I first met Robin Berwick while she was working as a bartender at Anvil Bar & Refuge. She said that she wanted to have her own place someday. Many bartenders say that, but Robin wasn't just voicing a nebulous dream. A few months later, she left Anvil to have more time to focus on building a business. On December 1st, Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails (3622 Main St., 713-874-0096) became a reality.
Robin is only one of the partners in Double Trouble; the other is Robin Whalan. "The Robins" worked together at Poison Girl, earning them the nickname that now graces their bar.
It has taken, from starting a business plan to opening the doors, almost a year and a half. The duo started the build-out with no power and had difficulty obtaining their Mixed Beverage Permit due to their proximity to Houston Community College's Central Campus. (Considering that Rice University has a bar on-campus, this is baffling.)
Having surmounted those issues, they created a lovely environment at Double Trouble. There are suggestions of a Tiki theme, from a bamboo-covered wall to a "sand art" counter on the bar (handmade by the Robins). Yet, there are elements of sophistication as well, from the curvy contemporary sofa to the antique chairs and small, marble-topped table near the center of the room.
The drink menu is sophisticated as well. The espresso beans are sourced from Greenway Coffee (recently ranked as the #2 coffeehouse in Houston in an article by Katharine Shilcutt), and hot buttered rum and classic mai tais were featured on their chilly opening night. On a subsequent night, the menu featured "The Fifteen Hundred Dollars and Two Weeks Off," a cocktail that included rum, maraschino and house-made hibiscus grenadine. While there are no food offerings (yet), they are easy to come by at the nearby restaurants (Tacos a Go Go, for example).
Current hours of 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. are ambitious, although Berwick suggested some minor refinements are in the works. Regardless, they will always be open until 2 a.m. Berwick spoke of how much community support has helped with getting Double Trouble open, and it showed on opening night. Despite no advertising and not even a sign outside, the place was packed, a testament to the goodwill for these talented ladies.
The positive experiences with the owners and customers at Poison Girl influenced their decision to make community involvement a priority.
"Regular Poison Girl patrons are just the BEST and I have never worked for better people. Poison Girl's owners treat their bartenders with respect and give back to the community. They have been an inspiration and are so supportive. Leaving Poison Girl to open Double Trouble was bittersweet...but we made the right decision, I think."
Despite the dual offerings of cocktails and espresso drinks, Berwick says Double Trouble's main product is service. Referring to their staff, handpicked from various walks of life and nicknamed "The Double Troublemakers," she stated, "I believe almost anyone is capable of reading a recipe and making a drink, but being patient and respectful -- that's something you can't learn and it's the most important part of being a good bartender. And good bartenders make a good bar."
Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails is convenient to get to via METRORail; it's right next to the HCC/Ensemble stop. Bring some cash to park at the dirt lot across the street from T'afia. "These Robins don't Tweet," so keep up with their new place on Facebook.