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1919: the adoration of alcohol

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Bartender Stephan Mendez shakes and stirs at 1919.

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Despite the exciting transfusion of new blood in recent years that has ushered into Southtown the Friendly Spot, Monterey, Liberty Bar, Feast, Bliss, Alamo Street Eat-Bar, to name a few, there's nothing else quite like 1919, a new outfit serving high-end classic cocktails in the basement of the Blue Star Arts Complex. 1919 is located in a space that has almost always been vacant — the only previous business I can remember was a doomed coffee shop that seemed thrown together and didn't last long. So I considered the space somewhat cursed and suitable only for community puppet theater, so to speak.

Walking into 1919 is like walking into a dark movie theater. As your pupils dilate, you'll notice a bar that is so long it seems to rival that of the Esquire. The bar is the bar. There are very few tables otherwise. Behind said bar is an impressive wall of liquor that stretches just about to Bulverde. Impressive. This is a place for pure alcohol worship. Unlike most drinking establishments where you sit at your table, possibly check out the other patrons, and dumb yourself down by playing with your smartphone, 1919 demands you drink, talk to your neighbors, and mainly admire all the alcohol. The irony is that the name 1919 is a subtle but unmistakable allusion to the year 1919 … the year prohibition started.

There is a high level of creativity and invention here that transcends the legacy of the early 20th century recipes (and the unofficial requirement that bartenders dress like magicians). Many of the drinks have a floral component and can be quite complex. Old standards are often re-invented. It's a lot to pull off.

For those who don't want to pay $9 for a cocktail (average price) there is a great beer selection with quality options from European to our own Texas craft brews. In fact, there were several outstanding options for just $5. Unless prohibition returns, I expect 1919 to be a favorite for a long time.

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