There's a huge range of palates when it comes to cocktail drinkers. Some like boozy concoctions where it's basically drinking the spirit with just a little enhancement, and others -- especially younger drinkers and those who rarely indulge -- don't even want to know the alcohol is there. You wouldn't think a whiskey bar could please this vast range, but Reserve 101 has developed a fall menu that should make just about anyone happy.
The fall menu reflects a lot more than just whiskey. There are cocktails with tequila, rum, gin, sparkling wine and even stout beer. The menu is especially focused on craft spirits from small producers.
For those who like their concoctions light and bubbly, the elegant "Tainted Love" will fit just right. Sparkling wine adds lightness to orange-y Aperol and pomegranate juice. It's a flat-out pretty drink, too -- it's served in a flute and feels very ladylike. I can imagine an entire bachelorette party having this one.
Reserve 101 co-owner Mike Raymond said about the cocktail, "We want to consider couples that come here. Maybe one of them wants a strong drink, but the other might want something a little lighter."
"Old Haunts" highlights St. George Dry Rye Gin from San Francisco. A little Drambuie and lime adds some interest without overpowering this interesting style of gin. Mike says of the drink, "Old Haunts is a cross between a Rusty Nail and a classic Gin and Tonic. I always try to not hide the base spirit, especially one like this."
At its heart, though, Reserve 101 is a whiskey bar, and it would just be weird if there weren't whiskey cocktails. "Sligo," "Hi Ho Silver" and "Thunder Road" are the offerings in this category, featuring, Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, High West Silver Oats Whiskey and Balcones Blue, respectively.
"Thunder Road" is a kissing cousin to an Old Fashioned with its muddled cherries and orange, but the cousin is actually a pig farmer from out-of-town who leads a Bruce Springsteen tribute band at night. The cocktail features a bacon syrup that may lead to the drink getting its own following of groupies. (The bacon trend will really never be over.)
The High West Silver Oats Whiskey featured in the Sligo cocktail is not your typical whiskey. It's an "un-aged silver," or a "white dog," as it were. The glass for a Sligo is washed with a bit of Herbsaint before the spirit is combined with vermouth and dry Curaçao. In other words, Sligo is a pleasing, effective riff on a Sazerac.
I wanted to like "El Camino," as it's the only tequila-based cocktail on the fall menu, but mint, raspberries, maple syrup and a sugar-rimmed glass conspired to create something that was just too complicated. The ingredients killed any chance of the tequila being highlighted, but it's so sweet and easy that this will be the one to order for those who don't like to taste their alcohol. I used to be one of those kinds of girls.
I love Bloody Marys. It's a long story, but they'll always remind me of being stuck at an airport with a friend after missing a flight and making the best of a bad situation. The Bloody Hatchet is made with Buried Hatchet Stout, which lends a wonderful depth and darkness compared to the old standard. The bacon-salted rim worked wonderfully well with this. (Again, let's not give the bacon trend the bum-rush just yet.) It's simply delightful, and I'm only sorry that Reserve 101 isn't also a restaurant so I can have one with brunch.
On November 1st, you will note a distinct lack of mustaches behind the bar. Mike and the staff are going to be clean-shaven to raise awareness for "Movember"; the initiative that designates November as prostate and testicular cancer awareness month. The staff will be growing out their new mustaches over the course of the month. Visitors to the bar and the Reserve 101 web site can donate to the cause, and Angel's Envy Bourbon will match their contributions dollar-for-dollar.
Reserve 101 has ongoing special events so people can learn more, and the one in November is a rare opportunity. (As reported by CultureMap in October, Reserve 101 received Whiskey Magazine's coveted Gold status in October, in part for their proactive educational efforts.) On November 8, Dr. Bill Lumsden, the master distiller from Glenmorangie, is coming to Houston all the way from Scotland to talk about his product. Considering that they just released a 28-year-old whiskey that is going for $3,600 a bottle and limited to 300 in the United States, I'm interested in what he has to say. Tickets are extremely limited and are $50 each. Visit the bar, call or email to get tickets.
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November is going to be a little wild overall for Reserve 101, as it's also when the specialty blend that Mike created with Angel's Envy will be released.
There is parking available for $10 in a lot alongside. You may be able to find cheaper parking on the street or down the block. Ongoing construction around the block where Reserve 101 is located (next to Dirt Bar) continues to give both management and patrons headaches, but owner Mike Raymond thinks it will be completed soon. Once it is, there will actually be some sidewalk space (and even a patio!) next to the bar.