Bartender Chat: Sarah Daniel of The Davenport

It's early on a Friday night at The Davenport , but there's already a pretty decent crowd. The interior is dark, almost romantic, lit by candlelight and a faux fireplace. Throw a bearskin rug on the floor, and I bet some people would forget they're in public.

A few folks are still in post-work attire, their office-access badges still clipped to their waistbands, but some are dressed to impress. The place has a mod-ish yet contemporary vibe, a wall of backlit liquor bottles running almost the entire length of the S-shaped bar.

I peruse the menu -- there are so many martinis to choose from -- but stick with my non-flashy standard. Made by Sarah Daniel, it's ice-cold and so very good. Sarah may be petite, but her martinis could knock you on your ass. With heavy pours, these people don't fool around.

I enjoy my martini as Sarah explains the challenges of balancing school and work, her favorite places to unwind in Houston and the secret to living a happy life.

How long have you been bartending at The Davenport? I've been here since beginning of June. I've been bartending for five years, but have been in the service industry for about 11. I'm from Brownsville, and before I moved to Houston I lived in Austin, worked at Chili's and went to Texas State. I moved here and taught Spanish for a couple of years, so I left the industry until I started grad school. I'm studying speech therapy, which is demanding, so I needed a job where I could just work weekends and dedicate most of my time to school. I'm so happy to be here; it's like a family, and they welcomed me with open arms.

How would you describe your bar? I think it's very retro. It goes through a bit of a change from happy hour to the evening when we light the candles...I think the bar has a very warm feeling. The bartender chooses the music, so that depends on who's working. When I work I like to play hip-hop...songs that are just more up-tempo. I only work Friday and Saturday nights, and when people go out on the weekend, they want to have a good time so I try to create that atmosphere.

How would you describe your crowd? We get professionals, students, people that live in Montrose; it's diverse. It's a laid-back bar. You don't have to stand in a line to get in, it doesn't take 15 minutes to get a drink, and I think people appreciate that. The bar was designed to encourage people to socialize. If you notice the way the bar is shaped, it's kind of zigzagged so people face each other and there are no TVs, so they talk to each other.

Do you have a specialty or a drink you pride yourself on? We're known for our martinis. We have a list with over 50 martinis on it, but I recommend the Strawberry Fields, made with strawberry vodka, cranberry juice and lime juice. Its sweet but sour, has a punch to it, and I've never had anyone say they didn't like it. There's also one I created with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and a secret ingredient but it's not on the menu so you have to ask for Sarah's martini.

Where do you like to go to get a drink? I like places where I can get a well-made cocktail and great food. I like The Grove, and Felix 55 has a great drink menu. Both also have great happy hour specials.

Wildcard question: What is the key to happiness? There are always going to be things in life you don't like, things we have no control over, but we can control our attitude and perspective. If you can find a way to put a positive spin on things, you'll be happy.

The Davenport is located at 2117 Richmond. Stop by on Friday or Saturday night to try one of Sarah's martinis.

Bonus: There are often food trucks parked outside (last week, it was The Rolling Hunger), so don't drink on an empty belly.

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