Rapidly Expanding Restaurant Group Debuts New Houston Bar at Relocated Distillery

True Texas Old-Fashioned at Old Tom Gin Bar.

Night Moves Hospitality hit the ground running in 2021, creating three brand new concepts — Space Cowboy, Trash Panda Drinking Club and Chivos — and revitalizing a shuttered Live Oak Grill in Spring Branch. Owner Greg Perez and company are continuing the string of new openings in 2022 with its fifth concept, Old Tom Gin Bar.

Old Tom Gin Bar, named for a mildly sweetened spirit, is located at 3831 Golf in the Garden Oaks area. The address also serves as the new home of Avonak Distillery and tasting room, which was previously in northeast Houston. Avonak Distillery owns the tasting room, but it is managed by Night Moves. The spirits served are exclusively made on-premise. 

Avonak Bourbon at the Old Tom Bar
Avonak Bourbon served at Old Tom Gin Bar. Photo by Ryan Baker.

In many cases, distilleries often offer only a limited selection of spirits. For the time being, Avonak’s tasting room has five: a vodka, two bourbons and two gins. However, Perez plans to extend the selection. “I’m working on an Old Tom gin recipe, looking into sourcing agave distillates [used for making spirits such as tequila] and making our own amaros and liqueurs.” In the future, Perez expects to offer unique spirits and cocktails that can only be found at the distillery.

This smaller selection of base spirits allows for bar manager Erick Velazquez to dial in the cocktails, and Houston Food Finder was invited to try some of the results. The bulk of the drink menu is comprised of 11 classic cocktails, including the whiskey sour, old-fashioned and julep, as well as three types of martini variations (classic, dry and lemon drop). In addition to tried and true classics, Old Tom has six house cocktails that are twists on classics, such as the True Texas Old-Fashioned, with brown butter fat-washed bourbon, toasted pecan turbinado syrup and black walnut bitters. The fat wash adds body, giving the drink more a substantial feeling, while the toasted pecans and choice of walnut bitters add layers of flavor to the drink. For the vibrant red Berry Berry Crazy, the bar combines a shrub made from mixed berries with housemade orgeat, lemon and vodka. This balanced cocktail showcases the fruit’s tart flavors instead of relying heavily on sweetness.  

Great Divide Gin and Tonic.
Great Divide Gin and Tonic at Old Tom Gin Bar. Photo by Ryan Baker.

The house cocktail menu also features two gin and tonics, such as the Winter G&T and The Great Divide uses the distillery’s citrus-forward Fifty9 gin, which is infused with cucumber and strawberry, and blends it with lime, Mediterranean tonic and citrus-coriander sherbert. 

Velazquez took particular care in the aesthetics of many of the menu’s cocktails; the True Texas Old-Fashioned is a soft amber color, and The Great Divide is garnished with fresh-cut strawberries, juniper berries, and even features slices of cucumber frozen within an ice sphere.

Unlike the other openings from Night Moves, Old Tom Bar does not have a full kitchen. Starting in February, chef Adriana Maldonado of Caluma Tacos will be running regular pop-ups at the distillery. The initial menu will feature birria, both as tacos and served in tapatío ramen. The chef is also serving two signature tacos, including the Korean Taco, with carnitas braised in Spindletap Calavera beer, shredded red cabbage, fresh jalapeño, shredded carrot and pickled cucumber with ginger-soy sauce. With the carrots and pickles, the taco feels more like a play on a Vietnamese banh mi than a Korean dish, but it’s tasty nonetheless. The aroma from the ginger is immediately noticeable as the plate approaches, and when you bite into the taco, there’s a slight hint of spice from the jalapeño as well as crispness from the ginger.

The Caluma Taco at Old Tom Gin Bar.
The Caluma Taco at Old Tom Gin Bar. Photo by Ryan Baker.

There is also the pop-up’s namesake Caluma Taco, made with flour tortillas layered with fried cheese, chicken tinga, shredded red cabbage, jalapeño cream, pico de gallo and fresh jalapeño. The chicken, dressed in the aforementioned jalapeño cream, is well-seasoned, allowing it to stand out with all of the other strong flavors present in the taco. Maldonado is also working on reinventing Space Cowboy’s menu.

The gin bar is more subtly decorated than Space Cowboy or Trash Panda, with only a handful of aging barrels and several pieces of art hanging from the walls. The floor is spacious, and the tables are comfortably spread out. The open space lends itself well for the company’s plan to use it as an event space in the future.

Old Tom Gin Bar is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

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