Bryan Wayne, a native Houstonian, began bartending at Poison Girl eight years ago, well, he began as a bar back, but just like caterpillars that turn into butterflies, so do bar backs turn into bartenders. (The process is almost exactly the same.)
Poison Girl holds a special place in everyone's heart who has ever been there. Oh the stories that have begun with, “and then we ended up at Poison Girl,” or “that time you went crazy on the Bourbs... at Poison Girl," or "we actually met at Poison Girl but I'm definitely not going to call him because I could not get him to leave my place the next morning."
The people you meet and the one-of-a-kind, this might be the last bottle in existence, whiskey you drink. Walking into the happily dim bar from the sun beating you down on Westheimer feels like, hold my calls please imaginary secretary, I’m going to be here for a minute.
Something about the place, indeed. The punk, the pinball, the beautiful ladies from all walks of life that checker the walls. With 500 American whiskeys in the house, Poison Girl certainly has its priorities in place, and they have for some time. Having collected since before the Bourbon Boom, it’s by far the largest selection in the region, or maybe even the world.
Which is what attracted Wayne, the man behind the bar, long ago. "The bar is comfortable, when you walk in, you're comfortable." Not only did he post up as a customer, he eventually got a job here, met the love of his life here, got married here, and now tends bar as well as serves as its general manager.
He and his wife, local tattoo artist Miranda Quinn, also just opened a tattoo shop, Houston Heights Tattoo. Yes, they have a cute tattoo together. It’s an f hold on the violin. And to answer your next question, she writes and he plays bass. In fact, the band he played in, the Born Again Virgins, was nominated in the best traditional rock category for the Houston Press Music Awards in 2013.
Heaven Hill Distillery is his personal go-to and when he gets on the ladder you know something special is coming down with him. This time it was a bottle of Four Roses 12 year that was released in 2011 and a 1998 single barrel vintage Evan Williams that was produced during the three years they had to distill elsewhere, due to a fire.
“Which one do you want to try?”
“You can taste the history,” he said of the soon-to-be-extinct Evan Williams. "After this bottle, that's it." And that’s the beauty of this place. It's literally a candy shop of American Whiskey and whether he’s explaining why it was named Four Roses or the levels of charred new white oak, he's a still of information. Which is one of his favorite parts; educating along with making guests happy.
That day, Wayne decided to make an old fashioned. His old fashioned, because every bartender has his own way... and Wayne's way is bloody fantastic.
"The Old Fashioned"
2 ounces Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
4 dashes Orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1/2 ounce simple syrup (1:1 water:sugar)
Give that a good stir and then garnish with the zest of an orange.
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Shot of advice: Use common sense and pay attention. Do your research. Don't do anything blindly.
Poison Girl is open every day from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.