Sidebar, 2 Waterway Square Place, is a hidden gem among the bars that line the Woodlands Waterway. Access is via a grand winding staircase located inside the Westin Hotel. Sidebar's decor includes a comfortable lounge area and a sleek, elegant bar with ample seating. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the Waterway fountain and the Westin’s rooftop infinity pool.
Sidebar serves wine and a rotating selection of craft beers. However, the star attractions are the cocktails. Bar manager Patrick Abalos has created an impressive selection for Sidebar’s summer menu. Although he has been bartending for only three years, Abalos has a long history in the hospitality industry, climbing up the career ladder from dishwasher to sous chef. He was most recently beverage director for the Portofino Hotel at Universal Orlando.
The cocktail menu at Sidebar changes four times a year and showcases the flavors of the season. Fresh juices, housemade syrups and house-infused liquors are used in the majority of drinks. Abalos even uses the orange peels left over from squeezing fresh juice to make his own orange oleo saccharum (oil-infused sugar), and he’s working on making bitters. Tea is infused into several drinks, including the whey-washed white tea gin used in his Sidebar 75 cocktail and the PG Tips Black Tea vodka in the Bear Hunter.
The drinks are as visually appealing as they are tasty. The Italian Lost in Translation is a vibrant blood orange cocktail garnished with smoked salt and a candied blood orange slice. The Birch and Root adult-style root beer float is topped with decadent torched vanilla meringue foam, and the honey-centric Bear Hunter is served with a gooey chunk of honeycomb.
Another unique drink on the menu is the Brazilian Chai Sipper. To prepare it, Abalos first torches a cinnamon stick and allows it to smoke inside a serving glass to draw out the oils and enhance the flavors. He then mixes Avuá Amburana Cachaça, house Chai tea syrup, fresh orange juice, orange oleo saccharum and Bittermens Burlesque Bitters. The drink is poured into the smoked glass and garnished with the toasted cinnamon stick and an orange peel-wrapped cherry. The result is a deliciously complex drink.
Abalos has two small barrels behind the bar that he’ll be using to age some special cocktails for the fall menu. Cooler weather will bring more opportunities to enjoy an evening drink at the rooftop pool. In the meantime, enjoy the summer cocktail menu before it’s gone.
Sidebar is open Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight and Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to midnight. Happy hour is Sunday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. A DJ spins tunes on Friday and Saturday nights from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.