Julep (julephouston.com) owner Alba Huerta has been proactive throughout the hardships of the pandemic. Closing Julep for over a year and shifting to on-the-go booze pop-up trucks in Houston, she managed to open Ready To Drink bottle shop, featuring 100 bottled cocktails and everything you need to curate them. In May, she reopened her beloved Washington Avenue Julep bar, making a spin and focusing on the narrative behind each cocktail.
“We’ve existed in a world where ingredients are globally sourced,” says Alba. “During the pandemic, we witnessed the breakdown of the supply chain—how quickly items arrive, what items are no longer available or less readily available, how prices have changed. Origin stories have always been important, but now the awareness of where ingredients come from and how they migrated here is crucial.”
Alba Huerta is constantly concocting her next big idea. PHOTO BY JENN DUNCAN
Tell me a bit about how Julep started. I opened Julep in 2014 to tell the story of the drinking culture in the South and provide a new cultural reference for the region. For example, bourbon, as much as I love it, is not the only spirit relevant to the South. Both rum and cognac have strong Southern roots. Julep celebrates all Southern flavors, but most of all, this bar is about hospitality.
What does it mean to be a bar owner emerging through the pandemic? The pandemic has challenged me in a way that’s helped me grow as a bar owner—every hurdle is a test in resourcefulness and resilience. I’m always up for a challenge. I’ve launched new ventures and businesses because of the pandemic. I opened Ready To Drink, my new bottled cocktail shop, during the pandemic—the laws have changed allowing me to do this. The Julep To Go truck has given folks throughout the Greater Houston area the opportunity to experience Julep now that we offer home delivery and catering. It’s been a really tough time for our industry, but there has also been opportunity to make the best of the situation.
What’s your favorite dish or drink on the menu? I love the Swimming Upstream cocktail. This drink is a liar’s cocktail, which means the ingredients you taste are not actually in the drink. I taste rosemary, but there’s no rosemary in this drink! This drink, instead of highlighting a migrant ingredient, represents the act of migration. The salmon color and the contradictory ingredients represent how salmon swim upstream and migrate to new places in order to survive.
This cocktail is a perfect example of how we think about drinks in a narrative form—not just putting ingredients in a glass.
SWIMMING UPSTREAM COCKTAIL
1 oz. tequila blanco
¾ oz. lime
½ oz. yellow chartreuse
½ oz. ginger syrup
½ oz. strawberry syrup
Shake all ingredients and fine strain in a coupe glass. Cheers!
PHOTO BY JENN DUNCAN