Private, Social, Drunk: Rocco Milano, Mansion Expat, Has His New Bar Humming

Private Social bar manager Rocco Milano is like a young redheaded Santa, ready to grant all your alcoholic Christmas wishes, or maybe the fourth Wise Man, bearing obscure aperitifs and rare scotches in place of frankincense and myrrh.

Perched at his silver and white bar in the space's "Social" wing, we're surrounded by stainless steel, grey leather banquettes, airy white curtains and an impressive crowd for a cold Wednesday night. Rocco's got quite a following from his days at The Mansion, and for good reason. His good-natured humor, suave delivery and dashingly original creations make it a worthwhile trek to Uptown's new hot spot.

The housemade ginger beer, which followed Rocco from The Mansion, is not to be missed; its spicy effervescence shines in the classic Moscow Mule (served up in the traditional copper mug) and also in the Holiday Dark & Stormy, which mixes the brew with Cruzan Blackstrap rum, vanilla simple syrup and allspice dram. The combination of molasses, spices and vanilla is vaguely reminiscent of the gingerbread men from my childhood, although I recall no buzz like this from those cookies.

A drink called "Mornings in Jersey" is inspired by the summer he spent bartending at the Jersey Shore. Combining Kahlua, half and half and Faretti biscotti liqueur, it's a unique twist on The Dude's bevvy of choice and would make an excellent accompaniment to Santa's Christmas Eve cookies.

We're privileged to be one of the first in Texas to taste Hum botanical spirit, a new liqueur that just made landfall here. Deep ruby red and slightly viscous, it's infused with hibiscus, ginger, cardamom and kaffir lime, and plays the starring role in "Things That Make You Go Hum": Hum, Strega (an Italian digestif flavored with mint and fennel, among other things), lemon and a touch of absinthe. The liqueur's unique flavor could also be enjoyed straight up, or on the rocks with a squeeze of fresh orange juice.

The next trick Rocco pulls out of his bag is a 28-year Glenmorangie single malt scotch. One of only 1,000 bottles produced, it's packaged in its own miniature wooden armoire and bears a numbered certificate authenticity signed by the distiller. At $550 a glass, we politely decline a taste, but if you've got room on your expense account, by all means. Maybe next year, after this cocktail-blogging thing really takes off. (Editor's note: [Chuckles warmly to self]).

As long as you're reveling in holiday excess, order up a plate of the bone marrow, elegantly presented on a wood slab and accompanied by herbed crostini, pickled tricolor cauliflower, onion marmalade and parsley salad. The over-the-top fatty richness is a welcome foil to the three or so cocktails you've no doubt downed by now.

That's enough merriment for one evening, but I intend to return to sample Rocco's holiday punch bowls, which will come out at 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday leading up to Christmas, and also to sample the duck fat fried chicken, which sounds like the best possible way to pack on those 5 or 10 holiday pounds.

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