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Inventive cocktails liven up Houston Restaurant Weeks menu at Backstreet Cafe

4 Houston Restaurant Weeks tasting August 2013 Backstreet Cafe dude and Marcy de Luna
Sommelier Sean Beck tweaked his inventive trio of drinks to complement chef Hugo Ortega's creations. Photo by Joel Luks
3 Houston Restaurant Weeks tasting August 2013 Backstreet Cafe
The Garden to Glass cocktail. Photo by Joel Luks
2 Houston Restaurant Weeks tasting August 2013 Backstreet Cafe
The Half In The Shell cocktail. Photo by Joel Luks
1 Houston Restaurant Weeks tasting August 2013 Backstreet Cafe
The almond cake dessert. Photo by Joel Luks

Houston Restaurant Weeks isn't only about getting a great deal on good eats. Some restaurants, like Backstreet Café, are enticing foodies with wine, beer and cocktail pairings that enhance the flavors of the seasonal multi-course meals that have locals flocking to the city's top dining spots.

Backstreet sommelier Sean Beck carefully tweaked his inventive cocktail selections to highlight the three-course, New American dinner menu by chef Hugo Ortega, who was a semi-finalist in year's James Beard Awards.

For the first course, the Garden to Glass cocktail accompanies a Greek salad. The beverage's summery-sweet watermelon and cucumber puree nicely contrasts the slight saltiness of feta, olives and capers tossed in the salad. A combination of gin and Pimms balances spices and herbs while Secco Lambrusco (Italian sparkling wine) adds a pleasant touch of effervescence. Lower in alcohol, this cocktail won't dull your palate or have you seeing double before the second course arrives at your table.

Next up is the Porch Daze cocktail (see cocktail recipe below and watch the video above) coupled with peach glazed pork ribs. This bourbon and vermouth-based spiked lemonade has notes of sage, smoke and a pithy apricot marmalade, which complement the rib's peach glaze. The smoke brings out the grilled taste of the meat.

Beck was diligent to ensure that the Porch Daze's high alcohol content plus sugar and citrus flavors don't overwhelm the taste buds nor compromise the integrity of the dish.

The third course, an almond cake dessert, is paired with the Half In The Shell cocktail. The taste of the almond pastry, served with a chicory condensed milk sauce, marries well with the complex tones of espresso, vanilla steamed milk and mix of Disarrano (Italian liqueur) and Frangelico spirits in the beverage. This tasty drink is like a loaded Vietnamese iced coffee.

The three-course dinner menu at Backstreet Café is $35 per person. For an additional $26, the trio of cocktails can be added. Other restaurants offering alcohol pairings include Américas, The Glass Wall, Hugo'sMockingbird Bistro and Philippe Restaurant + Lounge.

But you better hurry. Houston Restaurant Weeks ends on Monday.

Porch Daze Cocktail Recipe

  • 1 1/2 ounce Bulleit Bourbon
  • 1 ounce Sutton Vermouth
  • 1 1/2 ounce Lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon smoked stone fruit marmalade (recipe below)
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ounce soda water or Topo Chico

Fill a mason jar with ice and a lemon wheel. In a shaker, combine bourbon, vermouth, lemon juice, smoked stone fruit marmalade and a spring of sage. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Remove the spring and add a small scoop of ice and two sage leaves rubbed together in hand to release flavor. Shake quickly and pour mixture into prepared mason jar while simultaneously adding Topo Chico. Make sure to get all the left over bits of fruit from shaker as they add to the look and taste of the drink. Garnish with two more sage leaves.

Smoked Stone Fruit Marmalade Recipe

Combine in bowl and stir well. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Yields enough for 12 drinks.

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