Bobby Heugel has changed the cocktail culture of Houston in the nine years since opening Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston’s first bar dedicated to classic cocktails. His commitment to training, quality spirits and hospitality at Anvil set the standard for the industry in Texas, subsequently earning seven James Beard Award nominations for the bar and one for himself.
A respected—and opinionated—voice in the cocktail and spirits industry, Bobby is most passionate about traditionally-crafted spirits. This interest started with agave spirits and led to the opening of The Pastry War, a mezcaleria with fiercely traditional standards and one of the most well-curated agave spirits selections in the world. Bobby frequently independently travels to distilleries globally, to spend time with distillers and mezcaleros to learn more about their processes. To date, he has visited over 300 distilleries across the globe.
Always one to challenge business models for the greater good, Bobby organized a group of independent restaurant and bar owners to open Houston’s first not-for-profit bar, the OKRA Charity Saloon. This 501c6 entity is run just like any other bar, except for the fact it donates all of its profits to charity. Since the OKRA Charity Saloon opened in December 2012, it has donated over $1,000,000 to local charities.
Bobby formed Clumsy Butcher, LLC in 2011 as a management group to help colleagues open their own concepts. In 2014, Clumsy Butcher worked with Alba Huerta to open Southern cocktail bar Julep and Mike Criss to open live music venue The Nightingale Room, bringing Bobby, who started bartending in nightclubs, full circle. In 2017, Bobby opened Tongue-Cut Sparrow, a formal cocktail bar, and Better Luck Tomorrow, a bar with an updated approach to bar dining with James Beard Award-winner Justin Yu, both in Houston.
In addition to the cocktail concepts, Bobby was a partner for years in craft beer bar Hay Merchant, James Beard Award-winning restaurant Underbelly, as well as nationally-renowned coffee shop Blacksmith before selling his shares in late 2016. In each of these concepts, he demonstrated a relentless pursuit of excellence—proper technique, training, hospitality and an innate ability to always push the envelope.
Bobby has been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and remains an outspoken voice in the cocktail community - about quality spirits, the global impact of spirits production on the environment, and the welfare of bar industry workers - and can still occasionally be found behind the bar, his favorite part of his diverse workload.