I skimmed over James Beard Awards 2012 Semifinalist list after the announcement yesterday. My gaze darted from one column for another, pausing at names of restaurants and chefs that I recognized. I was pleasantly surprised to see Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston listed as a nominee in the Outstanding Bar Program category.
I kick my shoes off at Anvil’s bar every time I’m in Houston. In contrast to Houston’s endless mega highways and drab highrises, Anvil is an airy sanctuary on the eclectic “Westheimer curve”. At this “Bar & Refuge”, their team is dedicated to crafting the classics alongside revamped drinks that showcase locally-sourced ingredients and flavors.
The beautiful steel bar and liquor-lined focal wall stretches from the establishment’s end to end. The bartenders are extremely focused as they stir and shake with precision. At times, I even felt that the staff were standoffish. That is, until I got them worked up and chattering about their house-made infusions and liqueurs. Still, I’m used to a warmer welcome, no matter if I care to talk booze or not.
Nevertheless, onto their drinks.
Smoke & Mirrors Cocktail
Subtly sweet and silky smooth, this rye based drink spells comfort with a capital C. Lemon juice coaxes out the nutty and smoky notes from the Cacao and Fernet Branca. The freshly cracked peppercorn that specks the foamy egg white pushes the spicy warmth further. This well-rounded cocktail went down far too easily and gave me a foamy moustache to boot.
Improved Holland Gin Cocktail
I needed to chase the Smoke & Mirrors with something a touch stiffer. Understanding my love for gin, the barman suggested this old school tipple. He mixed together Genever gin, Maraschino and a few dashes of bitters, and served it neat with a long lemon twist. I thoroughly enjoyed sipping this earthy and soul-warming classic with a curious name.
The rules here are simple. Order at the bar, sit wherever you’d like, and make a new friend. I appreciate that they have ample booth seating, which makes sharing food and catching up with a group of friends easier.
If craft beer tickles your fancy, they have a decent selection on the chalkboard as well. Their concise menu of appetizers, flat breads and charcuterie pairs easily with the drink of choice.
Anvil, I’ll see you soon. Congratulations and best of luck, y’all.
1424 Westheimer,Houston, TX. Website