One of the country’s most respected barkeeps pours global spirits infused with traditional regional flavor
Name: Alba Huerta
Occupation: Owner, Julep cocktail bar, Houston
She was working behind the bar before she could legally drink. Nineteen-year-old Alba Huerta was bartending to pay the bills, but the job awoke a passion for service and the proper crafting of a cocktail. “Working in a bar used to be unpopular—it was a job that was temporary for a lot of people, but I loved it and wanted to do it forever,” she says.
More than a decade later, Huerta now owns her own bar in Houston, Julep, which serves Southern-inspired craft cocktails that she thoughtfully developed. You’ll find classics on the menu, including the bar’s namesake mint juleps, but what she stirs up for patrons on a particular day depends on many factors, including the weather. “I live in a place that’s summer 70% of the time,” she says. “I have to sort people out and see what their day has been like.”
Huerta and her family emigrated from Mexico to Houston when she was a small child, and today she continues to draw influence from across the globe. “The drinks industry doesn’t really have any borders, and because of that I’ve been able to connect to Spanish-speaking people throughout the world about cocktails,” she says. “It’s provided me with a broader network, but I’ve also been able to educate other regions about American-style drinks.”
Huerta cites the diverse nature of Houston, its chefs, and the South as another influence on her cocktail repertoire. Through her work with the Southern Foodways Alliance, where she’s a board member, Huerta helps promote Southern cocktail recipes beyond the region. Though she continues to build her business, great service is always at the top of Huerta’s mind. “You’ve got to continue educating and improving your knowledge base,” she says. “Everything is an opportunity when you’re an entrepreneur.”
What Huerta pours on a rare night off: “It varies, and I drink for the occasion. When I do have time to make a drink for myself, it’s usually boozy and stirred, leaning on something that’s old-fashioned, or a classic gin martini—I call that my ‘getting dressed’ martini. It’s a great way to start your night,” Huerta says.