Drink Up

Fun-loving British bartender turns a Houston hotspot into a hotbed of history — and crazy drinks

Fun-loving British bartender turns a Houston hotspot into a hotbed

Mongoose Versus Cobra bar Houston people at bar with bartender
Photo by © Shannon O'Hara/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Bottom's Up, Mongoose versus Cobra, Roy Orbison, coctail, October 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Bottom's Up, Mongoose versus Cobra, Angostura Bitters, October 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Mongoose Versus Cobra bar Houston people at bar with bartender
Bottom's Up, Mongoose versus Cobra, Roy Orbison, coctail, October 2012
Bottom's Up, Mongoose versus Cobra, Angostura Bitters, October 2012

History comes naturally at Mongoose Versus Cobra. The revamped building dates back to 1915 and was formerly a residence, grocery store, auto repair shop, printing and stationary shop and post office.

Nowadays, one can get a drink and a history lesson there instead every week. They call it Imperial Andy's Historical Cocktail Tuesdays.

The bar, located in Midtown with a large first floor beer hall, small second floor lounge, front sidewalk outdoor seating and an extensive selection of craft beers and spirits, is popular with the after-work crowd. And for those who love history.

If you've spent time there, you know the drink-and-learn experience's namesake — bartender Andy Charlton.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Charlton moved to Houston with his wife, a native Houstonian, a few years back. Although he had industry experience, the personable bartender did not have a broad arsenal of cocktail knowledge. He elaborates, charming accent free flowing, "In the UK, if you work in a pub, you don't really make cocktails.

  "In the UK, if you work in a pub, you don't really make cocktails."

A theme day seemed like a good way to expand and learn about various drinks and recipes.”

There’s a new lesson each week based upon true events that happened on that Tuesday's date in history. Charlton's fun-loving, bold character is manifested by his selection of entertaining history lessons (the more outlandish the better) and adventurous cocktails.

One of the historic stories he's already spotlighted is the tale of Earl K. Long’s institutionalization. Long's wife and political rivals locked him away citing that he suffered from schizophrenia. Due to a loophole in the Louisiana constitution, however, Long remained the active governor despite the confines of his padded cell. He fired the hospital director and replaced him with a friend, thus securing his release.

Historical lesson in place, Charlton went to work coming up with a fitting cocktail list. “I tweak and adopt various cocktail recipes that I find in apps, books, etc., and give them a Mongoose twist. It takes time, but for me, it’s the best part," he says.

The inspired $8 cocktails that resulted from the work? The Governor, celebrating Long's tenure in office; the Lunatic, highlighting the cause of Long's demise; the Louisianian Asylum, honoring Long's new home; and Old Boy's Club, recognizing Long's means of release.

That's called making learning fun. Imperial Andy's Historical Cocktail Tuesdays run all day every Tuesday at Mongoose Versus Cobra.