"Jesus Christ, there are a lot of lamps in here," was my first thought when I entered Nouveau Antique Art Bar (2913 Main, 713-526-2220). Pretty pedestrian as far as thoughts go, but if you walked into a hockey-rink-sized bar with hundreds of stained-glass lamps on ceilings, shelves and tables, your deep thoughts about the revolt in Kyrgyzstan or baseball or Facebook or whatever wouldn't stand a chance of flowing uninterrupted. Despite the lamp-heavy environment, though, Nouveau is dimly lit. It's romantic, especially for a large space. Or it's romantic until a stranger throws his arms around you and starts detailing his technique for pleasuring women. Alexis, the bar manager, had just mixed me an Aviator, her current favorite cocktail. (That means a lot coming from someone who's been behind the bar for 15 years.) I was sipping it when a young patron attached himself to the guy and girl next to me and starting lecturing them about men in boats and different styles of prodding, going into the kind of detail that's too blue for even a booze column. They took it all in stride, including his lively simulations. So Nouveau is a dark bar full of lamps where you can drink a classic cocktail or a $2 can of Lone Star while sitting next to a well-dressed couple who are watching a drunk guy sing "Sister Christian" and thrust at imaginary women. Not a bad time.
1 ounce St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1 ounce Tanqueray gin
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1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Combine ingredients over ice and, in Alexis's words, "shake the shit out of it" for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass.