The problem with cocktails
I rarely drink hard liquor. But when I do, I want to taste it.
Perhaps that is why I never understood vodka -- booze without flavor. Or fruity rum drinks -- booze disguised to taste like fruit and sugar.
The sad fact is that most Americans who drink are not drinking for the flavor. They want a buzz. They want to lower inhibitions and meet people. Or just get drunk.
So I stopped going to bars. When I want to drink, I want an artisinal gin or small production American whiskey. I want it neat. I only want a little. I want to focus on it. So I drink at home. Alone.
Anvil - temple to the cocktail
Anvil is not really a bar. It is a temple devoted to the art of the cocktail.
The priests behind the counter do rituals. The rituals take some time. You have to wait a while before you drink.
Last night, the man behind the counter selected an old-fashioned glass. He inspected it. And then he began to assemble. He carefully stirred some rye with large ice cubes. Slowly. Then he strained the rye into my glass. He poured absynthe over a small spoon letting it drizzle slowly into the drink. He carefully rubbed lemon peel around the outside. He occasionally sniffed the drink to check his progress.
He asked me whether I wanted the lemon twist in the drink. It looked so stylish that I said yes. I detected a slight grimace. Wrong answer.
The sazerac is America's first mixed drink, from pre-Prohibition New Orleans. It tastes like a liquor, not fruit juice. I was amazed by the quality of the rye. It was accented -- not disguised -- by bitters, absynthe, and a slight essence of lemon peel.
It reminded me of the product of a great sushi chef. No sugary sauce. No fried bits. Just high quality fish with wisely chosen accents.
Next I ordered an old fashioned. He prepared it with the same ritual and care. I felt honored.
Every drink comes with a large glass of water. The point is not to drink alcohol because you're thirsty. The only point of the alcohol at Anvil is flavor.
I can't imagine ordering anything at Anvil other than a cocktail.
But last night, another local blogger told me that he was a beer fan. "Where," I asked "can you get the best beer in Houston?" I was surprised at his answer:
I never noticed any beer at Anvil. Yet apparently, it has an excellent selection of small-production beers on tap. Just as importantly, Chris said, they swap out the taps frequently. He explained that this prevents the beer from becoming stale. He told me that Anvil respects the beer better than anywhere else in town.
Maybe I will try a beer at Anvil someday -- after I work my way through Houston's best selection of American whiskey: