While you can pop in just about anywhere and find a frozen margarita with an upside-down cerveza inside, Houston’s cocktail scene goes far beyond that fun -- if likely terrible -- decision. So we’ve put together a lineup of the best of the best, the game-changing craft cocktail bars where you should most definitely be drinking right now as you make great life choices.
The team Boomtown Coffee and the dudes behind Lei Low, Bad News, and Grand Prize Bar turned this "Big Easy meets Houston" hangout into a place you... really want to hang out in. Justin Burrow’s stunner of a cocktail program -- made up of boozed-up coffees and sophisticated, NOLA-inspired libations like the Corpse Reviver No. 2 or a smooth Vieux Carré -- is definitely one to watch.
Though it wasn’t the first (and it won’t be the last) cocktail bar in Houston, Bobby Heugel’s Anvil was the first to put the Houston beverage scene on the map. Hit the ever-evolving, cool-as-hell industrial space for expertly crafted, spirit-forward cocktails made with house-made sodas, infusions, liqueurs, and sometimes flames. Those cocktails, by the way, will be made by some of the most talented bartenders around (many of the Anvil alumni have gone on to open and run fantastic bars of their own). Keep things fresh by making your way through the bar’s “100 list,” a refreshed library of classic drinks the barkeeps think everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.
Be prepared to feel the effects after just one of spirits guru Justin Burrow’s boozed-up, old-style cocktails. Have a Cognac & Scotch laced with elderflower and bitters, or a well-executed Manhattan -- which you’ll probably need after taking down the grapefruit-infused "Sparkling Garbage" cocktail. Just be careful navigating that dark, creaky staircase.
Bourbon boss Alba Huerta’s powdered sugar-dusted juleps aren’t the only reason to visit this refreshing Southern-style cocktail bar. There’s also the laundry list of meticulously-crafted twists on classic concoctions -- think bitter and bold Sazeracs or hot and sour Creole rums -- and seafood towers flowing with freshly shucked Gulf oysters. That’s already more than enough reasons.
Caffeinated and island-style dranks are the poison of choice at this laid-back Midtown spot, conveniently located right off the light rail stop. Owners Robin & Robin, who worked together at Poison Girl before opening up shop, have created a sophisticated menu featuring all sorts of handcrafted Tiki cocktails. Get acquainted with their frozen bamboos, Hot-Buttered Rums, and Dark 'N Stormys.
This sultry ‘Trose newcomer spits out elaborately rendered craft cocktails and punches in a handsome two-story setting. Look for a duo of said punches (served in a glass, half-bowl, or full-bowl) alongside a lineup of tinctures mixed with things like house-made ginger beer, bitters, and syrups. And don’t miss the "Progressive Happy Hour" to stylishly booze-up on the cheap.
Since opening in 2013, this softly lit, totally cool mezcaleria -- from heavy-hitters Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta -- really took Houston’s cócteles game up a notch. With a careful, rotating selection of small-batch tequila and mescal that’s broken down by agave, their ingenious margaritas and cocktails hit that sweet spot between seriously delicious and sneakily strong.
Tiki-freaks flock to this tastefully cheesy island-style drinkery, where they can suck down fancified Tiki drinks splashed with bitters, Herbsaint, ginger beer, and lemongrass. It also doesn’t hurt that said drinks are housed in showy drinking vessels complete with hula girls, naked mermaids, and FIRE. Okole Maluna!
Hand-carved ice, liquid nitrogen-chilled glassware, and homemade bitters and syrups are just a few of the features at this sexy cocktailery. The beverage program is constantly evolving with freak-out-worthy cocktails like the late Anna Nicole Smith, a cocktail that morphs from a classic White Lady into Corpse Reviver No. 2 as the absinthe melts. But you should probably start things off the old-fashioned way, with a reliably great house Old Fashioned, complete with a hand-chiseled, crystal-clear cube of ice that adds just the right amount of chill.
Because when you can get one of the city’s most fully loaded, crazy-good frozen cocktails in a grungy two-story bar complete with a rooftop, pool table, and kick-ass jukebox, you do that. Go for whatever sneakily strong drink is mixing in the frozen machine at the moment, whether it be a gin & prickly pear number created for a special pop-up dinner, or a knock-you-off-your-stool strong mango marg that you smash through a tamarindo straw.
The guys behind Grand Prize Bar and Moving Sidewalk teamed up with powerhouse restaurant group Treadsack (of stars like Down House, Hunky Dory, & Bernadine’s) to open this vintage joint in the Heights. Perfectly poised concoctions include a stellar frozen marg and a Tom Collins, among eight other classics (all 10 are $8 a pop). Perhaps the most intriguing is its cocktail-in-a-shot-glass, the boilermaker. The mini whiskey-and-maraschino-cherry cocktail comes with a sugar rim, an Angostura-dipped orange, and a Lone Star chaser for good measure. And just an FYI: there are also house picklebacks.
Named after the heirloom corn that was the first corn ever distilled into whiskey in the US, this modern icehouse and lounge in Greater Heights carries more than 100 selections of whiskey, including proprietary barrels of bourbon hand-selected by beverage director Morgan Weber that get showcased in an alluring rickhouse-like structure behind the bar. Though whiskey’s the star of the show, there are plenty of other fancy made-to-order choices: from the aged rum and Tiki bitters-infused Haitian Divorce, to a crazy-good house julep. Also, there are gourmet tacos, so the whole experience is pretty bomb.
Powerhouse craft-cocktail queen Leslie Ross has been killing it as the beverage director for Treadsack. It looks like her hard work has paid off, as her first very own concept is killing it as well. The vibe is intimate -- with only 50 or so seats -- and the interior is lush, with French-smooched accents. The tincture queen herself impresses with impossibly good concoctions, from a beautifully done Old Fashioned to seasonal drinks backed with Chartreuse, vermouths, ports, bubbly, and special touches like essential oils, delicate adornments, and house-made sodas. With neighbors like Treadsack’s Foreign Correspondents and the new coffee spot Morningstar, this newly developed strip is one of the coolest new destinations in the Heights.
Not only does this totally cool bar and beer garden have 49 brews on tap, it also comes fully loaded with an incredible lineup of fancified cocktails. The barkeeps pull out all the stops here, with showy concoctions that range from the bittersweet and robust to the tropical and Tiki, and they’ll always take the extra step. Expect things like fresh-squeezed juices, infusions of fruit smoked with wood chips from repurposed whiskey barrels, and house Fireball, with a kiss of cinnamon, molasses, and straight-up bourbon. A lineup of cheffy bar eats makes it an ideal place at which to lose track of time.
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1. Anvil Bar & Refuge1424 Westheimer Rd, Houston
2. The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar300 Main St, Houston
3. Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirits Lodge308 1/2 Main St, Houston
4. Julep1919 Washington Ave, Houston
5. Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails3622 Main St, Houston
6. Stone's Throw1417 Westheimer Rd, Houston
7. The Pastry War310 Main St, Houston
8. Lei Low Bar6412 N Main St, Houston
9. Moving Sidewalk306 Main St, Houston
10. Grand Prize Bar1010 Banks St, Houston
11. Johnny's Gold Brick2518 Yale St, Houston
12. Eight Row Flint1039 Yale St, Houston
13. Canard4721 N Main St Ste B, Houston
14. Wooster's Garden3315 Milam St, Houston
This ever-evolving, cool-as-hell industrial Montrose space offers up expertly crafted, spirit-forward cocktails made with house-made sodas, infusions, liqueurs, and even flames. Make your way through the bar’s “100 list,” a refreshed library of classic drinks the barkeeps think everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. Speaking of the bartenders, all of them are highly trained and skilled, and many Anvil alums have gone on to open their own bars.
The guys behind Boomtown Coffee teamed up with the dudes behind Lei Low, Bad News, and Grand Prize Bar to bring us this Main St hangout that’s part coffee house, part cocktail bar, and part awesome. The kitchen impresses with breakfast and lunch dishes like oyster BLTs and beignets, while the bar slings serious coffees and libations – all made with top flight ingredients, of course. It’s like living in NOLA, but without the stank of Bourbon.
Be prepared to feel the effects after just one of spirits guru Justin Burrow’s boozed-up, classic cocktails laced with unexpected flavorings like elderflower and spiced wine syrup. But before you can enjoy the drinks, you’ll have to find them behind a nondescript door in Downtown Houston. Climb the dark, narrow staircase to the dark drinking den at the very top, where you’ll revel in your libations and the views of the city in a small, sultry space.
Julep's got an old-school, punky Southern charm that's soaked in bourbon, just like you'll be after a few masterfully crafted cocktails and cold seafood dishes from former Pass & Provisions Chef Adam Garcia. Housed in an industrial 1880s uniform factory, the space features a gorgeous copper bar and a sophisticated back porch. There are masterful odes to the bar’s namesake drink, but the list runs on into a boozy Southern history book with classics born in the region and a seasonal lineup that plays with Southern inspirations.
Double Trouble Caffeine and Cocktails satisfies two vices at once, meaning you should really visit for the sake of convenience if nothing else. If it’s an upper you’re looking for, you’ll find locally owned and operated Greenway Coffee flavored with house-made syrups in flavors like cocoa, vanilla bean, salted coconut caramel, and cinnamon stick. Booze imbibers, on the other hand, will face the effects of the Frozen Suffering Bastard (the drink of course), with bourbon, gin, lemon, Angostura, and ginger beer, and the Captain’s Orders, with rye, French vermouth, Allspice Dram, orange bitters, and absinthe. The interior is cozy and sleek, with white leather barstools dotting the chocolate wooden bar.
This moody speakeasy stirs up vintage libations and brews their own ginger beer, but there’s no need to put on your fancy pants -- it's as laidback as any other bar in Montrose. Hit it up for progressive happy hour, where the price of drinks match the time. That's $4 drinks at 4. $5 drinks at 5. Now keep doing math until you get to 7.
Seventeen Mexican beers join vintage tequila on the menu at this cantina, named after the French and Mexican war. While you won't find any pastries, you will find flavored agave spirits and spirits with worms, scorpions, or other insects. Strings of tea lights, colorful stained glass, and vibrant murals line the wood-paneled ceilings and walls and you'll always find a crowd packed around the colorful backlit bar.
Houston’s only tiki bar, Lei Low is a breath of fresh, tropical air in what is an otherwise drab Sunset Heights strip mall. Beyond the tax office and the convenience store is a colorful drinking den that serves house-made carbonated coconut water and flavors its cocktails like the Balinese Room #2 or the Polynesian Rainbow with made-from-scratch syrups. Though rum is the spirit of choice at Lei Low (“RUM” is even enshrined in all its neon sign glory behind the bar), you can of course order bourbon drinks, gin drinks, and, of course, flaming coffee grogs.
The late Goro & Gun was transformed into this sexy cocktailery that flaunts liquid-nitrogen-chilled glassware and an "emotional beverage guide" for the indecisive. Are you happy and perhaps overly optimistic about your new lady friend? A French 75 should do the trick. Something on your mind? Looks like you’re taking a beer and a shot to get you out of your funk!
This grungy two-story bar where Montrose meets the Museum District features rooftop access, a pool table, jukebox tunes and a full bar manned by award-winning mixologists on each floor. Cocktail lists are ever-changing and the kitchen is fully operational, meaning you’ll snack on a pimento grilled cheese with blackened green tomatoes or a chorizo meatball sub between sips of an imaginative beverage like the Five Finger Death Punch with rum, apricot brandy, vanilla, and lavender. Illuminated by glittery rainbow string lights, the space is alternately sophisticated and whimsical.
Johnny’s Gold Brick is the golden mean between dive bar and sophisticated cocktail lounge, trading luxe décor for ivory booths, chartreuse walls, and wooden accents. What Johnny’s Gold Brick lacks in pretension it makes up for with a stellar beverage program that combines stripped-down, classic cocktails with eccentric libations found on a rotating monthly specials list. Perennial beverages include Moscow Mules, Gimlets, and a frozen margarita that comes with a float of Big Red, the gold standard of bubblegum-flavored sodas.
Eight Row Flint is a modern Texas icehouse in the Heights featuring over 100 whiskey selections (and named after the heirloom corn first used to distill whiskey in the US). To pair with your whiskey flight or bourbon on tap are tacos via food truck, located on-site, and delivered to your post at the bar. They offer five kinds of tacos, chips, guacamole, and of course, queso. And while the whiskey is the star of the beverage program -- and you should definitely drink it -- Eight Row Flint appeals to the non-whiskey drinker with 16 beers on tap and a larger selection in bottles, as well as craft cocktails served shaken, stirred, or frozen. And if you’re feeling fancy, their “Cheap Thrills” is a $3 whiskey shot, offered (and suggested) alongside a High Life for just $1 extra.
Canard in Heights is the first concept from Treadsack’s bar director, Leslie Ross, so it should surprise exactly no one that it boasts an extensive lineup of incredible cocktails. The vibe is intimate, with only 50 or so seats, lush, French-smooched accents, and the tincture queen herself impressing with impossibly good concoctions, from a beautifully done Old Fashioned to seasonal drinks backed with chartreuse, vermouths, ports, bubbly, and special touches like essential oils, delicate adornments, and house-made sodas. With neighbors like Treadsack’s Foreign Correspondents and Morningstar, this newly developed strip is one of the coolest new destinations in the Heights.
This totally chill craft cocktail and beer garden is rocking 49 brews on tap. It also comes fully loaded with an incredible lineup of fancified cocktails featuring touches like fresh-squeezed juices, infusions of fruit smoked with wood chips from repurposed whiskey barrels. The barkeeps pull out all the stops here, with showy concoctions that range from the bittersweet and robust to the tropical and Tiki.