As long as people are drinking for effect as opposed to taste (“studies” show this won’t be happening anytime in the foreseeable future) rotgut and cheap beer will reign, but there also will remain a steadfast faction of bon vivants who expect something more from liquor. It’s an issue of status for some ... for others, it can be a quasi-religious pursuit of the perfect cocktail or an exploration of the possibilities provided by mixology.
Here are some of the better places to find well-crafted beverages that will tickle your taste buds and your lust for historical perspective.
While not a great place to order the most esoteric drink possible, Warren’s is steeped in antiquity and one of very few places in the downtown zip code where you can order a Sidecar and get a great cocktail instead of a confused (or nasty) glare.
Under the Volcano
A plethora of fresh juices and a willingness to experiment are staples of Volcano’s allure. The drink menu lists several vintage favorites, including a lemon-y Tom Collins, a Singapore Sling made with the original Raffles Hotel recipe and a Bloody Mary you could just as soon worship as consume.
An unshakable allegiance to pre-Prohibition recipes, a perfectionist ethos and fresh juices are what make this machine crank out some of the most interesting and tasty drinks in our city. Fans of spicy drinks should consider the habinero-infused Forecast.
Bourbon is the unabashed specialty here, but the majority of the bartenders are career-industry folks and hold a genuine interest in furthering the legacy of scholarly mixology. If you’re not in the mood to go exploring, this also is one of the best martinis inside the Loop.
An industry staple, Mugsy’s boasts some of the best bartenders in Houston. Heavy pours and encyclopedic knowledge intersect with priceless years of experience, providing serious drinkers a unique opportunity to draw upon decades of drink mixing. Mugsy’s is the sort of place where you may, in fact, end up sipping a Manhattan that tastes perfect. The Bloody Mary isn’t quite on par with the Volcano’s monument, but it’s well worth a spin.