When it comes to being in the know about the hottest drink trends, there’s no doubt that 20-year craft cocktail veteran Michael Neff is an expert.
Neff has established himself as a key figure on the cocktail scene with a standout resume that includes impressive stints at several Los Angeles and New York hotspots, including LA's Clifton’s Cafeteria and The Three Clubs, and New York’s The Rum House, Le Zinc, Ward III and Tribe.
Neff, who currently splits his time between the East and West Coasts and serves as beverage director at New York's Holiday Cocktail Lounge, will make an appearance in Houston Monday night at downtown’s Reserve 101 for a holiday pop-up event (from 7 pm – 2 am) benefiting local non-profit, Lucky Dog Rescue. We asked the barman and drink guru which boozy movements should be on our radar.
From refined cocktails to bold flavors, below is your guide to five notable drink trends — and where to find them on menus around town.
Trending: Alongside solid drinks, cool surroundings and a killer playlist are a must, ensuring the good times will roll.
Where to go: No-frill whiskey bar Reserve 101 makes it happen. The combination of a come-as-you-are atmosphere, a lively playlist and an eclectic crowd ranging from students and oil executives to athletes and rock stars, plus a roster of more than 340 whiskeys and several must-try cocktails like the Smash and Grab, a riff on a whiskey smash (St. George Breaking & Entering bourbon muddled with strawberries, blueberries, mint and honey) make hitting up this downtown spot a no-brainer.
Tip: Seek counsel from the drink-savvy staff when it comes to narrowing down your options.
Less is More
Trending: Complex drink combinations are going to the wayside in favor of more refined, three-ingredient cocktails.
Where to go: Speakeasy-inspired Prohibition Supperclub & Bar presents nostalgic American food and drinks, including the can't-miss Bellows Negroni (tea-infused vermouth, aperitif and gin).
Trending: Ordering straight-up liquor such as mezcal and generational favorite, whiskey, is on-trend.
Where to go: The easy vibe, festive Mexican decor (including a skull-laden ceiling mural) and 150 agave spirits at The Pastry War make the downtown spot the perfect setting to throw back a little mezcal, tequila's smoky and in-demand cousin. We recommend the Siembra Metl (fruit notes are balanced by the perfect amount of smokiness).
Trending: Bartenders are making their own fruit and herb infused-syrups and shrubs.
Where to go: While you probably already know that the kitchen at the upscale French restaurant Etoile Cuisine et Bar serves up updated, composed versions of old-school Gallic favorites, you may not know that the bar here offers standout cocktails like the Vodka Cranberry (made with a house-made cranberry and lime oleo shrub that's spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).
Big and Bold
Trending: Bold flavors like tinctures [concentrated alcohol infusion] are being added to the mix, amping up the taste level of your drink.
Where to go: Laid-back bar and grill Wooster’s Garden boasts 49 craft beers, wine and seasonal cocktails like the Dancing Embers (French gin, lime cordial (concentrated lime and sugar), celery bitters, orange bitters and a roasted white peppercorn tincture).