Sunday, October 10, 2010

Barfly's Beat: The Anvil Bar & Refuge

Houston is not exactly known for it's artisanal cocktails, it is more of a beer and a shot kind of town. Well, now Texas' largest city has a bona fide cocktail destination, the Anvil Bar & Refuge.  Anvil specializes in pre-Prohibition cocktails made with fresh ingredients (juices, fruits, etc), kold-draft ice, infused spirits, but shys away from the typical speak easy formula. It is a more egalitarian setting that gets the drinks right but checks exclusivity at the door. Recently, it was voted # 15 on GQ's Top 25 Cocktail Bars in America list. Loungerati's barfly correspondent and gal about town Zoe, happened to be in town and made a beeline for the "Anvil."

Zoe's report
My friend and I arrived early enough to get a seat at the fairly large L-shaped bar. The back bar was well stocked with top brands and we liked the exposed brick. The place was not exactly cozy as some of the New York style lounges. The rock music was blaring, the wooden bar chairs a bit stiff, and the clientele seemed to be an even mix of drinks aficionados and an affluent crowd ordering vodka tonics. Don't get me wrong, there was a fun vibe in the air. Four bartenders worked the long bar, answering patrons questions, taking orders, and meticulously crafting cocktails. They had no problem making vodka tonics or whatever the customers ordered, but did try to offer alternatives to broaden their horizons.

I ordered an Eastside cocktail, which is a cousin of the Southside with the addition of muddled cucumber. My friend had a frothy Pisco sour.  The cocktails were well balanced and perfectly executed. I really enjoyed the addition of cucumber to  the Southside formula, obviously Hendrick's is the natural choice of gin in this drink. Quality bar, attentive knowledgeable staff, well made cocktails, and a relaxed Texas atmosphere. What more can you ask for? Ok, maybe turn down the music a bit!

Some background from the bar's website.
"Anvil is located in a Bridgestone-Firestone tire store built in the late 1950’s. Designed and remodeled by the partners, the finished space reflects the same respect for history, elegant simplicity, and raw ingredients as the cocktails that are served there. The building was completely gutted, revealing original brick walls, high ceilings and industrial duct work, all of which remain untouched. Reclaimed materials and locally salvaged artifacts were discovered at antique stores and thrift shops and then retooled to craft the bar, shelving and tables. The result is a modern industrial design softened by the rich, recycled natural materials that furnish Anvil. Even the glassware is vintage, reminiscent of grandmother’s fancy glasses, all unearthed at small local stores."
East Side Cocktail
2 oz of Hendrick's gin
1 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
8 mint leaves
2 slices cucumber

Tools: cocktail shaker or mixing tins, muddler, strainer, jigger, and ice cubes.

Gently muddle the mint and cucumber in the mixing tin, add liquid ingredients, ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Float thin slice of Cucumber as a garnish.
Their food and cocktail menu, includes 100 drinks you try before you die! They have 100 beers, with a dozen on tap and a constantly changing menu of small and large plates. Finally, a worthy cocktail destination with something for everyone in Houston!
Beers on Tap at the Anvil
Anvil Bar & Refuge
1424 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006-2617
Phone: (713) 523-1622

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