Warm the Soul

It's a gray, wintry day in old Houstontown. The problem is, the temperature is still in the 70s. How does one get into a proper holiday mood when the bespoke overcoat hangs forlorn in the closet and only an Aloha shirt is appropriate for daywear? I choose to go downtown to the Lancaster Hotel Bistro (701 Texas Avenue, 713-228-9500) and attempt to have a winter beverage experience equivalent, or WBEE, at the handsome little bar. The Lancaster, with its hunting prints and Merry Olde England decor in the lobby, does successfully suggest life in a cold climate.

Bartender Bob Alley, who has presided over the Lancaster bar for the past seven years, is ready to help, suggesting an Irish coffee for the winter beverage. His Irish coffee is made with actual whipped cream flavored with the pulp of a vanilla bean, dark crème de cacao and sugar. This is the detail that makes the drink a standout at the Lancaster. Alley also has the professional self-control to refrain from adding a dribble of crème de menthe over the whipped cream. This awful liqueur is often added in the belief that anything called Irish has to have some bright green color to it, even if it does taste like cheap mouthwash.

The Lancaster Irish coffee is warming, rich and does lift the spirits with its mix of caffeine and alcohol. Who cares if there isn't a puddle of icy, diesel-stained slush at the curb?

The Lancaster's Irish Coffee:

Four ounces of good, hot, freshly made black coffee
One and 1/4 ounces Bushmill's Irish Whiskey
One packet of white sugar

Mix the ingredients in a white-wine glass. Top with a tablespoon or three of whipped cream. Don't succumb to any attempts to garnish the drink.


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