Alba Huerta

Mixologist

Alba Huerta’s been putting the craft in ‘craft cocktail’ since 2009. Born in Mexico, Alba emigrated to Houston at an early age where she discovered her love of mixology. She’s been making cocktails ever since, and has spent the past 15 years working at revered cocktail spots like the mezcaleria Pastry War and Anvil Bar & Refuge, a legendary cocktail lounge credited with introducing the craft cocktail to Houston. “It was a bigger risk at that time — to say you wanted to bartend or open a bar,” says Alba. “No one was writing about cool cocktails or anything. But it’s the only job I’ve ever had.”

You can think of her as the patron saint of Southern spirits, a passionate mixologist painting a tale of the American South with cobblers and crustas. Her passion for creating drinks that celebrated the South led to her being named Bartender of the Year by Imbibe Magazine in 2014 while her namesake restaurant, Julep, has netted her coverage in every food publication from The New York Times to Bon Appetit. A true culinary ambassador, she helped found and served as president of the Houston chapter of the US Bartenders Guild and is on the board of the Southern Foodways Alliance. She’s also the author of Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned, a Southern inspired cocktail recipe book, and is a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist.

Why We Love Alba Huerta

A drink with Alba is the perfect remedy for a long day, the kind of trip down memory lane you never knew you could experience in a glass. Alba’s hospitality and compassionate nature makes us feel at home whenever we’re with her. She’s able to transport us anywhere in the world in just a few sips, a mixology muse that’s forever inspiring us with her creativity and dedication to her craft.

“My responsibility as your bartender — and as your personal drinking guide — is to let you know what's out there in the world.”

“I’m an immigrant, and I think that’s a big part of why the American South calls me...in Houston I always felt included. I got to grow up in a city that was very multicultural and constantly culturally changing, and I see a lot of that in the new American South.”

6 Questions with Alba Huerta

  1. You started preparing cocktails before you were the drinking age. But you were preparing drinks much earlier than that, right?

    For me aguas frescas mean having a celebration! When we were kids in Mexico, you celebrated kid’s day in April. But in most of the states, there was Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but no kid’s day! So in my neighborhood, we started one on the last day of April. And it’d be my responsibility to bring cantaloupe fresca.

  2. In what ways do you travels give you ideas for your work?

    I once fell in love with an hibiscus tonic in Madrid. I came back home and I was doing a a tequila tonic named after a Juarez newspaper that began during the Civil War… and I was like, man, I got to make this pretty. So I used the hibiscus tonic… You don’t know when you’ll deal those things in your pocket. As long as I experience it, I’ll remember it.

  3. What's helped you become so successful as a mixologist?

    I’ve always been an experiential learner. To have that creative muscle working, there’s a constant absorption of your surroundings. I also feel that comes from being an immigrant. That taught me to constantly be influenced by my surroundings. To understand a new place and a new language.

  4. Why do so many people confuse mezcal and tequila?

    Just because they come from the same place doesn’t mean they’re the same thing! Mezcal has been around for a very long time. The reason for its popularity lately is individual – and not necessarily related to tequila. It’s because it’s created in a way that really exemplifies the soul of Mexico.

  5. What role does Houston play in what you do?

    There’s never a moment lost in Houston where we’re lacking creative influences. It’s very diverse, and also a southern city that welcomes a large amount of diverse culture. My restaurant Julep has a sense of belonging to its environment. It belongs to the south, and also a city that’s very diverse.

  6. You just did an apprenticeship on perfume in Israel? Why perfume?

    It has the same basis of craft. And as long as there is a craft involved, my brain is all over it. What I learned from perfume that I was tasting a lot of things without actually drinking them. And that was fascinating to me. I couldn’t let it go. It’s just my love right now.

Oaxaca with Alba Huerta

One Departure Only | March 5 - 14, 2020

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