The latest cocktail menu at Julep is an ode to the sea and super cool ingredients.

By Jenny Adams
September 03, 2015
Credit: Julie Soefer

Alba Huerta is one of the most recognizable names in cocktails, earning her stripes at the noted establishment Anvil Bar & Refuge, before opening her own joint called Julep in The Heights neighborhood last August.

Inside the space, you can have a perfectly executed Manhattan or, fittingly, a julep. However, you’d be even better served by trying one of Alba’s stranger inventions. The cocktail menu at Julep showcases esoteric ingredients and interesting preparations, and her latest drink—The Low Country—even features toasted rice.

It’s just one drink on a full menu entitled Saltwater South, which boasts 10 drinks—all based around both the briny restorative essence of the sea and the common flavors of Southern port towns, from New Orleans to Charleston to her own Houston.

“I wanted to launch this menu right in the middle of summer,” she says. “It’s over 100 degrees in Texas right now, and this weather leads people to crave salt and high acidity.”

The sought-after Low Country starts with Carolina Gold rice, which first surfaced in Charleston prior to the Civil War and has since been resurrected by Anson Mills. Huerta toasts the raw rice grains to bring out a flavor she compares to roasted corn or popcorn. She then creates a flavorful, chalky rice milk using Novo Fogo cachaça—a Brazilian cane-sugar-based spirit.

“I’m Mexican and we make Horchata as a staple in my culture,” she explains. “If you grow up in Texas, you’re familiar with the flavor of Horchata because it’s just part of every day life here. I liked this idea because it brought together the flavors of both South Carolina and south Texas in a new way. The Novo Fogo and rice combine to bring out these tropical flavors of papaya and banana in the finished drink that are really amazing.”

The Low Country also calls for absinthe and fresh lime and is served over crushed ice in a goblet, with a sprinkle of grated cinnamon.

“It’s definitely one of our most popular on this menu,” she says. “It looks like a Tiki drink. It drinks like a Tiki drink, and there’s a distinct, tropical, Piña Colada-like thing going on. I think it gets a lot of love because it has textures and elements you want in this high heat, dehydrating environment. Depending on the weather, I’ll keep the Saltwater South menu on until late October or possibly even Thanksgiving.”