I enter the lobby of the Hotel Derek (2525 West Loop South, 713-297-4383), a location that has failed for a series of owners since opening in 1979. The new owners, Amerimar, a father-and-son real estate outfit out of Philadelphia, specialize in buying and renovating distressed hotel properties. They've given the building a makeover in the retro-futuristic style favored by the fashionista brigades who have made Ian Schrager a rich man. Problem is, Houston is not fashionista territory.
I proceed to a seat at the large curved bar of the hotel's Ling and Javier restaurant. Instead of the PIBs that would be drinking in the bars of the Royalton or the Delano, there are men in checked sport coats and women who believe Christmas tree-print long johns and OshKosh B'Gosh overalls make for a really cute, go-anywhere look.
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I, on the other hand, want a fashion-forward drink for the new year. Bartender Aaron George has no cocktail prognostications, but when we put our heads together, we come up with a good stiff drink. We call it the Longest Night, in honor of the winter solstice. It will be the cocktail of 2002.
Ling and Javier's Longest Night:
1.5 ounces chilled Belvedere vodka
1 teaspoon Jägermeister liqueur
Pour the vodka into a tall shooter glass. Add the Jägermeister, but don't stir. Knock it back and order another. Don't waste time sipping.