Next door to Ritual there sat an empty shell of a building that, unbeknownst to myself, co-owners Ken Bridge and Peter Clifton were hard at work turning into a time capsule called The Ready Room that led back to a simpler time when jazz and blues were all the rage and Houston’s history was just being made. Located on 2626 White Oak Drive, there is no sign on the outside that indicates, “you are here,” but step through the door and you’ll be greeted by the sweet smell of liqueurs and silky jazz. The interior feels like that of a bygone Blue Note, with vintage chandeliers, wood-paneled walls, and a tiled ceiling; they even have a working piano in the corner for musical performances, which they will be hosting on Fridays and Saturdays.
Clifton and General Manager Cody Northcutt have developed a bar program and a menu steeped in Houston’s rich history. “Cody and I figured it would be a cool homage to the city if we delved into the history of Houston and the Wards,” Clifton says. “We started by looking up the demographics and it was amazing seeing the migration of immigrants in the city and their contributions. We wanted to be one of the first bars that literally pays tribute to Houston.”
Each cocktail listing shares a bond with its ward. I opted for a cocktail from the Sixth Ward called the Jungle Bird, which includes black rum, Campari, Demerara, lime, and pineapple, making for a very refreshing libation that might possibly become your summertime favorite. Another cocktail, from the Fifth Ward, goes by LaStrappe’s. Containing Cruzan Blackstrap rum, Rum Fire, passion fruit nectar, grapefruit juice, Bitter Truth Golden Falernum, and lime bitters, it's a cocktail that not only tastes amazing but is very photogenic and is sure to delight anyone.
If you find yourself in the Heights and modern life has you wishing for a time machine, do yourself a favor: Leave the smartphone at home, step into the Ready Room, and soak it all in, because it is a living and breathing Houston history book with booze.
“We knew we were going to do live jazz and blues, we knew it was going to be the Ready Room, but as far as what we wanted it to stand for, we went back and forth on some ideas,” Northcutt says about the concept. “Ultimately, we went all in for unifying Houston as a whole through the drinking culture, and putting in for your city.”