Famed and well-loved, Barringer Bar closed its doors after hosting a farewell party of epic proportions back in December. Many wondered what would become of the space at 108 Main St. Then came word that Mike Raymond, of Reserve 101 fame, would be taking the reins along with Mike Neff, a veteran bartender who opened Ward III and the Rum House in New York. Would it be another whiskey-forward bar, a cocktail bar or something drastically different? We found out at the Cottonmouth Club grand opening party.
As soon as I walked through the entrance, I was led up a set of stairs that are adjacent to the bar. It led to a small lounge space that will serve as their private event space overlooking Main Street. Sipping and strolling through the space, there were murals that Mike Raymond himself had painted illustrating Houston’s past, present, and future of music: Lightnin’ Hopkins, Billy Gibbons and Kam Franklin, respectively. With the exposed brick and wood floor it felt like a proper art gallery in the '70s with an industrial feel.
Moving back down to the party in the main bar, the lights were dimmed down low. It’s narrow and grungy, but all the while being sophisticated and charming. You’ll find no TVs here, as the true star is the bar and the flavorful cocktails that the bartending team put together. The Spicy Paloma stood out, as it was made with tequila, fresh lime juice, grapefruit Jarritos, Valentina hot sauce, and garnished with rosemary spears. It was refreshing, with a slight twang to the taste buds.
“The benefit of taking four years of conceptualizing and doing things, Mike Neff and I spent a lot of time talking about what we liked and disliked about bars. We wanted something that was approachable, something that is more about the guest and the guests’ experience,” Raymond said. “People are here to have a good time, and they don’t want to be embarrassed looking at a menu and not knowing the ingredients that go into a cocktail—they don’t want to ask what is in it.”
Cottonmouth Club has become my favorite bar and quite possibly might become yours too. Whether you visit Cottonmouth Club at the start of a night of reveling or at the end of one, Raymond and company may have struck gold with this one, and Houston is all the better for it.