Houston's 10 Best Bars For the Wintertime

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The weather in Houston is bi-polar, as the cashier at Academy told me the other day as I was doing some holiday shopping. He was referring to the up and down swings of the temperature in our fair city. Yet despite the unseasonably warm days we have experienced in November, it does get cold in Houston of course, and although we most likely won’t ever experience Chicago-type winter weather here, these are some of the best bars to hang out in during the coming cold(er) days and nights in the Bayou City.

(Note: This list is in alphabetical order.)
Anvil Bar & Refuge serves a Calvados Toddy , which is a hot toddy consisting of honey and maple syrups, Calvados apple brandy, and Allspice Dram, a simple liqueur flavored with allspice berries. Anvil serves this drink year-round, but wintertime is an especially good time to try it to warm you up, obviously. The bar opened in 2009 and became a trendsetting place in town almost immediately, achieving this status by offering a menu of 100 classic cocktails made with high-quality spirits and ingredients, as well as their own original tasty craft-cocktail creations. The bartenders here are very knowledgeable and can help you make the right drink selection to keep you warm when the temperature drops; the seasonal menu of drinks out now is just right for the cold weather.  (1424 Westheimer, anvilhouston.com)

This friendly Heights neighborhood dive bar has a huge patio/backyard area where folks like to light up fire pits to stay warm when the weather gets cold, giving off a camping/campfire vibe; we always seem to meet interesting people who like to engage in intelligent conversation out there when we visit. You can even bring your dog along with you to enjoy the outdoor area, and Big Star's resident cat does not seem to mind one bit. If you get too cold, venture inside where a checkerboard floor, beat-up comfortable furniture, red lights and a jukebox with a great music selection await you.  (1005 W. 19th, bigstarbar.com)

Housed in an old building that was once a church office, Black Labrador Pub is a cozy British pub with low ceilings and antique furniture, including rocking chairs placed in front of a fireplace to keep you warm on chilly nights. Time-honored English favorites like Shepherd’s Pie and fish and chips are served here, and for dessert why not try some bread pudding, which is served hot and baked with apples, raisins, and cinnamon and topped with apricot preserves and Labrador’s own Brandy cream sauce? Don’t worry, at Black Labrador you can have your bread pudding even if you don’t eat your meat beforehand, unlike a certain boarding school immortalized by Pink Floyd in song and film. Head upstairs to Cezanne Jazz Club for some good music when you’re done.  (4100 Montrose, blacklabradorpub.com)

Baby when it’s cold outside, Double Trouble has a nice selection of coffee cocktails to warm you up; try the Betty Whizzle consisting of vodka, house-made coffee-infused rum liqueur, fresh cream and espresso. That should keep you going on a chilly winter night, eh? Of course if you don’t particularly like coffee or caffeine, Double Trouble has plenty of other great cocktails and spirits to warm your bones; if you do dig coffee, you can even stop by before work to get your fix here as Double Trouble opens up at 7 a.m. during the week and 8:30 a.m. on the weekends. Located in the heart of Mid-Main, with plenty of cool places to dine at, shop at and rock out at nearby, Double Trouble makes for a good spot to start or end an evening.  (3622 Main, doubletroublehouston.com)

In addition to a great selection of straight-up coffees, Honeymoon Café & Bar has a nice selection of hot coffee cocktails that are great for cold winter days and nights; try the Cortado Corretto, which consists of cognac, amaro, espresso, and textured milk. The Honeymoon is also one of the best places Downtown to people-watch; the location at the corner of Main and Congress can provide a view of downtown office workers or party people and musical street performers coming and going, depending on what time you visit. You can arrive early in the morning and stay until late at night here if you want to; Honeymoon is a good one-stop destination for all of your dining and drinking needs throughout the day, as they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t forget to take a look at the dessert menu.  (300 Main, thehoneymoonhtx.com)

Hockey is probably the ultimate winter sport, and the Maple Leaf Pub is the only place in Houston that shows all NHL hockey games all of the time that we are aware of. Husband-and-wife team Sean and Olivia Blair opened the place in 2006 after getting frustrated at not being able to find a cool place in town to watch their favorite hockey team, the Calgary Flames. In addition to a small penalty box just like you’d find at a hockey rink, hockey jerseys and signed memorabilia are on display; if hockey is not your thing, Maple Leaf is still a cool neighborhood bar with special events like Texas Hold Em’ Poker, a steak night, and “gonzo” karaoke to keep you coming back. Perhaps you can pretend you are in Canada if you visit here during a rare, freezing cold Houston night.  (514 Elgin, themapleleafpub.com)

Monnalisa Bar, located at Hotel Sorella in northwest Houston, makes for a nice winter destination for lovers to escape to, with its European-inspired decor, booths that provide privacy, open-flame fire pit, sparkling starlit ceiling and beautiful chandelier above the bar. In addition to the specialty cocktails and wines served here, a food menu offers some light-fare options if you come with an appetite. Live bands that play jazz and soft music on Thursdays through Sundays help elevate the overall intimate and romantic mood.  (800 Sorella, hotelsorella-citycentre.com/monnalisa)

Red Lion is a friendly neighborhood British pub with an interesting food menu, featuring a mix of Asian/Indian pub fare, traditional English favorites and even a tasty cheeseburger if you’re in the mood; the drink menu includes 20 authentic English ales as well as an impressive selection of single-malt Scotches. To keep you warm and cheerful there is a fireplace inside, and the outside patio also usually has a fire burning under the shining white Christmas lights.  (2316 S. Shepherd, redlionhouston.com)

This British pub serves up favorites like fish & chips, bangers & mash, and Scotch eggs, in addition to their large selection of beers from around the world on tap and in bottles. Richmond Arms is the favorite bar of a lot of British expats living in Houston as well as locals who have caught on to the charms of the place; it’s a cozy spot during the winter, with tables offering some privacy next to warm fireplaces. They have darts here, of course; a large outdoor patio in front if you enjoy the colder weather; and plenty of TVs to watch football (soccer) on, which is a huge draw, as is their quiz night on Wednesdays starting at 7:30 p.m; come on out and test your knowledge of sports, music, geography, entertainment, current events, history and more, and you can win some cool prizes.   (5920 Richmond, richmondarmsonline.com)

Shay McElroy's Irish Pub owner John McElroy is a Dublin native who had an impressive, authentic 19th-century bar shipped over from Ireland. It's now the centerpiece of the establishment, and in addition to the sizable selection of draft and bottled beer, Scotch and Irish whiskey are served here; try a hot toddy or Irish coffee (with the aforementioned Irish whiskey, of course), as well as several other wintertime drinks that will keep you warm when the weather gets cold outside. Located downtown at Travis and Main in the Rice Lofts building, Shay's offers comfortable furniture that was acquired from the Rice Hotel's Old Capitol Club and makes the bar a snug place to relax.   (909 Texas, mcelroyspub.com/shaymcelroys)

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