Bar Review: Sanctuari Bar at Triniti Restaurant, Houston, TX

Triniti's Gunsmoke cocktail: mezcal, tequila, genepy, black pepper, roasted lemon juice, and a dried, candied lemon chip
Sanctuari’s Gunsmoke cocktail: mezcal, tequila, genepy, black pepper, roasted lemon juice, and a dried, candied lemon chip

It’s not often I go to fancy restaurants. It’s even more seldom that I go to fancy restaurants and plop down at the bar. But a friend had the idea that we would go to a hip restaurant and pretend we were a hip gay couple. Nevermind that we’re neither hip nor gay. Or a couple. Except maybe a couple of idiots.

So we ventured to Sanctuari, the swank bar inside Triniti restaurant. I don’t know what that part of Shepherd Drive is officially called, but I have always considered it Montrose, because I like Montrose. And I like Shepherd. So it works.

Sanctuari is nice. As far as cocktails and culinary creations, this place is one of the best in Houston. Andrew Taake was our bartender for the evening, and he did it right.

Gunsmoke and Spanish Fly

The Spanish Fly Cocktail
Sanctuari’s Spanish Fly cocktail, with rye, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Punt e. Mes, orange, and Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters.

I started off with the Gunsmoke cocktail, which features mezcal, tequila, genepy, black pepper, roasted lemon juice, and a dried, candied lemon chip. While it was underwhelming at first, it really grew on me. I was expecting more smoke from the mezcal, so I was at first disappointed at the lack of smokiness. But then the spiciness from the salt and pepper rim kept building in my mouth, and it became an absolutely fantastic drink. And the dried, candied lemon chip was perhaps the best part. I had never had anything like it. Lemon peel was always something to throw away. Not anymore. I must learn how to make this stuff.

My friend had the Spanish Fly, with rye, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Punt e. Mes, orange and Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters. I don’t remember what it tasted like. He liked it, but it wasn’t anything special.

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I don’t remember the name, but you must go and order whatever this is. Bacon, fig, blue cheese, and candied bacon drippings? Yes, please!

We also had a small plate of fig and blue cheese wrapped in bacon with candied bacon drippings. This stuff was incredible. Beyond belief. I had no idea the mixture of three incredible flavors could meld together to make something so much more. If you go, you must try it. I’m not kidding here. Go. Try it.

Fire and Brimstone and the Smoking Jacket

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The Fire and Brimstone, with mezcal espadin, St. George Spiced Pear, Ramazotti, simple syrup, and a cherry tobacco tincture.

The next round of cocktails was great, too. For me, the Fire and Brimstone, with mezcal espadin, St. George Spiced Pear, Ramazotti, simple syrup, and a cherry tobacco tincture. I am so glad Andrew recommended this drink because it was fabulous. Smokey and full of flavor with just the right amount of sweet. It went perfectly with the pecan pralines we had with it.

My friend’s Smoking Jacket was a sight to behold, though. The menu said it had cedar-scented Monkey Shoulder scotch, white port, Dolin Genepy, cherry tobacco tincture, and flamed apple bitters. But that description does not do it justice. Andrew lit a piece of cedar on fire and trapped it underneath the serving glass while he made the rest of the cocktail. Then he poured the cocktail into the prepared, still-smoking glass and flamed the bitters on top of the drink. Just watching him do it was worth the price of the cocktail. It was an alright drink, but the process was special. Make sure you sit at the bar when you order it, though. Ordering it from a table would be like watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show on your home TV. It’s just not the same thing.

Japanese Whisky

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The Yamazaki 12 year, and the Nikka Coffey Grain. One of the night’s highlights.

Finally, we tried the Yamazaki 12 year single malt whisky and the Nikka Coffey Grain whisky. I was familiar with the Yamazaki, and it’s a great whisky, but the Nikka Coffey Grain was a revelation to me. Never before have I had a whisky like this one.

Like bourbon, the Nikka Coffey Grain is sweet, with vanilla, butterscotch, and oak. But so smooth. So delicate. So texturally pleasing. It was a perfect whisky. I will be buying a bottle of this stuff, to be sure.

And it went well with the box of macaroons and chocolates. But heck, they were an afterthought. The cocktails and whisky were the show.

Overall, Sanctuari is one of the best restaurant bars in town. Everyone should spend at least one night sitting at the bar, pretending to be hip. And maybe gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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