Houston's 10 Best Specialty Cocktails for the Summer

Categories: Booze, Top 10

Photo by Troy Fields
The cocktail and tequila menus at TQLA are well-worth a read.
With the cocktail movement booming in Houston, it seems as though you can hardly go to a bar or restaurant these days without encountering a list of cocktails. And on that list of cocktails, expect to find a list of the house specialty drinks -- concoctions created by (or for) that bar or restaurant that, ideally, reflect the atmosphere and/or food. But not all specialty cocktails are created equal.

Featured below are our ten current favorite specialty cocktails -- but feel free to leave your own suggestions for our next cocktail list (which we'll write up when the mercury drops below at least 68) in the comments section.

10. Añejo Old Fashioned at TQLA

You may be tempted to order a margarita at TQLA, as well you should. The margaritas here are fantastic -- and I'd expect nothing less from a place named after the drink's main spirit, nor a bar which features about 100 different bottles of the stuff. But when you decide you're in the mood for something different, give this grown-up tequila cocktail a shot: the buttery, oaky sweetness of the añejo (or aged) tequila in place of whiskey or brandy provides a deeply different twist on a standard Old Fashioned.

Shade Cocktails 001.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
9. Lonestar Dove at Shade

At first glance you'd think the Lonestar Dove (above, left) -- a play on Larry McMurtry's classic Texas novel, Lonesome Dove -- is a sickly sweet "girly" drink, blushing pink and standing pert in a tall Collins glass. But you'd be wrong. The cocktail is a blend of grapefruit juice, Siembra Azul tequila, Campari, lime juice, lemon bitters and peppy ginger beer. You can barely taste the tequila for the sharp bite of the strongly herbal Campari among notes of citrusy lemon bitters and effervescent ginger beer. In combination with the freshly squeezed juices, it makes for an entirely refreshing and sunny cocktail on a hot day inside Shade.

Cocktail Crawl 002s.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
8. Lonestar Lemonade at benjy's in the Village

There is no actual lemonade in the Lonestar Lemonade at benjy's, and the cocktail might be better for it: There's nothing to distract from the three basic ingredients, all of which are Texas-made. Rebecca Creek whiskey (my own "house whiskey" at home) is combined with Paula's Texas Orange and benjy's own house-made sweet and sour mix, making for a cocktail that has the citrus punch of lemonade with a boozy, adult kick.

Photo by Mai Pham
7. Frozen fantasticness at Grand Prize Bar

The nightly drink inside Grand Prize's margarita machine varies, but it's almost always a frozen version (and you know we love frozen drinks) of a classic cocktail like an Aviation (seen above) or sometimes even a straight-up daiquiri. They're always delicious and always welcome on a hot, muggy night spent on the Slippery Slope's upstairs patio. Beware, however: These drinks go down fast and are incredibly strong. I once witnessed a grown man bite a woman on the face and then loudly tell every single patron at the bar that he was in love with me after consuming only three. I am not kidding about this.

Location Info


4601 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


250 W. 19th St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


2424 Dunstan, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Grand Prize Bar

1010 Banks, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Anvil Bar & Refuge

1424 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Coppa Ristorante Italiano - CLOSED

5555 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Hearsay Gastro Lounge

218 Travis, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Haven - CLOSED

2502 Algerian Way, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Line & Lariat

220 Main St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Down House

1801 Yale, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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Wow, Kate! Thanks for the honor of placing my drink, the Manhattan Formula #4, at number 2 on your list.  I never saw it coming!  This past month has been wild with the birth of my first child, being named the #2 hotel bar (again by you) and now this.  Thank you so much.


A bit of correction though: the Formula #4 uses Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, a sweet vermouth, rather than the Cocchi Americano, a tonic wine.


I believe in giving good things away so here's the full recipe:

2 oz vanilla infused bourbon (we're using Jim Beam infused with Madagascar vanilla beans)

3/4 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino (I like it better than Carpano Antica Formula actually)

2 dashes of peach bitters (Holden's, our personal house brand)

erichenao topcommenter

Love Negroni. LOVE LOVE a Last Word. Will make effort to get me a "The Other One". Good list. Well done!


@Que_Linda @havenhouston @eatingourwords aw yay! In great company!

Kylejack topcommenter

Manhattan made with bourbon...Shameful Manhattan. I do want to try that Modern Man, though...


I want all of these! I also want to point out the the URL says "specialty cock". *Snicker*

gossamersixteen topcommenter

The forecast at beavers should definitely be on the list, nothing says summer like habanero/scotch bonnet infused vodka with cucumber, and kaffir lime simple syrup.


I'm rather fond of the Phosphate Drop at Grand Prize.


Great list, I'm down for all these!

I'd nominate something from La Fisheria: Manny's Mexican Martini, made with a smoky chilled agave.

kshilcutt moderator editor

 @Kylejack The other Manhattans on the Line & Lariat are made with whiskey or rye whiskey, but that bourbon Manhattan is just too fantastic not to fall in love with.


 @gossamersixteen The forecast is good, but pliny's tonic at anvil is a superior drink that is fairly similar. 


How come no Gran Malo offerings made the cut?

kshilcutt moderator editor

 @ClementShu I haven't tried that one yet, but it reminds me that the tamarind margarita is ridiculously awesome, as is the habanero version.


@kshilcutt @Kylejack I'm also in the rye Manhattan camp but will definitely give it a try! I DO miss the maple bacon one from The Rockwood Room!

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