Most people who go to Tales of the Cocktail know that nearly a week of excess and debauchery with your fellow spirits minded and swilling friends is plenty of fun for anyone. I am apparently not that smart. I decided that two days before I went in to New Orleans for Tales 2010 I would have the brilliant idea of going to Houston and see some friends and visit Anvil Bar & Refuge. After all, what better way to get ready for all that excess than with a few extra nights of excess?
I had been wanting to visit Anvil ever since my friend Chuck Taggart waxed poetic about it. I then got to meet one of the owners and the mastermind behind the bar Bobby Heugel and one of his extraordinary bartenders Mindy Kucan. That pretty much sealed the deal, I had to go as soon as possible. As I sat there one evening booking my travel plans for Tales I realized that I would have to change airplanes in Houston anyways. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for an extra drink or 20, off to Houston I went.
I work at Vessel in Seattle one day a week. It is an incredibly well laid out bar. Anvil might be the best laid out bar ever. Six wells are laid out along its length, with all of them having everything they need within arm’s reach. The station that becomes the beer and wine well on busy nights has all of the beers right behind it. All the taps are arrayed in one bank at eye level and all of the bottles are in canted racks that feed you the next beer as you take each one out. It brought a tear to my eye.
Arriving at Anvil directly from the airport I was greeted with a delicious Ti’Punch, and then the serious imbibing began. I got to sample several drinks from the menu and all of the staff seemed happy to push new things my way. All of them were delicious and many were brilliant ways to introduce some favourite ingredients – like amaros, to more drinkers.
Then Mindy and Bobby showed up and so did John the Bastard. We sampled Tanqueray Malacca, Suntory Royal Whisky, and the piece-de-resistance original Ron Zacapa 23 before they went to a Solera system. The first two were delicious. The third, well, you know I have professed my love of rum before. It was ethereal, it was like the first time I had Rum Zaya back when it was made in Guatemala. It was a rum to take you places and open new perspectives. It was rich, and velvety, full of promise, and it didn’t disappoint.
Several drinks later, we went down the street to another bar called Poison Girl. It’s one of those bars that serious drinkers and bartenders love. A great whiskey selection at low prices and very cold beer can be found there. In the back is a patio with a giant inflatable Kool-Aid Man, inside are pinball machines.
It’s just kind of heavenly in a relaxed, unpretentious, we got lots of good hooch kind of way. If I lived in Houston, I could see myself making many nights of going to Anvil and then sliding over to Poison Girl to wrap things up. Start the evening with really great drinks, and then finishing up with good spirits and cold beer. It’s a progression to be deeply appreciated.
Do yourself a favour, if you ever find yourself in Houston, go to Anvil. You will hate yourself if you don’t. For those with the fortitude, go to Poison Girl too. More importantly though, go to Anvil.