You’ll find Reserve 101 across the street from the House of Blues in downtown Houston, right on the corner, where the HoB’s enormous neon sign blares through the window. It might be enough to distract you from the place you’ve stepped into, a small bar that just so happens to have the largest whiskey collection in the city, if not the state.
With 350 whiskeys on the menu, there’s a little something here for any taste, and owner Mike Raymond took a few hours out of his evening to show us just that. I’d arrived with my sister and brother-in-law, the latter of whom wanted to learn about whiskey. The deep dive Raymond took him down, from Scotch to Irish to American styles, probably did the poor guy in. Our final sample, a barrel pick of Balcones Single Malt, commemorating Reserve 101’s 10th anniversary, was of particular interest (if, as with most Balcones releases, still an acquired taste).
In the snug of the Reserve, Raymond gave an impromptu class in the differences between single malts and blends, what single grain whiskey was, and how peat and wood got into the act. After sipping plenty of whiskey, we tried a few impromptu cocktails — and I’m happy to announce that Reserve’s jumbo-sized old fashioned, made with mole bitters (this is Texas, after all) and the bar’s barrel pick of Maker’s Mark, was one of the best I’ve ever had.
While Reserve 101 is downtown location makes it difficult to be a true “local,” it still has the feeling of an intimate bar with a friendly staff and a bar book worth a deep dive. I know I’ll be back.