One of Houston's newest cocktail bars, Mongoose Versus Cobra also has one of the best bar names in history, bar none. They also have a great draught beer program and some amazing cocktails. I went there last night for the first time, and I will definitely be back. The cocktails rival any of the best bars out there.
The building itself is part of the fun. It's an old one, a grocery store dating back to 1915, but Mongoose Versus Cobra has transformed the space into a work of art. They have recovered the brick work on the interior and used wood to highlight the brick and metals featured throughout. The huge fan, and I do mean huge, covers the entire ceiling, making it look like the ceiling is undulating.
Then there is the bar. Lots of liquors, sure, but there is also a glass case where you see some kind of experiment going on in glass vials. Not really: it's part of their draft beer selection, but it looks cool, and it highlights the unusual space itself. Frankenstein could be in development back there.
I love beer, but on this night, we went for the cocktails. On another night, I will try several of their draught beer selections, but first, I had to try the liquors. I asked what they were known for or what they could make me that was boozy and distinctive, and the guy told me that they infuse their own whiskey for their take on the Manhattan.
So I tried it, of course. It's a Chamomile Manhattan with Rittenhouse 100 Rye whiskey that has been infused with chamomile tea. They use just the perfect amount of vermouth and bitters to make a Manhattan that is truly just right. The chamomile tea doesn't really come through, but somehow it is smoother than a typical Manhattan, even though it uses the Rittenhouse 100. It must be the chamomile. And they serve it over a large block of ice with a lemon peel, which added the right finishing touches.
My friend had the Gin Rikki, which was good, too. They used Old Tom Gin and added lemon and soda to make a surprisingly balanced Rickey. The extra sweetness from the Old Tom Gin worked well.
Then I went for the Roy Orbison, a mixture of bitters, lemon, sugar, and egg white. They dry shake the egg white and then add ice separately. I love bitters, and this drink was spot on. Similar to the Bitters Bitters from Grand Prize Bar in Houston, the Roy Orbison highlights the bitters even more because it doesn't add any additional liquors. Top notch.
My friend tried the Mexican Penicillin, an up-drink with smoky Vida Mezcal and Xtabentun, a Mexican liqueur I had never heard of. It's a sweet liqueur made with honey with some anise, as well, and the touch of it in the drink gave it a complexity that mixed well with the smokiness of the Mezcal.
Overall, Mongoose Versus Cobra is one of the best cocktail bars in town. The number of amazing beers on the wall was impressive, too. And don't forget that they have Fernet Branca on tap. So if you eat a bit too much and want to settle your stomach, order a cool glass. That stuff never disappoints.