Although the Galveston building that houses Medicinal Purposes has been home to many bars throughout the years, the 1953 structure most recently held an orthopedics and prosthetics store. That was until Hurricane Ike gutted it in 2008, leaving the building—just down the street from the University of Texas Medical Branch campus on the east side of the island—empty for years.
It's fitting, then, that when Medicinal Purposes moved in, the new bar paid tribute to both its most recent tenant, the nearby medical campus, and—of course—the fact that the best way to get around Prohibition's ban on alcohol in the 1920s was getting a doctor's prescription for distilled spirits or high-proof bitters...for "medicinal purposes."
712 7th St.
These days, Medicinal Purposes blends those spirits and bitters together on a daily basis for its list of craft cocktails, although there's more to the bar than just Anesthesia (the bar's version of a Painkiller) or Lone Star Liquidators (the bar's version of a Moscow Mule). There's also a full food menu, plus plenty of beer—craft and otherwise. It's a classy sort of dive, Galveston's answer to Poison Girl sans the pinball machines but with plenty of food.
I stopped in last week to check out the newest member of Galveston's bar scene, in addition to favorites such as craft beer mecca Brews Brothers on the Strand and Beerfoot Beach Bar. Both are brewpubs in addition to bars, and Beerfoot recently partnered with Saint Arnold to create a signature Beerfoot brew. At Medicinal Purposes, I noticed plenty of Saint Arnold behind the bar as well as Karbach and the infrequently-seen Pedernales Hefeweizen from Fredericksburg (yes, Fredericksburg has its own brewery!).
My drinking buddy and I opted for Karbachtoberfest—the Houston brewery's yearly Oktoberfest beer, and one of its best—and an order of boudin balls to start. The boudin inside the crispy batter was fluffy, fresh, and smacked of liver, just the way I like it. My buddy made the ill-advised switch to Pedernales once his Karbachtoberfest was gone, and remembered why he wasn't at all sad we can't get the watery, metallic-tasting Pedernales in Houston. I went with an Anesthesia, and enjoyed the sugary cocktail as a sort of dessert.
It wasn't the type of cocktail I'd make a habit of ordering, but that wasn't Medicinal Purposes's fault. The drink was well made and the bartender was capable and friendly, but I regretted not ordering a Sazerac or something a bit simpler. The mid-day brewski crowd at Medicinal Purposes didn't seem like the cocktail types, and eyed me strangely as I sipped my gaudy drink. For my part, I spent my time ogling the amazing Mardi Gras costumes on display that overlook the bar and dining room, feeling that the spirit of the festival had somehow blessed this little place.
It may not be close to the beach or on the Strand—the two places most people head when they hit the island—but I plan on making Medicinal Purposes a destination every time I visit. After, of course, the requisite stops at Shrimp 'n' Stuff and La King's.