What to Drink When You're in Houston

  • 01 of 10

    Houstonian's Favorite Soft Drinks and Cocktails

    Aguas Frescas
    Jon Lovette/Getty Images

    With temperatures often in the 80s and 90s or higher and more than 2,300 hours of sunshine a year, Houston's heat can be brutal. When visiting the Bayou City, try cooling off with one of these local favorites. 

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  • 02 of 10

    Topo Chico

    Topo Chico
    Nathaniel F/Flickr

    Topo Chico — or "little mole" — is named after the volcano towering over the legendary springs in Monterrey, Mexico where this sparkling bottled water is sourced. First emerging in the late 19th century, it didn't start to be distributed in the United States until the late 1980s. Back then, it was marketed as a taste of home for Mexican immigrants living in the States. In the time since, word has spread of its crisp, slightly salty flavor with just a hint of citrus, and it's become a preferred beverage to beat the nearly ubiquitous Texas heat. 

    To say Topo Chico now has a cult following here in Houston is to underestimate its popularity. Fans are both highly devoted and numerous, and as such, bottles of the sparkling mineral water have become commonplace. From taquerias in Montrose and the Heights to upscale restaurants in the Galleria, the unmistakable yellow label is everywhere. 

    Where to Get It

    Topo Chico is widely available in restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores in Houston. 

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  • 03 of 10

    Michelada

    Michelada
    T.Tseng/Flickr

    Micheladas are what are known as cervezas preparadas or "prepared beers" in Mexico. Recipes vary, but the drink is typically made in Houston by mixing a nice lager with tomato juice, lime, and some hot sauce or spicy sauce and peppers, and then poured into a chilled, salt- or chile-rimmed glass. Nicknamed the "Mexican Bloody Mary," a michelada is a great addition to any Tex-Mex brunch or the always-popular breakfast tacos

    Where to Get It

    Micheladas are available at many taquerias and Tex-Mex restaurants around Houston, but Teotihuacan Mexican Café offers one of the best due to their own special michelada sauce. The restaurant has three locations, including one the Heights. 

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  • 04 of 10

    Cafe Sua Da

    Iced Vietnamese Coffee
    Paul Arps/Flickr

    While many items on this list reflect Houston's rich Latino cultural influence, it's important to remember that the city also has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the United States. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Houston ranks fourth in the nation with nearly 35,000 Vietnamese Americans calling the city home, and as a result, Vietnamese cuisine like is a Space City staple. 

    Cafe sua da, or Vietnamese iced coffee, is no exception. The rich, creamy beverage is made by passing coarsely-ground, dark-roasted coffee through a special metal drip filter and into a generous portion of sweetened condensed milk. Ice is then added to make a delicious and bold treat, perfect for a lazy afternoon pick-me-up. 

    Where to Get It

    Stop by any Vietnamese or Vietnamese-fusion restaurant in Houston's Midtown or Chinatown, and you'll get the real deal. 

    Authentic, ready-to-drink bottled versions of the beverage are also made by Houston-based company Caphin and can be found at Central Markets around the city. 

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  • 05 of 10

    Aguas Frescas

    Aguas Frescas
    Whitney/Flickr

    Aguas frescas, or "fresh waters," are non-alcoholic drinks common all over Mexico and Latin America. The recipe is simple: take fruit, seeds, flowers or grains and mix with water and sugar. The result is a refreshing, thirst-quenching, flavor explosion, and the perfect antidote to the Houston heat. 

    While many prefer fruit-based aguas frescas, like pineapple or watermelon, don't underestimate the more adventurous flavors. If you're in the mood for something creamy and sweet, agua fresca de horchata (or simply "horchata") is made with finely blended rice, mixed with milk, sugar, cinnamon and sometimes vanilla. 

    Where to Get It 

    Aguas frescas are available at nearly every Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant, taqueria and taco truck. If you're looking for a good horchata, try local chain El Rey Cuban and Mexican Cuisine. 

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  • 06 of 10

    Real-Sugar Coke in a Glass Bottle

    Coke in a Glass Bottle
    Copyright Eric Reichbaum/Getty Images

    Commonly known in Houston as "Mexican Coke," this version of the American classic is made and bottled in Mexico, and as such uses real cane sugar in place of the U.S.-based formulation which uses corn syrup. The small difference, for some, is a throw-back to the "Good Ol' Days" when all colas were made that way. And for many, the flavor profile changes to a more authentic sweetness, without after-taste. 

    Where to Get It 

    Many taquerias, taco trucks, and convenience stores carry Mexican Coke, as well as many traditional restaurants and grocery stores. 

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  • 07 of 10

    Jarritos

    Jarritos
    PROfauxto_digit/Flickr

    Jarritos literally means "little jug" in Spanish, an homage to the old Mexican tradition of drinking beverages from small clay jugs. But in Houston, it means one thing: sweet fizzy goodness. This Mexican import is made with real sugar, rather than corn syrup or other sweeteners, and comes in a variety of natural fruit flavors — flavors like mango, tamarind, and guava. This soda also packs more fizz than its competitors, making it a great treat to break the afternoon heat. 

    Where to Get It 

    Restaurants, food trucks, corner stores, Kroger grocery stores — you name it. Jarritos is found all over Houston. 

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  • 08 of 10

    Texas Tea

    Texas Tea
    Cappi Thompson/Getty Images

    Texas Tea packs a punch like Long Island Iced Tea, but doubles down on the tequila and citrus and nixes the gin. The result is a stronger, bolder drink that's a perfect complement to Houston's Tex-Mex cuisine. Fair warning: Some Texas Tea recipes call for as many as five different kinds of alcohol, so as always, please drink responsibly. 

    Where to Get It 

    Many bars throughout Houston have their own special recipe for a Texas Tea, but perhaps the best is at Preamble Lounge and Craft House, just down the road from the Johnson Space Center off of I-45. 

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  • 09 of 10

    St. Arnold Seasonal Brews

    St. Arnold Beer
    Beau/Flickr

    St. Arnold beer and its brewery are Houston staples. An impressive number of its unique craft beers is available year round, including the popular Weedwhacker, Santo and Fancy Lawnmovers. But the real prize is their seasonal brews. Houstonians eagerly wait in anticipation to grab a bottle of St. Arnold's legendary Spring Bock, Summer Pills, Pumpkinator or Christmas Ale. 

    Not sure what to try? Visitors can tour the brewery for free Monday through Friday, or for a small fee on Saturdays. Beer is available a la carte during the tours, and Saturday's tour includes four, eight-ounce samples in the admission fee. 

    Where to Get It 

    Many bars and liquor stores throughout Houston have bottles of St. Arnold's seasonal brews available. To sample straight from the source, go to St. Arnold's Brewery directly. 

    St. Arnold's Brewery 
    2000 Lyons Avenue 
    Houston, TX 77020

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  • 10 of 10

    Houston-Area Wines

    Pleasant Hill Winery
    Cortney Martin/Flickr

    Houston might not be Napa, but that doesn't mean Texans can't make delicious bottles of wine. No fewer than six wineries and vineyards are just a short drive away from Houston, offering a wide variety of local wines to choose from while in the city.  Family-run winery Messina Hof has an extensive list of wines ranging from dry reds to sweet rosés with both traditional and complex flavor profiles. The quirky Cork This! Winery offers a selection of award-winning wines with non-traditional names like Irreconcilable Differences Syrah and Staycation Chardonnay. Other labels to look for: Bernhardt Winery, Peach Creek Vineyards, Pleasant Hill Winery and Saddlehorn Winery. 

    Where to Get It 

    It's possible to find some Houston-based wines at area restaurants or large liquor stores like Spec's Midtown location off of Smith Street and McGowen, but the best way to experience them is on the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail. A trail map guides you from one tasting to the next so that you can sample all that Houston's local wineries and vineyards have to offer — and with a gorgeous view to boot.