Having arrived early for a birthday dinner at the Queen Vic Pub, I grabbed the last remaining stool at the bar and proceeded to scan the drink menu. My general policy when dining in a large group is to order my drink early, before the waitstaff gets bogged down attending to everyone else.
On a weekend night just before 7 p.m., the Queen Vic was unpleasantly packed, with several large groups milling around the small foyer waiting to be seated. To my left at the bar was a group of boisterous young women who had clearly started enjoying themselves long before I arrived, and to my right were two older patrons deep in serious conversation, seemingly oblivious to the tumult surrounding them.
Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long before I was approached by a bartender who seemed eager to make me something more creative than my usual cosmopolitan. I told him my general preferences for mixed drinks (strong, straight up, not too sweet, a little fruit preferred). When I added that I really liked Lillet Blanc, he quickly suggested a Vesper (3 oz gin, 1 oz vodka, ½ ounce Lillet Blanc). "It's pretty serious, though," he warned me. "I can handle it," I assured him, then realized he had probably heard that stupid line about a million times from pale-cheeked, anemic-looking females like me.
For the next five minutes, he slowly and carefully measured out each part of the Vesper, stopping after each component to tell me a bit about his choice of liquor brands. It was endearing how much attention he devoted to constructing the cocktail, especially when the bar was swarming with other patrons and orders from seated diners kept piling in.
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The Vesper was light, slightly citrusy, and amazingly strong. Too much, unfortunately, for even this gal. I slowly sipped about half, assured the expectant bartender I really did like it, and then sheepishly requested a chaser of cranberry juice "just to lighten it up a bit." He may have smirked to himself, but I am grateful that to me he smiled and simply said, "No worries." If he'd pulled an attitude like some of those guys at Anvil, I might have been humiliated enough to down the entire thing in one gulp -- and that definitely would have been a bad scene.
I will order a Vesper again at the Queen Vic, but next time will do so with at least one or two samosas in my belly.