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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Dude! Alamo Drafthouse Introduces Cocktails to Pair With Your Favorite Films

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Left to right: The Getaway, Dark & Stormy, Manhattan and The Clooney margarita.
Nothing pairs better with drinks than the right food. Except maybe movies.

From the White Russians in The Big Lebowski to martinis in any (and all) James Bond films to the French 75, which rose to fame after its mention in Casablanca, films and cocktails have a long, mouthwatering history. Alamo Drafthouse is paying tribute to movies through booze starting this month with a new cocktail program.

If you've ever seen a movie at Alamo Drafthouse, you know the place has a lengthy food menu and a great wine and craft beer selection, but today is the first day you can see a movie at the theater, liquor in hand. Other Alamo Drafthouse locations in Austin started their cocktail program first, and it was a such a hit that our local bartenders traveled there to train and create a unique cocktail menu for the two Houston locations.

There are currently 12 cocktails and four loaded milkshakes on the menu, but the local bartenders and Bill Norris, a mixologist for Alamo Drafthouse corporate, are developing new drinks to pair with films all the time.

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Want a Pint While Shopping for Groceries on Kirby? Welcome to Kirbside Bar

Photo by Molly Dunn
Kirbside Bar was packed during the entire launch party.
A new bar has opened in the Kirby neighborhood, and it's inside a grocery store. On Friday, January 3, Whole Foods on Kirby celebrated the grand opening of the Kirbside Bar, and now you have a place to sit down and grab a drink while out shopping for groceries.

Kirbside Bar is similar to the one inside the Montrose Whole Foods, but Kirbside -- Whole Foods' 95th beer and wine bar -- appears to be larger, has more chairs and tables and is located at the front of the store rather than in the back.

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Do Not Party in This Manner: Houston Bar Does Stupid With 'Drink Like A Indian' Party

Photo from Brewskis Louetta
I'm almost as offended by the grammar as I am by the concept.
The Brewskis Pub and Patio, which is located between North Houston and Tomball, took a Thanksgiving-themed party this past weekend a little too far when they encouraged drinkers to come dressed as Native Americans and advertised the event with the slogan "Drink Like A (sic) Indian, Party Like A Pilgrim."

First of all, what does that even mean?! Last time I checked, a pilgrim party was akin to staying late at church and reading an extra book of the Bible. And "drink like a Indian"? I just can't even with that grammar. I just can't.

But in all seriousness, what was Brewskis thinking? It's just not acceptable in this day and age (or any day and age) to mock a different race for your own drunken enjoyment. But it's not just the name of the party or the really poor choice of sexy indian costumes that has people upset.

Check out the "Indian names" the staff gave themselves.

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Houston Bartenders Have Some Great Drinks Lined Up for Your Fall and Winter...Cheers!

Photo by ErgsArt
Screw pumpkin spice lattes. Bring us the booze!
For much of the country, fall begins with the first cold front of the season, usually in September. There's a chill in the air, the leaves begin to change color and everyone starts looking forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In Houston, we know it's fall when Starbucks rolls out the pumpkin spice lattes. Well into October (and, this year, November) it's still hot and sticky outside, and the live oak leaves stay as green as ever, so we have to rely on other means to denote the changing season. But who wants a hot pumpkin drink when it's 85 degrees outside? Not me.

I want a cool, refreshing cocktail. But, you know, maybe with some pumpkin in it.

I asked bartenders around town to suggest their favorite fall cocktails so we no longer have to be stuck in this PSL/caramel apple cider cycle, and they came up with some great ones. Henceforth, you shall know it's fall when the Screamin' Banshees or the Junmai Cobblers return to menus.

You heard it here first.

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A First Look at Little Dipper Bar: Unpretentious Charm and Laid-Back Atmosphere Abound

Photos by Carla Soriano
Baby-blue tufted leather stools line the bar, and the ceiling above the bar is painted midnight blue, with shiny gold stars forming the Little Dipper.

A first look at Little Dipper reveals just another neighborhood bar -- a place where the drinks are cheap, the clientele is unassuming, d├ęcor lackadaisical and the service perfunctory. Sounds about right judging by the team that built and own the bar -- the people behind Black Hole, Antidote, and Poison Girl.

The newest bar on downtown's "superblock" is small and rectangular, with high ceilings and its two long sides made of exposed brick wall, one of which serves as a background to Little Dipper's dark wooden bar structure, the other lined with old blue booths from the entrance until about half-way into the space. Baby blue tufted leather bar stools line the bar, and the ceiling above the bar is painted midnight blue, with shimmery gold stars forming -- you guessed it -- the Little Dipper. The space's back end is a grey-hued wall on which old mirrors hang on half, while the other half is stamped twice with the word "wallpaper" in big, black block letters. Band art posters about ten times too small for the walls that they're on hang randomly throughout the space. Plain tables are scattered about, with a couple of second-hand (okay, maybe third or fourth-hand) Chesterfield couches placed randomly in the space.

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