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Cocktail of the Week: The Brave and Pliny’s Tonic, Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston

Every time I tried to order “The Brave” at Anvil, the epicenter of craft cocktails in Houston on a randomly culinary dense stretch of Westheimer in a very residential neighborhood, the bartender would ask if I really wanted it. Am I brave enough? Can I handle it? It’s 96 degrees and humid…and you want this?

I hesitated at first, instead going a safer route. But I’m brave…or at least with cocktails. I love mezcal and I’d trust anything created by Anvil’s co-owner Bobby Heugel. I enjoyed a drink recently in San Francisco called “None but the Brave,” so this shouldn’t be a problem. None but the brave could enjoy that drink and it has been one of my favorites of the year. I’m brave enough. Right?

My final Houston drink was indeed “The Brave.”

The Brave on the right

What a sensory experience. Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Hacienda del Sotol Plata, Averna amaro, and a barspoon of Combier Royal get combined in a large red wine glass without ice. Swirl the drink like examining a 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon. Then three small mists of Angostura bitters are added to the inside of the glass in an evenly distributed manner. Then don’t swirl the glass! Instead, flame an orange skin, rub it around the rim, and immediately serve.

Then you as the recipient immediately must inhale the fireworks of perfume coming forth. You’ll tear up a bit from the spice of the mezcal. You’ll smell acres of orange orchards on fire. You hear your friend next to you applauding the bartender for this masterpiece presentation. You feel…brave.

The taste is smooth, elegant, and slightly strong. The mezcal’s smoke is very apparent, but tamed by bitter amaro. Everything compliments the other ingredients. It’s as stellar a cocktail you’ll find. No wonder it’s the house cocktail at one of the country’s leading cocktail dens.

You don’t have to be brave to enjoy this…just as brave as yours truly is!

Pliny’s Tonic on the left

But it’s hard to resist at Anvil the “Pliny’s Tonic,” a seductive, refreshing blend of gin, lime, cucumber, and mint…nice and easy summer drinking. Wait, is the bartender adding some habanero tincture. You bet. It’s just the right amount of burn, just like the right amount of mezcal in “The Brave.”

Both drinks are marvels. They are roller coaster rides, but like any great roller coaster ride (or cocktail), you just want another spin. Or…at least the brave ones do…

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