Between Bayou & Bottle and Toro Toro, visitors to the Four Seasons Houston already have two very comfortable options for eating and drinking. Recently, the luxurious hotel added an intimate new option sure to appeal to those looking for an even more exclusive experience.
Dubbed Bandista, the new cocktail bar offers a speakeasy-style environment with an ambitious cocktail program that's high on photo-worthy presentations. Only open Thursday-Saturday, reservations are required — or they will be once word gets out. It's the latest addition to a the downtown hotel that completed a dramatic series of renovations last year.
While a traditional speakeasy probably wouldn’t offer reservations via Tock, the Four Seasons does quite a bit to up the drama. First, a staff member escorts customers upstairs via a service elevator and then leads them to what looks like a conference room with a bookcase. Entering a code unlocks a hidden door that provides access to the dimly lit, two-room space that consists of an eight-seat bar and an adjacent lounge.
Once seated, the focus shifts to the cocktails, which are divided into classics and more modern creations. Created by bar manager Jonathan Jones (Anvil, MAD), the cocktails use premium spirits, such as a Manhattan made with WhistlePig 12-year rye. Using these kind of ingredients means the prices are higher than almost any other bar in Houston ($23-45), which means Jones and his team have to create some really memorable cocktails that highlight each spirit's best qualities.
“These are really incredible spirits, which have earned their stellar reputations. I don't want to take away from that,” Jones writes in an email. “For instance, we've got The Viking Funeral on our menu, which uses Highland Park 15-year Viking Heart, which has these incredible hints of pineapple and honey. The whole drink is based around those flavors, but done in a really fun and unexpected way.”
Other drinks feature fanciful presentations, such as one that’s smoked in a glass container with a ship inside. The drink’s blue color combines with the smoke to make it look like the ship is sailing in a foggy ocean.
“I think that's one of the things about Bandista that will surprise our guests,” Jones adds. “Yes, it's an exclusive place with the top talent in town, but it's also fun, relaxed, and unexpected.”
While the focus is squarely on the house cocktails — those who want a vodka tonic or a beer will be happier at Bayou & Bottle — Bandista also offers half-sized bottles of wine and a selection of premium spirits that are served neat (or on the rocks). The most expensive, a one-and-a-half ounce pour of Macallan Fine And Rare 1950, costs $8,000.
Maybe Bandista isn't an ideal happy hour option, but the ambition and creativity should draw plenty of interest. Besides, given the athletes and visiting celebrities who regularly stay at the Four Seasons, one never knows who might stop by for a nightcap.