Michaela Roman

A customer pours out an Elder Punch from a vintage teapot.

Prickly Elder is inviting with nostalgic decor

January 26, 2016

It takes some creativity and originality to create a niche bar, especially in a city where the bar scene is growing. But one recently opened location has taken niche to another level. 

Opening the door to the Prickly Elder on 916 N. Mesa Street, will give you a sense of nostalgia. The place looks as if you are walking into your grandma’s house. Except you’re not. You are actually walking into one of the most distinctive bars in town.

Prickly Elder has adapted the concept of a vintage, classy grandma’s house for its decor, which works wonders for its appeal. Located at the corner or Mesa and Rio Grande Street, it’s easy to miss the new bar, which was previously Sumatra Hookah Lounge, but you definitely don’t want to miss out on this place.

Old wall clocks, floral-print wallpaper and knitted placemats help give Prickly Elder the notion that you’re at your grandma’s house, but don’t get bored just yet. The new bar is actually a fun place to visit. The TV might be showing classics like “The Twilight Zone,” “Murder, She Wrote,” or “The Price is Right,” but the music is all contemporary indie rock and pop.

“It was incredibly hard to come up with an original idea for our bar,” Allison Barker, manager of Prickly Elder, said. “We wanted a unique theme for our bar, something that hadn’t been done.”

Prickly Elder has done exactly that, managing to be the only bar in the area that mimics granny’s homey and cozy home.

“The floral-print wallpaper is one that is discontinued,” Barker said. “We actually had to order it from somewhere in Canada. Much of the things that decorate our place were actually given to us by my mother. She loves thrift store shopping. It was actually cool to finally put these old things to good use. It’s like finding a treasure in someone else’s trash.”

Along with paperback books and wooden-framed sofas, Prickly Elder’s biggest appeal is the way they serve their cocktails. While your grandma might serve you some simmering Earl Grey tea from her ancient teapot, at Prickly Elder, you’ll be served an interesting mingled adult beverage.

“There is actually a bar in England that serves their cocktails in teapots, which is where we got the idea for that,” Barker said. “It’s obviously a British concept since they drink tea daily, but it’s something that has definitely been interesting here in El Paso.”

What’s more interesting than the teapots is what’s inside of them. The bar offers unique recipes on their drink menu. Espresso, mint, raspberries, lemon juice, green tea and bitters are all ingredients you’ll find in Prickly Elder’s teapot-sharing options. Their Elder Punch, I would argue, is their signature offering. Composed of Bombay Sapphire Gin, Campari, sweet vermouth and juices, the Elder Punch isn’t your grandma’s typical five o’clock cocktail. Although sweet and fruity profiles might trick you into thinking you’re having juice, the punch surely has a kick to it, which is probably why they make you share it. The other drinks offered have an intriguing recipe as well.

“Our bartender, Gil Herrera, is the one who comes up with most of the concepts for our teapot cocktails,” Barker said. “He wants to keep it as fresh as possible. He’s been educating himself for over a year on different flavor profiles. He definitely wants to keep his concepts as original as possible. He’s even asked me to purchase a plant from Africa, which will give the drinker a ‘pop’ sensation like Pop Rocks would.”

The offerings at Prickly Elder surely make Gil Herrera a talented mixologist.

If mixed drinks aren’t your preference, the bar still offers a good selection of craft beers, including some from the Deep Ellum Brewing Company.

Once a month, the venue will host their Grandma’s House Party event, which features house music played by live DJs. In the near future, Barker said the bar will include a white picket fence topped with roses in their patio.

“It’s something we want to include once the weather get’s nicer,” Barker said. “That’s only one of the ideas we have to really take this theme of ‘grandma’s house’ as far as we can.”

If the location wasn’t different enough, the name by now should have sparked some interest.

“I really wanted our name to stand out and be different,” Barker said. “It needed to be distinctive. I literally looked up weird plant names and prickly elder came out. It was perfect. It was witty and suiting.”

Prickly Elder offers $2.50 Lone Stars, $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons, $4 Jamesons and $3 Fireballs all day. Their teapot cocktails are $2 cheaper during the day. For more information on Prickly Elder, visit facebook.com/pricklyelder.

Jose Soto may be reached at [email protected].

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