Houston native Sarah Crowl-Keck is a staple of the city’s bar scene. She began her bartending career by working simultaneously at local landmarks Anvil Bar and 13 Celsius wine bar. After a few more stops at Haven, Uchi, and AQUI, Crowl-Keck found her home at Coltivare, the award-winning Italian-accented restaurant in The Heights.
As bar manager, Crowl-Keck’s enthusiasm for cocktails is front and center. She regularly introduces fresh takes on classic drinks, like her Fancy Gin & Tonic, made with Seedlip VJOP and Amere Nouvelle French liqueur; or the Toddy Train, which we’d love to hop on. She’s also pioneered the restaurant’s zero-proof cocktail program.
Crowl-Keck found time for VinePair to dish on the drinks she’d kill and kill to drink, and pour her heart out for the city she loves.
1. What’s your desert-island drink?
If water isn’t an option then, ironically, it would be a Paper Plane (equal parts bourbon, amaro, Aperol, fresh lemon juice). Somehow, I discovered this classic cocktail late in the game. However, these days it is everything I want in a cocktail. It’s perfect.
2. What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?
I was in Vegas with my triplet siblings… so it was a party, and I think I paid a ludicrous amount for three horrific birthday cake shots and a good ol’ gin and tonic.
3. FMK three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan?
A Margarita is refreshing, zingy, salty, and fun… and every once and a while you want one. It’s definitely one-night-stand material. I’d first marry a Manhattan. It’s a smart choice, sophisticated, traditional, and appears to be your perfect one-and-only, but then it probably wouldn’t work out. So, let’s get real — I’d kill the Manhattan, then I’d find myself with the Negroni. A Negroni is what you want, right? Something that’s perfectly balanced and enjoyable all year long. Not too much of one thing but equal in all of its delicious parts. I could definitely see myself spending a lifetime with a Negroni.
4. You’re on death row. What’s your final drink?
A generous pour of Braulio. It is hands down my favorite amaro, and to me, it tastes like actually being in the Alps, so it provides a desirable moment of escapism. I usually enjoy it after a great meal, so I’d also choose it as a finale to my very end. Braulio just feels right.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
I’m not sure I can answer this question… especially in Houston. And I know I’d pick Houston, but [I’m] also more likely to pick the bartender(s) than the bar itself. We have so many great establishments but it’s the people that make them great. And since I’m an equal opportunity kind of drinker, I can’t pick one bar! I’d rather surround myself with great company.
6. What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf?
Well, that’s not a thing. Next question.
7. What cocktail will you never order again?
I once ordered a drink that was served in a massive punch bowl and then set on fire. It left the taste of butane in my mouth for days, along with a glorious hangover, and I didn’t even drink much of it… So, that’s probably never happening again.