Houston may be a huge city, but for Alba Huerta, it’s a close-knit community, particularly when it comes to the restaurant and bar industry. Now one of the state’s best bartenders, she cut her teeth at James Beard–nominated Anvil Bar & Refuge before collaborating with owners Bobby Heugel and Kevin Floyd to open a mezcal-centric bar, the Pastry War, in downtown. In 2014, she opened Julep. Huerta is the latest bartender in Texas Monthly’s TM Happy Hour series, which offers a new cocktail recipe and video from a favorite Texas bartender each Friday this summer.

With the state’s bars closed in the fight against COVID-19, the series is also highlighting a charity of the bartender’s choice. Having worked tirelessly to help her fellow colleagues who now find themselves unemployed, Huerta has been a committed supporter of Houston Shift Meal, a community outreach program offering food to people in need in the hospitality industry, as well as the Southern Smoke Foundation, a nonprofit founded by lauded Houston chef Chris Shepherd, of One Fifth and UB Preserv, which since March has given out more than $2 million in financial relief to people in the food and beverage industry.

At Julep, Huerta and her team offer up an homage to the culture and heritage of the American South. With a nod to the South’s heralded spirit, bourbon, Huerta shares a sweet and savory cocktail that spotlights the spicy heat that Texas culture brings to the Southern table. To present Huerta’s cocktail, Texas Monthly wine and spirits contributor Jessica Dupuy shows how to do it just right.


Old Pepper recipe

Old Pepper

For the Old Pepper, acclaimed Houston bartender Alba Huerta takes bourbon and spices it up.


  • ¼ ounce hot sauce
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ ounce turbinado syrup (recipe below)
  • ounces bourbon
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 chile de arbol for garnish


  • Pour the hot sauce, lemon juice, syrup, bourbon, and Worcestershire sauce into a cocktail shaker.
  • Fill the shaker with ice cubes. Cover and shake vigorously 20 times.
  • Strain into an ice-filled collins glass. To garnish, place the chile on the ice.

To make turbinado syrup

  • Combine 2 cups turbinado sugar (Huerta uses the Sugar in the Raw brand) with 1 cup of water in a saucepan and stir to combine.
  • Over medium-high heat, bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and let simmer until sugar is dissolved and the syrup is slightly thickened (about 3 minutes).
  • Let cool and transfer to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.