The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2018

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Page 22 of 100

22  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2018 W ith a foundation in hospitality and an affinity for history and travel, veteran Texas barman Houston Eaves channeled his passions to secure his current post as Beverage Director at three of San Antonio's most famous drinking and dining establishments. Ask almost any concierge in town where to experience true San Antonio tradition, and you'll likely hear these names: The Esquire Tavern, which opened in December 1933 to celebrate the end of Prohibition; The Esquire's new wine- and oyster- focused sister bar, Downstairs; and the merry El Mirador, a Mexican eatery known for its soup and Margaritas since its debut in 1968. With Eaves' business sense and service-focused philosophy, the three spaces further their own legacies by highlighting time-honored producers and methods dating back hundreds of years. Under Eaves' tutelage, The Esquire—which has earned two James Beard Award nominations since its restoration in 2011—now boasts "upwards of 600 bottles of hand-chosen things that are really special," he says. "I did a lot of tasting and research," Eaves adds. "I'm proud to operate a bar on the River Walk that pulls in millions of dollars in annual sales while directly impact- ing a number of family producers." While naming the formative moments of his career, Eaves recalls his teenage years spent working at his dad's deli in St. Louis, Missouri; the foundation in hospitality he built during his tenure at Hyatt Hotels; and his time spent managing a "tiny, raw-foodist ecolodge" in Costa Rica. He then bounced from Argentina to Austin, Mexico, and San Antonio, all the while diving deeper into the history of alcohol and how "civiliza- tion aligned with the discovery of fermentation and distillation." Eaves says his heart belongs to agave—tequila and sotol, yes, but especially mezcal, which he credits for opening his eyes to the anthro- pological side of spirits. In 2014, he spent six months working for small- batch producer Mezcal Vago, splitting his time between The Esquire and the agave-studded mountains of southern Oaxaca. He's currently involved with an organization called the Tequila Interchange Project, which advocates for the preservation of sustainable, traditional production practices, and also frequently hosts Mexican mezcaleros at educational events across Texas. "It's great to think about the genera- tional knowledge passed down from the great producers, whether they make mezcal, Sherry, Cognac, wine, beer . . . just about every category," Eaves says. "These are people working with the plants that surround them and figuring out how to make alcohol that tastes delicious." Freelance writer and agave lover Lori Moffatt covered Texas travel top- ics for more than two decades at Texas Highways, the state's award-winning monthly travel magazine. When she's not writing about cocktails, wine, art, and pop culture from her home in Austin, she's traveling, making art, and practicing Spanish. TEXAS BARMAN HOUSTON EAVES CHANNELS HIS LOVE OF HISTORY INTO HIS PASSION FOR SPIRITS story and photo by Lori Moffatt When Opportunity Knocks "I'm proud to be able to look at the bottles we have and put a face to just about every single one," says Houston Eaves, Beverage Director of The Esquire Tavern, Downstairs, and El Mirador in San Antonio, TX.

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