If anything is certain about 2020, it’s that just about every adult has earned a drink or two. In The Heights, a luxurious new bar has opened with close to 350 whiskeys lining its shelves.
Permission Whiskey (2920 White Oak Dr.) is the neighborhood’s newest drinking (and eating) destination. Proprietor Peter Nolan tells CultureMap he came by his love for bourbon honestly — he attended high school near the Woodford Reserve distillery before attending the University of Kentucky. Once in Houston, he spent six years as the general manager of Federal Grill, where he worked alongside owner Matt Brice to make the restaurants one of the city’s prime destinations for whiskey drinkers.
All of that passion and knowledge has been utilized to create Permission. Patrons will find an extensive bourbon selection, grouped by distillery (natch), that includes all of the familiar names as well as the sort of recent releases that collectors spend hours chasing down (or hundreds buying online), including coveted bourbons from Weller, Blanton’s, and E.H. Taylor. The selection also includes Irish, Scotch, and Japanese whiskys. A tidy selection of aged rums, 20-plus gins, and over 30 agave spirits are also available.
Permission’s cocktail menu offers a mix of classics like the Bensonhurst and the Boulevardier with a few house originals, all of which are designed to be made and served quickly. A “secret” menu features more elaborate preparations such as a smoked Old Fashioned.
“All of our cocktails are boozy. We’re not too big on amaros and homemade syrups and that kind of thing,” Nolan says. “We shoot whiskey and we drink Champagne. It’s kind of a vintage, roaring ’20s style party.”
That vintage vibe extends to the bar’s design, which has completely transformed the former convenience store. Nolan sourced antique chandeliers from New Orleans, green velvet for chairs and couches, and stained the bar’s shelves with Angostura bitters. The word “plush” comes to mind, and that isn’t a term he objects to.
“‘Plush’ is a word you could say the chairs are, and ‘plush’ is a word you can say the service is,” Nolan says. “That’s a good way to feel like you’re taken care of. You sink into a chair, and you’re, like, I’m here now.”
That experience is how Nolan wants to differentiate Permission from some of the other establishments on White Oak. Patrons receive full service, complete with filtered water and an optional hot towel on arrival. Those who are in a celebratory mood can open bottles of champagne — paired with raw oysters from Prince Edward Island — or splurge on pours of rare bourbon. Feeling more low key? Opt for a charcuterie board and a cocktail or two. Desserts, including a green Chartreuse-chocolate tart, round out the food offerings.
Not that Nolan wants to be snobby or exclusive. “We’re not uptight. We carry two kinds of White Claw,” he notes.
Still, those who want to leverage the bar’s relationships to source rare spirits might consider renting a locker. For $1,200 a year plus the cost of the bottle, Permission will keep the spirit on hand for the private enjoyment of the customer and their friends.
To comply with capacity limits and social distancing requirements, Permission currently offers seating for approximately 40 people. That will expand in a couple of week when its patio is finished. Permission opens Tuesday through Sunday at 4 pm. Reservations available via Instagram DM.