Hump Day Cocktail: Old Fashioned at Poison Girl

Categories: Bar Beat, Booze

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
There aren't usually this many people here at 5 on a weekday.
It's Wednesday. Hump Day. Still two days until the weekend. Honey, you look like you need a drink. Here's our suggestion. Tell 'em the Houston Press sent you.

"The best thing about this bar is $2 drinks. If you go to Midtown, it's $8. Forget it."

I've never been to Poison Girl during the day, so I've always missed happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., where wells are $2 and drafts are $3. I've also missed the fact that the ceilings have high wooden beams and how wonderfully odd most of the artwork on the walls is. I'm an evening patron of Poison Girl, and I tend to grab a Lone Star then head to the back patio to sit among clouds of smoke and sweaty hipsters.

Today, I'm hitting up happy hour, though. Bryan is behind the bar in all his bearded glory, and my buddy Paul is teaching me the ways of the Poison Girl happy hour regular. There's candy on the bar, he tells me, which I know from squeezing up to the front and digging through the candy jar while I wait for the bartender to notice me. This early in the day, though, there's still good candy.

"There's no other bar where you can sit and eat Laffy Taffy and drink $2 drinks," Paul says proudly.

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Stock Your Bar With These Summer Party Staples Recommended by Houston Somms and Bartenders

Categories: Bar Beat, Booze

Photo by Megan
Well this is a great way to screw with your drunk friends.
As someone who loves to entertain and who loves to drink, I realized recently that my home bar is woefully understocked. When people come over, it's always the same thing: "Would you like tap water, gin, tequila or red wine?" Every now and then I'll have club soda or beer, and on rare occasions I might even have fresh citrus to juice, but by and large my bar setup is pathetic.

Because it's summertime, the time of year when I want to fire up the backyard grill and have a little get-together under the twinkling Christmas lights still hung in my trees, I decided to give the home bar a serious makeover. A primary problem is I need an actual bar and wine rack--not just a shelf where I stack booze--but that will come later. More importantly, I need to know what to stock.

So I turned to some of Houston's best bartenders, sommeliers and restaurateurs to get their advice on stocking a summer bar.

Note: People seem to be on a wine kick, so there's a lot of wine recommended here!

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UPDATED: The Best Spots to Watch the World Cup (and Toast to Every Goal) in Houston

Photo courtesy D&T Drive Inn
Enjoy the games from the large patio at D&T Drive Inn.
Update: After we posted this story on Tuesday, you (our lovely readers) and a number of local businesses reached out to us to tell us we neglected to mention several other bars and restaurants that are showing the World Cup. While we can't guarantee we're going to name every single spot, we agreed that there are a few more worthy of your time. We've added these places and info about their drink specials and celebrations on page 2 of this story. Thanks for all your input!

It's the most wonderful time of the year for soccer fans--The World Cup!

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is being held in Brazil June 12 through July 13. Even though most of us won't have the opportunity to be there for all the international excitement, there are plenty of chances to watch the games and yell at screens with like-minded individuals right here in Houston.

So put on your favorite jersey and join your buddies for some cold beer, pub food and a little country rivalry as we watch the most popular sport in the world at these great bars.

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Where to Get Food and Booze-a Near Comicpalooza

Chuck Cook Photography
All the ladies love a Stormtrooper, expecially if he's buying. (Shot at The Pastry War.)

One of the best ways to guarantee you enjoy any convention is to remember to take breaks away from it. After hours of being on your feet among thousands of fellow fans, it's important to get away for an hour or two, sit down for a while and get some nourishment. Besides that, do you really want to spend your money on overpriced "con food" inside the convention hall when there are plenty of good places to eat and drink within half a mile? (Okay, maybe you do if you're waiting to meet Stan Lee...but after that...)

The following places have confirmed that they welcome your business during Comicpalooza, even if you are in costume. In fact, some of these places really want you to show up if you're in costume. In costume or not, remember your dining-out manners. Just because you're dressed like The Joker doesn't give you a license to try and act like him.

As far as cosplayers walking to restaurants and bars, Houston hasn't reached the level of San Diego, where cosplayers essentially take over the area of downtown near the convention center. However, we'll never get that kind of environment without a few of us brave ones starting the trend. Walking with a few companions will likely give you the most comfortable experience.

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As Julep Nears Opening, Alba Huerta Talks Southern Cocktail History

Photo by Julie Soefer
Alba Huerta carefully constructs a julep, the signature drink of her new bar.
"Who knew I could exercise so much patience?"

Alba Huerta laughed as she recounted the two-year process of getting her new Southern cocktail bar, Julep, from conception to opening. Well, almost opening. According to Huerta, we'll be sipping bourbon from beneath the shade of our wide-brimmed sun hats within the next three or four weeks.

Huerta is more than just an award-winning bartender from Anvil and The Pastry War, though. She's also quite the cocktail historian, as she's happy to prove whenever asked about the concept behind Julep.

"The julep that was once medicine," Huerta says, explaining that the strong mint flavor would cover up the taste of harsh medicines. "Then it was a cocktail, and then a status symbol. It became important after the Civil War. The cost of ice was three times more than the cost of dairy, so if you could afford a julep filled with crushed ice, you'd made it."

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Celebrate Mardi Gras With These New Orleans (Inspired) Drinks

Categories: Bar Beat, Booze

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
King cake vodka, anyone?
El Big Bad bartender Sheridan Fay knows a lot about Mardi Gras. She grew up in New Orleans and remembers serving as royalty in one of the many parades in town, then racing across town to see a different parade. There was lots of food ("My family always brought fried chicken"), lots of revelry ("My uncle tried to see how many parades he could get to in one day") and lots of booze.

"What did you drink during your Mardi Gras celebrations?" I asked Fay.

"Um...whatever you wanted," she replied, laughing. "If you were going to drink all day, you'd start the morning with a Bloody Mary or bourbon milk punch, easy on the alcohol. Then later you'd move on to things like Cognac or a Sazerac."

Fay decided to go a little more creative for the purposes of this article, though. Here are two recipes for your Mardi Gras celebrations: A Vieux Carre, a cocktail invented at the Carousel bar in New Orleans and named after the famed French Quarter, and a King Cake Vodka Shot, which is exactly what it sounds like.

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Taste Test: Saint Arnold's Bishops Barrel 6

Jonathan Townsend
The Saint Arnold Bishops Barrel 6 benefits from long aging.

The latest in Saint Arnold's series of barrel-aged beers was released to bars this past week. Bishops Barrel No. 6 takes the Pumpkinator, the brewery's popular seasonal imperial pumpkin stout, and ages it nine months in rum barrels from Appleton Estate. I went to the Stag's Head Pub at Shepherd and Richmond, a reliable neighborhood mainstay, to sample the beer.

The Bishops Barrel No. 5 was a Wee Heavy Scotch ale that was 9.0% ABV before barreling and 12.0% upon bottling. It's a beer heavy and thick with flavor that can be overpowering to someone not knowing what to expect. Since the Pumpkinator and No. 6 are even stronger -- 10.4% ABV originally, 13.0% after barreling -- I expected an even more extreme drinking experience from the No. 6 than the No. 5. What I got was a surprise.

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Kata Robata Beverage Director Steven Salazar Headed to Anvil, With Sake on His Mind

Photo by Paula Murphy
Just call him the Sake King of Houston.
He's not yet 30, but Steven Salazar is already very accomplished in a realm few Houstonians pay attention to: Sake.

Salazar recently returned from Japan, where he took a course and earned his Advanced Sake Professional Certification, making him one of the first 140 people in the world to hold that title. For the past two years, he's been at Kata Robata, serving as the assistant general manager and beverage director of an impressive sake program. Now that he's become a master of his craft, though, he says it's time to move on.

"I feel I have accomplished so much at Kata Robata," Salazar says. "I was allowed to rework the entire beverage program, and I feel like I have made a difference and learned so much. I've made the really hard decision to get out of my comfort zone, humble myself and keep learning and improving myself."

Saturday will be Salazar's final full day at Kata Robata, but he'll continue to do consulting work for the sake program there. After that, he'll start full time as a bartender at Anvil.

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The Rare Glenmorangie 1963 Arrives in Texas at Reserve 101 (It Will Set You Back $550 a Shot)

Scotch fans will be excited to hear that Reserve 101, the downtown Houston bar with the largest selection of whiskey in town, just obtained a rare treat: On Saturday, the bar officially received a bottle of Glenmorangie 1963, one of only 50 in the world. Reserve 101 is the only bar in the entire state of Texas that will receive a bottle-- and possibly one of the only bars anywhere, as many of the bottles have already been sold to private collectors.

Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie's Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation, was on hand to introduce the bottle.

Nath Pizzolatto
The Glenmorangie 1963, recently uncovered and only one of 50 bottles in the world, inside its special casing.

"When I'm talking about whiskey, I don't like to just talk about the scientific product facts. I like to talk about some of the human stories and the anecdotes that surround it," Dr. Lumsden opened his remarks, and went to describe how the 1963 was made and discovered. As he explained, the Scotch was distilled in 1963, and is believed to be the first ever wood-finished Scotch. In 1985, the whiskey was transferred to sherry casks to age for two more years, before being bottled in 1987. A case of fifty-three bottles sat in a warehouse corner in Scotland for many years, unnoticed, until Dr. Lumsden discovered them.

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It's Elementary: New Baker St. Pub & Grill in Cypress Draws Huge Crowds

Categories: Bar Beat

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
The design of the new pub is more modern and industrial as opposed to dark and dingy.
It's been open less than two weeks, but the newest Baker St. Pub & Grill already has nearly 3,000 likes on Facebook and a packed restaurant all hours of the day. But Baker St. isn't a new concept. It stems from the original Sherlock's Baker St. Pub, which opened in Houston in 1977 with a Sherlock Holmes theme. In 1995, HUSA Management, Inc. bought the location and set about filling Houston and the rest of Texas with more Sherlock Holmes bars.

The Baker St. Pub in Cypress is the 25th venture for HUSA Management, which also owns Local Pour, The City Oven, Sherlock's Pub and D'Amico's in Katy. It's also the start of a new, more modern design direction for the British pub.

The original pub, which was emulated by the sister bars constructed after it, resembles the typical American notion of a British pub--dark, somewhat antiquated, with lots of woodwork. The kind of place older fellows would kick back over a pint of Guinness. Baker St. Pub in Cypress is setting a new standard, though.

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