While breweries and wineries seem to be getting all the buzz lately, there's nothing quite like going out for a great cocktail. A well-made mixed drink can help you unwind or perk up, and make any occasion that much more special.
Before you get your hopes up, pastries aren't actually on the menu at the Pastry War. But tequila is. And lots of it. This downtown bar specializes in agave spirits — like tequila and mezcal — that are made by family-owned Mexican distilleries. The owners claim to know the families personally and take pride in being highly selective of what they serve.
From the decor to the snacks, homage is paid to Mexican traditions throughout the bar. They even accept pesos — seriously. But nowhere is it more clear than in its cocktail options. The margaritas de casa come in a few different flavors, including a spicy habanero and serrano option that goes great with the house chips and queso.
As if the name didn't already give it away, Mongoose Versus Cobra is a little eclectic to say the least. To start, there is a literal mongoose fighting an actual cobra — both stuffed, of course. And the delightful oddities don't stop there. The large, open space is filled with long tables and benches perfect for communal imbibing, complete with the occasional board game.
There are more than 40 beers on tab, but its original craft cocktails are what make it one of the most popular bars near downtown. Sure, you could order a margarita here, but why would you want to when you could get the Exley's Mule Variation #2? This refreshing mix of vodka, citrus and ginger beer is just one of more than a dozen uniquely crafted "adulterated spirits" on the menu.
If you get hungry, you can choose from a truly interesting collection of plates, including pumpkin seeds, a peanut butter and bacon sandwich, and chocolate chip cookies. True story. If those don't satisfy your appetite though, don't fret. Mongoose Versus Cobra is within a short walking distance of some of Midtown's best eateries.
Double Trouble was hipster before being hipster was cool — or at least that's the vibe. Bartenders rock stylishly ripped "jorts" and play a virtual mixed tape of music in the evenings. At any given time you'll find patronage as diverse as Houston itself — students sit cramming alongside gabbing coworkers taking in a happy hour, couples snuggle closely on the patio while a family sits bouncing a toddler nearby.
This Midtown bar serves caffeine in addition to cocktails — thus its name — and spiked coffee and coffee cocktails are its specialty. Local favorites include the Oaxacan Coffee — mezcal with creme de cacao — and the Double Agent, which stirs citrus vodka and white creme de cacao into fresh espresso.
In addition to the stellar drinks available, Double Trouble is in a great location. Its covered patio area overlooks the Ensemble/HCC METRORail Red Line train stop, and it sits next to some of Midtown's favorite hot spots — including Tacos A Go Go, home to one of the city's tastiest breakfast tacos. Food trucks often park just outside, and BYO-food isn't just allowed in the bar, it's encouraged.
While technically an ice house, Eight Row Flint is anything but a dive. In lieu of dirty picnic tables and keg beer, this Heights-area open-air bar has sleek decor and tons of fancy cocktails — including refreshing frozen and carbonated concoctions to help make Houston's hottest months just a little more tolerable. Favorites include a frosé — a frozen rosé with tasty add-ins —and the bourbon-and-citrus treat, the Cash and Ice.
Eight Row Flint is also a popular Happy Hour spot for Inner Loopers. From 2 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and all-day Wednesday, you can get $5 cocktails and $3 tacos — and the tacos are truly a must-try. All food is prepared in a food truck adjacent to the bar with a range of Tex-Mex bites. The menu isn't extensive, but it's a fun mix of flavors that are great for a cocktail pairing. While the brussels sprout tacos are arguably the most popular, the Gulf shrimp tacos with the fruit slaw and the beef cheek tacos are among the best in the Heights.
If you aren't feeling a full entree, however, you can always go for the snack mix. The $3 appetizer is a great toss of sweet and savory bites like Fritos, Teddy Grahams, corn nuts, and caramel corn.
Anvil Bar & Refuge opened in 2009 with one thing in mind — classic cocktails made really well. This Montrose-area bar uses only high-quality spirits and fresh ingredients to make its cocktails and serves them in a relaxed but friendly environment that seems to make hospitality its mantra.
A hallmark of Anvil's menu is the 100 List. What began as a list of 100 classic cocktail recipes every bartender should know by heart has since become a reference list of cocktails every customer should try. The list is divided up into seven sections, categorizing drinks like the sidecar and daiquiri as "Sour and Short," and manhattans and mint juleps as "Boozy and Alluring."
In addition to the 100 List, a selection seasonal cocktails are available, as well as some Anvil original staples. You can pair them with some light eats, but don't expect the standard greasy fare. Like its drinks, Anvil's food options are fancy — the olives are topped with orange zest, and the quail eggs are pickled.