National James Beard Award finally comes to Houston: This is Julep -- what to know about the bar that won it all in 2022

Here's what we know

CHICAGO – A Houston establishment achieved national acclaim on Monday evening at the annual James Beard Awards honoring the best in the culinary industry.

Julep, located at 1919 Washington Avenue with creatively-named drinks starting at $12, won for Outstanding Bar Program to become the city’s first-ever national James Beard Award recipient.

The owner’s response

“Thank you to my city of Houston, Texas for loving immigrants,” said Alba Huerta, the owner of Julep, while on stage after the award was announced Monday night. “For loving immigrants like me, like my family, welcoming us, and giving us the path to opening our own businesses.”

Huerta told KPRC2 on Tuesday that she’s still taking in the news. The bar owner said she didn’t have an award speech prepared because she wasn’t anticipating a win.

“Even when they were about to call the winner, I was thinking to myself, when they announce the winner, congratulate them,” Huerta said. “I just don’t generally think about awards in that way either. Like, we don’t come to work for awards, we come to work to make people the best drinks we possibly can and give them great service.”

Huerta, who came to Houston from Monterrey, Mexico in the 1980′s as part of an immigration reform program, said she felt it was important to highlight the city’s diversity and rich cultural history on the national stage.

“One of the biggest things about being on that stage was to really represent Houston and talk about Houston,” she said. “And after the awards, I had so many people in the crowd come up to me and tell me they love the city.”

Juelp (KPRC)
Julep (KPRC)

National acclaim in the Bayou City

Before Monday’s festivities, which are viewed similar to the Oscars for those in the food profession, Julep was already nationally acclaimed, being the only bar from Texas among the list of North America’s 50 best bars. They ranked No. 46 on that list. They are now No. 1 for their bar program for the entire country with this James Beard Award.

Julep is well known for its mint juleps, cherry bounce sour and southern classic cocktails.

Other Houston establishments nominated

Julep was one of six local 2022 James Beard Award finalists, including four for national categories.

  • Hugo’s - finalist for the Outstanding Hospitality
  • Ruben Ortega, of Xochi - finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef
  • Lucille’s Chris Williams - finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur
  • Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen of Vietnamese restaurant Xin Chào and pitmaster Quy Hoang of Bellaire’s Blood Bros. BBQ were also nominated for regional James Beard Awards for Best Chef in Texas

Get some Julep recipes here

You can find some of their julep recipes here from a past visit on KPRC 2′s Houston Life.

About the Authors:

Born in Canada but raised in Houston, Howard joined KPRC 2 in 2021 after five years at ESPN. Before that, Howard was a reporter on Houston Rockets and Houston Astros game broadcasts. Among the events that Howard has covered on site: the NBA bubble and the Basketball Hall of Fame inductions for both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. He's H-town proud!