Austin | Dallas | Houston
Houston's Best Margarita

The best margarita ever: Bobby Heugel's just opened Houston bar is confident in its bold claims

Enlarge
Slideshow
The Pastry War Houston August 2013 agave chalkboard
Just a little reminder of the margarita's history. Photo courtesy of The Pastry War
The Pastry War Houston August 2013 House Margarita
The Pasty War's house margarita is the best margarita Bobby Heugel says he's ever had, and it's only $7. Photo courtesy of The Pastry War
The Pastry War Houston August 2013 sign
Photo courtesy of The Pastry War
The Pastry War Houston August 2013 folkart spider
There's Dia de los Muertos-inspired folk art throughout The Pastry War. The Pastry War/Facebook
The Pastry War Houston August 2013 agave chalkboard
The Pastry War Houston August 2013 House Margarita
The Pastry War Houston August 2013 sign
The Pastry War Houston August 2013 folkart spider
Eric Sandler head shot column mug July 2013

"Our house margarita is the best margarita I’ve ever had."

That's how Clumsy Butcher president Bobby Heugel describes the signature cocktail at The Pastry War, the downtown agave bar he's opening in partnership with Clumsy Butcher beverage director Alba Huerta.

The sampling started Tuesday at 4 p.m. as the bar's soft opening kicked into gear, although Heugel cautions that there will be a limited menu and he and Huerta are still tweaking some of the recipes.

 "I was just surprised at how good we were actually able to do it. The key was putting more tequila in, which isn’t good for our pricing and whatever, but it’s the way to make it right." 

Not the margarita, though. Heugel says that the $7 cocktail met the goals of serving a "good margarita with tequila we stand by . . .

 "I was just surprised at how good we were actually able to do it. The key was putting more tequila in, which isn’t good for our pricing and whatever, but it’s the way to make it right."

The margarita is available shaken or frozen. Flavor it with balsamic strawberry, habanero mango or mole ginger for $1. Those prices are part of a larger commitment to make The Pastry War more affordable than Anvil, which Heugel also owns.

Heugel says the group achieved this by "streamlining the production and making things a little more casual so that we could afford to charge less." 

The recipe's secret is mixing Persian limes with key limes, which Heugel notes were part of Texas margaritas when they were first introduced at the turn of the century. "That’s why Ninfa’s on Navigation still garnishes their drinks with key limes," Heugel says. 

The Pastry War takes margaritas back to their original form as a variation on the daisy cocktail that combines a spirit, citrus and a sweetener.

"Let’s have a little more fun with it," Heugel says. "Get a mezcal margarita with green chartreuse. It’s fucking delicious. Let’s get rid of this dogma surrounding this cocktail, and let’s have really great drinks."

Drink Choices Galore 

Any of the bar's 54 available tequilas or mezcals can be turned into a margarita for $3 more than the price of the shot, most of which run between $10 and $20. If that doesn't seem like enough choices, Heugel says 30 more "that have never been in the state before" are coming.

 "It’s fucking delicious. Let’s get rid of this dogma surrounding this cocktail, and let’s have really great drinks." 

Asked for examples of spirits that are new to Texas, Heugel cites three. He spent a year and a half working to bring Fortaleza, "the best example of lowlands tequila," to Texas. Next is a spirit from bottler Mezcal Vago that uses ultra-rare 17-year-old tabala agave. Heugel explains that plant age, rather than spirit age, influences the mezcal's flavor and compares it to "a priceless 17 year old Scotch, but the emphasis is on the agricultural side as opposed to the barrel-aging side."

Finally, there's Del Maguey San Luis Del Rio Azul, which is a mezcal that's made with agave grown in Oaxaca. That's outside of the five states where agave is allowed to be grown and used in tequila.

"It’s a bottled example of how weird and twisted the industry has become," Heugel says. "It’s also how tequila likely would have tasted before it became as refined as it is." 

Huerta developed the rest of the cocktail menu with an eye on improving classics. For example, Heugel says that he and Huerta decided that "Let’s take the paloma and make the very best one that we can."

The Kentucky Club margarita is named after a famous club in Juarez that introduced the idea of adding orange liqueur to the cocktail. 

Heugel clarifies that The Pastry War is "not a classic cocktail bar. It’s really just a bar that tries to share this exciting drinking culture of Mexico with our guests. Which is really an extension of trying to share a Mexican culture that we’ve really fallen in love with."

The Pastry War hopes to achieve that goal with a rotating weekly special that will be a classic Mexican beverage like rompope or a vampiro made with gin. 

As to the bar's Dia de los Muertos-influenced decor, Heugel says that spending time in Mexico helped him to understand that holiday's purpose.

"It changed my life and how I view my life," he notes. "It’s a very public acknowledgement of a finality that we all face. It celebrates life in the same way it celebrates death. I think that’s what bars are really trying to do in their very, very best setting."

Heugel concludes with a thought. "Bars aren't important," he says. "It's not noble work . . . but really great things happen in bars. Whenever we open a new place, I like to think of all the people that will meet one another and then go on to start families.

"Or all the birthdays, first dates, all these different things that will happen in bar spaces. It’s just cool."

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address