As we get ready to shoot Bottoms Up! at Reef in Midtown, Bryan Caswell enters the room, tall and with the authority that marks him as one of Houston's most well-regarded chefs.
Although clearly busy in the kitchen as the dining room starts to fill for dinner, he patiently takes the time to join us behind the bar. He's no stranger to the camera — Caswell has been a competitor on The Next Iron Chef and the host of Best in Smoke.
Caswell, along with business partner Bill Floyd, comes up with many of the cocktail recipes for Reef. While the drink menu is wine-driven, with more than 450 wines from which to choose, the cocktail list was created with equal thought, with recipes that compliment the food. Thus you'll notice mostly clear drinks to go with fish and seafood. Plus Caswell likes acid so citric flavors usually beat out sweet.
Floyd and Caswell came up with recipe for Reef Lemonade just prior to opening the restaurant. They were working amongst all the construction and Floyd decided they needed a cold, refreshing beverage to beat the Houston heat. Good year-round, the lemonade is the restaurant's most popular cocktail followed closely by the San Remo, made with Enchanted Rock vodka, limoncello, cassis and lemon juice.
Thirst-quenching, light and loaded, the Reef Lemonade is quite tasty. Pair it with bites from the bar menu like a tomato and fresh mozzarella pizza or beef sliders — both under $10.
3rd Bar has taken off and continues to evolve. You'll be able to enjoy a Reef Lemonade pre-flight starting March 2013, when its sister location opens at Terminal B at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
2 oz Absolut Citron
2 oz thyme-infused lemon syrup*
3 lemon wedges
Splash of soda
Sprig of thyme
Muddle lemons by pressing them in the bottom of a mixing glass with a muddler. Add thyme-infused lemon syrup. Fill sugar-rimmed high ball glass with ice and add vodka. Add a splash of soda and a sprig of thyme.
*Thyme-infused Lemon Syrup
9 cups sugar
12 cups water
6 oz lemon thyme
Bring water and sugar to a boil then add coarsely chopped thyme. Remove from heat and let steep until cool. Strain through chinoise and mix 3:1 syrup and lemon juice.