Moving Sidewalk Top 10
No other bar has such a massive kitchen attached to it, a perk that has clearly inspired beverage director Alex Gregg, whose ever-changing lineup of bitters, syrups, shrubs, and other infusions makes his drinks as delicious as they are unusual. Of course, you can just get an Old Fashioned—and it will be perfect—but Moving Sidewalk’s best at more modern concoctions.
What to get: The Anna Nicole Smith, a classic White Lady cocktail that morphs into a Corpse Reviver No. 2 as frozen Cocchi Americano and absinthe melt into it
Don’t miss: Alex Gregg’s hand-carved ice; his $8 jars of homemade syrups, so you can whip up some cocktail magic at home
Her newer, trendy siblings—Julep, The Pastry War, OKRA Charity Saloon—may be hogging the spotlight, but Anvil is still the standard by which all other Houston cocktail joints are judged, slinging expertly made craft cocktails from its airy digs on Lower Westheimer. Keep an eye out this January, when owner Bobby Heugel takes a break from newer ventures and returns to the bar that started it all.
Don’t miss: Anvil’s definitive list of the cocktails you must drink before you die
Listen for: A blend of classic hip-hop, soul, and indie pop (if you can hear it over the sound of vigorously shaken drinks, that is)
Downtown’s changing so much these days, this Market Square hot spot already qualifies as a member of the old guard. From the cavernous second floor of a historic downtown building, Bad News Bar’s cocktails emphasize the boozy and the bitter—make sure to try their draft negroni, one of the first of its kind in the country.
Don’t miss: Cool nights overlooking the downtown lights from the spacious, wrought-iron balcony
Listen for: Owner Justin Burrow’s good-natured grumbling
This bar pulls double duty as a coffee shop day and night (in case you need a pick-me-up beyond a vodka–Red Bull). Double Trouble’s owners have made an inviting, island-esque spot out of an old, previously abandoned storefront and provided a perfect patio perch from which to watch Midtown’s constant evolution.
Don’t miss: A frozen Suffering Bastard, mixing bourbon with Angostura bitters, gin, lemon juice, lime juice, and spicy ginger beer
Since reopening under the management of Big Star Bar owners Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse, this Museum District hangout has become a favorite of both service industry personnel and hipsters of every stripe—which means that its grungy, youthful atmosphere (Grand Prize’s interior evokes memories of that party house from college—yep, that one) is replete with creative, cutting-edge cocktails from the fertile minds of our city’s upstart bartenders.
Don’t miss: Whatever’s in the frozen machine that night
Listen for: The jukebox, well-stocked with everything from classic country to Wu-Tang Clan
Leon’s Lounge Top 10
Ostensibly Houston’s oldest continually operating bar, this landmark (which began life as something called La Bamba in 1949) recently underwent a handsome renovation that updated its darkly chic interior while expanding its patio and cocktail selections. Always the place for a mojito or screwdriver, these days Leon’s is a calming antidote to the maddening Midtown party scene as well, and a terrific spot for a classic cocktail.
Don’t miss: The homemade empanadas served in the evenings
Listen for:Classic vinyl tossed on the turntable by the bartenders