Something about the prohibition era is infatuating and alluring. Illegal liquor and secret passwords bring a certain sexiness to the table.
Houston’s newest 'speakeasy,' Eighteenth Bar, is the latest to offer some period mystique to the Rice Village area.
The interior, designed by Gino Vian, features antique wingback leather chairs, low industrial tables and large leather couches, plus classic movies playing silently on flat screens high above the action. The walls are made of reclaimed wood while the brick-laden hallway from the back entrance feels like a secret passage. There’s also a baby grand piano screaming for a Fabulous Baker Boys experience.
Mixologist Andrew Chapa spent a year playing with the intricate recipe for the Frankie Yale, a fast favorite.
While the decor has just a hint of a haunted mansion vibe, the drinks aren't trying to channel quaffs of an earlier age. Instead, owners Amir Ansari and Erick Ramirez set out to create a quality, modern mixology menu with the Al Capone-era gangster names as the only throwback.
Bootleggers Punch is similar to an Arnold Palmer (lemonade and iced tea), only this version is a slightly floral concoction made with a brandy spirit and champagne. It's light with champagne bubbles and had me envisioning downing many a pitcher while lounging poolside.
Mixologist Andrew Chapa spent a year playing with the intricate recipe for the Frankie Yale, a fast favorite. Made with tequila, upon first sip the pureed mango flavor dominates, but once the liquid passes over your tongue, a spicy habanero zing kicks in. The more you drink, the more noticeable the heat, although it’s still slight enough as not to cause any four-alarm fires.
Then there’s the Al Capone cocktail itself. It’s a potent whiskey beverage and Eighteenth Bar's stronger version of a classic Pimm’s Cup. Ramirez is also experimenting with cocktails in which all the ingredients — minus the liquors — are incased in giant ice cubes, adding flavor to the quaff as they melt.
Expect swing and Sinatra tunes except Thursday through Saturday nights after 10 p.m., when a DJ comes on board and tables are cleared to make way for a small dance area. We hear a small dance floor may be added soon.
If you’re used to entering via the patio facing Bissonnet (a la former occupants Antique and The Gallant Knight), save yourself the walk — all you’ll find now is a padlocked gate. Instead, head for the parking lot and look for the side entrance. No password necessary.