Best Bars 2014

Houston’s 6 Best Spirits Bars

Expand your palate at these establishments, where you’ll find the city’s largest selections of whiskey, rum, tequila and more—plus the knowledgeable staff to guide you on your journey.

Edited by Katharine Shilcutt By Dan Derozier, Catherine Matusow, Chris Abshire, and Sarah Rufca Nielsen November 30, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Julep Top 10

Alba Huerta is the consummate hostess, so it makes sense that she’d run the consummately Southern, consummately elegant Julep, a bourbon bar that focuses on—what else?—its eponymous cocktail. Feel free to sample a variety of different juleps and a multitude of bourbons, but whatever you try, make sure to pair it with fresh oysters on the half shell, which come beautifully arranged on ice.

What to get: The Sparkling Julep, with champagne and cognac, best enjoyed with a $120 caviar service 
Don’t miss: The patio, with fire pits aplenty for cool nights

Lei Low

Houston’s only tiki bar has everything you’d expect, from a laid (lei’d?) back come-as-you-are vibe to giant blended drinks served in goblets and garnished with kitschy touches—tiny desert islands floating in a sea of booze and pureed banana. But Lei Low also possesses an expert-level selection of rums for all those tiki drinks, and a staff prepared to tell you the history of every tropical libation, pick out the perfect spirit for your Zombie, and more.

What to get: The Scorpion Bowl, a rum punch large enough for four to share, or two with cab fare
Don’t miss: Mai tais on draft—on draft! 

Poison Girl

Within the cluttered red walls of this Montrose stalwart beats the living heart of hipsterdom. Long a neighborhood institution, Poison Girl might have settled for being a Lone Star and PBR dive—albeit an exceptional one—if not for its connoisseur’s love of bourbon, much of which is quite affordably priced.

Don’t miss: The patio, among the city’s best people-watching spots, presided over by a life-sized Kool-Aid Man 
Listen for: The cacophony of restored vintage pinball machines lighting the way to said patio

The Pastry War

The passion for agave spirits runs so deep at this downtown mezcaleria, they’ve proudly blacklisted dozens of tequilas whose distilling practices are harmful to the tequila-making craft (many of the brands you’ve heard of, in fact). Yet Pastry War’s menu is friendly and approachable, and on quiet evenings the bartenders are happy to impart their knowledge of tequila and mezcal to anyone with a willing ear.

Don’t miss: The festive, colorful, and lovingly detailed interior, from ceiling to upholstery
Listen for: Upbeat, instrumental Latin funk on the order of Austin’s Grupo Fantasma

Public Services

Finally, the Cotton Exchange building’s regal turn-of-the-century lobby has birthed a bar worthy of its surroundings. Join the regulars at the oversized, gilded main bar or settle in with a bottle at one of the private sofa nooks. A little off the main downtown strip, Public Services may be an illicit affair–lover’s dream.

Don’t miss: The selection of hard-to-find Japanese whiskeys and the most complete sherry offerings in town, courtesy owner and former Oxheart sommelier Justin Vann
Listen for: The quietly eclectic playlist of jazz, blues, and indie tunes, and the sonic timelessness they give the place

Reserve 101

The flourishing Discovery Green area made a wise decision in saving room for this serious spirits bar, which offers an enormous whiskey, scotch, rye, and bourbon list from around the world. Just as importantly, Reserve 101’s friendly bar staff provides quick, knowledgeable recommendations for the spirits world’s novices and pros alike.

Don’t miss: Membership in The Whiskey Society, which gets you exclusive access to high-end tastings, prizes for various whiskeys consumed, and more—for a one-time fee of $10
Listen for:A laid-back rotation of funk rock and indie music


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