Chris Frankel, one of Houston’s most knowledgeable (and likable) bartenders, finally has a place of his own. Spare Key opened its doors this past weekend, and the crowds followed. Eater spoke with Frankel yesterday about his best sellers, the growing Midtown neighborhood, and what the Tinder dating app has to do with his cocktail menu.
How did it go? Our opening weekend at Spare Key had a great turnout, and it made me happy to see how excited people were about us and about Midtown's bar and restaurant scene in general. There have been some really strong new concepts opening up in the neighborhood, and I think a lot of people are paying attention to the neighborhood now.
Was there anything in particular that people seemed to want to drink over the weekend? Our best selling drink this weekend was a stiff, classically-styled whiskey cocktail called the Tinder Box. It consists of bourbon, Bual Madeira, maraschino liqueur, Pimm's #1, and orange bitters. The name is a bit of an in-joke about the dating app Tinder, and I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of people ordered it for that reason. But it's still delicious if you're a whiskey drinker, so no complaints there.
Your approach seems to be a mingling of tradition and experimentation. On our menu, I made a point to encourage people to go beyond the written selections, tell us what they like and dislike, and trust us to put together a drink tailored to their tastes. I love doing it for customers because it shows them that not only are we capable of making great drinks, we also care about hearing what they want and giving them something that fits that.
Visit Spare Key from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday. —James Brock