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At Anvil Bar and Refuge's monthly cocktail class on Saturday, publican-turned-professor Bobby Heugel revealed some hints about hotly anticipated joint venture Underbelly/Hay Merchant before delving into coursework.

Here it is: Hay Merchant (the craft beer bar) is expected to open between Feb. 9 and Feb. 13, or a week or so after the parking lot — which will contain 75 self-park spaces — is complete. Heugel stressed that "complete" means complete with painted parking spaces, signs and the whole kit and kaboodle. Underbelly (the new restaurant from chef Chris Shepherd of Catalan fame), Heugel says, should open two to three weeks after Hay Merchant.

(This all meshes with news last week that Montrose-area residents saw Live Oak kegs being carried inside, augmented now by a few more that partner Kevin Floyd picked up mid-class.)

Of his longtime friendship with Floyd, Heugel told guests, "When we opened Anvil, Kevin said 'I'll do the cocktail thing with you if you do the beer thing with me someday,' so in keeping with that promise, we're opening Hay Merchant."

For those of you who've never attended on of Anvil's cocktail courses, which nearly always sell out, here's a thought: Do.

Ours examined "Brandies of the World," including Grappa, Pisco, Slivovitz, Calvados, Cognac and Armangac. For three hours and $55, participants enjoyed eight samples of brandies from around the globe and three cocktails that spotlighted them — a Sazerac, Cancion del Alma (a delicious cocktail Heugel borrowed from Brick and Mortar's Misty Kalkofen) and a Sidecar.

Through it all you'll hear compelling historical anecdotes — like the one about the French bear trader who immigrated to New York before getting amnesia and becoming disfigured in World War I, only to finally reunite with his decades-waiting wife and ultimately invent Armagnac — and one liners, like Heugels' commanding observation that "those of you who think you don't like Grappa need to man up."

The next class, taught by bar manager and newly crowned Miss Speed Rack Houston Alba Huerta, will be on Feb. 25 and examine Liqueurs and Cordials.


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