Houston’s New Diversion Bar is Making Cocktails Theatrical Again
As we peek our heads up over the quarantine parapets, we accept that the ways in which we will be re-acclimating will be riddled with uncertainty and indecision – even where it concerns merely returning to the everyday experiences that characterized our lives before the March 2020 lockdowns. Yet bars and restaurants really do need our patronage right now, and we certainly need them to feed our famished souls.
One thing we do know: we want our next epicurean adventures to be, well…adventurous. With all respect to the classic bistros and corner bars, what we are actually looking for most after 14-months of epicurean deprivation, is something unforgettable, and, let’s face it, eminently Instagrammable. Whether it’s new “destination” restaurants like Napa’s North Block, or possibly life-changing new prix-fixe experiences like Reserve at Amor y Amargo in New York, we are seeking the exceptional, as a way to make up for a year-plus of crushing monotony.
One such place that will surely be worth traveling for is Houston‘s new Diversion bar, part of the much-buzzed about new Degust and Diversion partnership in the city’s Spring Branch neighborhood. The former is an ideological new restaurant from Chef Brandon Silva (who even did time at Copenhagen‘s noma), while the latter is its correlative cocktail spot from Steven Salazar – with both following a corresponding set of lofty principles regarding interior design, sustainability and experiential immersion. Salazar, a Houstonian with a Spanish/Aztec heritage, is the former Beverage Director of Kata Robata, and here has injected the drinks menu at Diversion with a unabashedly theatrical flair. If not literally art, his creations are spectacularly artful, yet also amusingly playful.
Admirably, the tipples have minimalist, anti-cutesy names (there are way too many cutely named cocktails right now) like Bourbon #1, Gin #1, Tiki #1…and are classified as “boozy,” “refreshing,” and, in the case of Amaro #1, “bitter-sweet.” All are perfectly pairable with a menu of Barcelona/Texas-influenced Pintxos. But there are also what he has intriguingly labeled “Immersive Cocktails,” which are arguably experiences unto themselves, as much as they are just drinks.
So we naturally asked him to offer us a little insight behind the inspirations for the latter. And though most of the drinks at Diversion are just a tad too intricate to be made at home, he was kind enough to share the recipe for his Tequila #2.
But we vigorously recommend making the trip to experience Diversion firsthand, then popping next door for the sort of life-changing meal we once took for granted.
Diversion Immersive Cocktails
The first breakfast I ever “cooked” for myself was in preschool. I climbed onto the counter to get a box of cereal off the top of the fridge, then poured and splashed a heavy gallon of milk into the bowl and onto the table. My favorites were Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops. Here we offer a 21-and-over version of your classic leftover cereal milk with familiar flavors. Our milk is flavored with Cornflakes, cinnamon caviar floats in the cocktail and through your straw, and some breakfast granola is served alongside.
Day at the Beach (pictured topmost)
Tiki inspired; the mug is an edible dark chocolate shell, the bubbles are Texas Meyer lemon surf foam, the sand is edible salted shortbread crumble, and the aroma reminds you of a day at the beach. Complete nostalgia without the sunburning.
Espumante and Caviar
When only luxury will do, order yourself some bubbles and caviar. This is the perfect start to any evening ever. We sweet pickle strawberries from local Texas farms, preserving them for the year. Then we make a champagne cocktail with Portuguese bubbles and the vinegar from the pickles. We dry the pickle into a candy and serve caviar on top as a perfect bite paired with the cocktail.
Recipe by Steven Salazar, Bar Chef/owner of Diversion
50ml tequila blanco
30ml Texas peach cordial
25ml citric acid tincture
25ml simple syrup (2:1)
Large rocks glass
Rim glass with citrus powder
Top 15 ml cabernet sauvignon
Add citrus powder to rim of large rocks glass Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Strain in to large rocks glass
top with crushed ice
top with 15ml cabernet
For the peach cordial, we use ripe Texas peaches and a potato vodka base. We currently use Texas peaches from the summer of 2020 from Lightsey Farms preserved in a cordial state. Mathilde Peach from the liquor store is a substitute for home. Our citrus powder is from the peels of our Texas winter citrus from 2020, dehydrated and powdered, mixed with salt and sugar. At home, you can use salt or sugar rim, your preference. Our simple syrup ratio is 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of hot water, never boiled, gently melted. Our Citric acid tincture is a blend of citric acid powder and water. Lemon juice is a close substitute for home.