iconic Southern cocktail—embraces regional drinking culture. Though the bar offers a well-edited food menu (go for the oysters), the craft cocktails take center stage. Naturally, Huerta’s team does the julep justice, but if you want to drink like a local, go for the refreshing cherry bounce sour.
Tucked away next to a convenient store in the Historic Heights neighborhood, Lei Low’s unassuming exterior makes way to a vintage-America-meets-Polynesian décor indoors, reminiscent of '60s-era island life. The small space is perfectly cozy for friends or a date in need of a taste of tropical paradise without the pricey plane ticket. Go for the Mai tai. Note: Lei Low doesn’t have business signage outside, just look for the neon rum light to know you’re in the right place.
Alex Gregg, along with partners Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse, are the brains behind Downtown’s Moving Sidewalk. Set in the former Goro & Gun space, guests find a softly-lit, linger-worthy space that’s marked by comfy banquettes, shimmering chandeliers and flickering candlelight. The bar’s beverage program offers guests tried and true classic drinks, as well as a half dozen or so original cocktails created by the entire bar crew. If you aren’t in the mood for Moving Sidewalk’s gin gin mule, we recommend turning your attention to the bar’s “emotional beverage guide” to help steer you to the appropriate libation.
Expect a true multi-sensory experience at the Pastry War with its dia de los muertos-inspired décor and meticulously-selected tequila and mezcal selection—many of which have never before been poured in Texas. Named one of Southern Living’s Top 100 Best Bars in the South, Pastry War keeps fans returning for the house margarita made with blanco tequila, key and Persian lime and agave nectar. Don’t leave without grabbing a tamale.
Oxheart’s Chef Justin Yu and the restaurant’s former sommelier Justin Vann teamed up on Downtown’sPublic Services Wine & Whisky. Located in the old 1884 Cotton Exchange building, the pair promise patrons a global selection of whisky, wine and an edited cocktail line up and light bites. If you prefer your whisky in mixed form, try the Presbyterian. The cocktail blends Famous Grouse with ginger beer, topo chico and lime.
Set next door to Uchi, Rosemont Social Club is a popular place for pre or post-dinner drinks. The 4,000 square foot lounge unfolds in a two level space, though Rosemont’s pièce de résistance is really the rooftop patio space. Grab a seat in one of the cabana areas and indulge in the refreshing strawberry basil smash—a mix of vodka, muddled strawberries and basil, lime, bitters and ginger beer.
Known to the young professionals that frequent it simply as The Volcano, this West University neighborhood bar is famous for its laid-back attitude and freshly-made Mojitos. The classic Cuban cocktail is made from scratch, one at a time, using Bacardi, sugar and soda, along with fresh lime and mint. Muddled mint not your style? The frozen screwdriver is also a solid selection.
To download high-res images, visit photo gallery.