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PeterCliftonAdrian Hembree’s vision to add a 20s inspired speakeasy concept in Pearland is quickly becoming a reality with the addition of mixologist Peter Clifton to the team.

Hembree, owner of Grazia Italian Kitchen, recently announced the opening of a speakeasy concept transporting Pearland to the world of New York speakeasies. Hembree and Larry Bates, mixologist and general manager at Grazia Italian Kitchen, unveiled plans for a low-key, unsuspecting location on the outside with the panache of jazz and world-class cocktails inside.

To bring their dream to fruition, the team acquired mixologist extraordinaire, Peter Clifton. While Clifton, may find his inspiration in the speakeasy bars of New York, he is a Houston-area talent. After graduating from the University of Houston’s Conrad Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, he crafted cocktails at some of Houston’s swankiest bars and restaurants, such as Masraff’s, the Pelican Club, and Radio Milano. He credits mentor Glenn Cordua of Churrascos with helping him to hone the art of spirits.

“We want to be in the top 100 – if not the top 10 – most influential bars in North America,” Clifton says.

“Peter has a deep understanding of the basics, putting flavors together, appreciating the flavor wheel.  When I met him for our initial interview, I knew he was our guy.  It became a matter of putting him in the same room with Adrian,” according to Larry Bates.

Hembree and Bates are looking to this affectionately dubbed ‘bar nerd’ to turn their vision into a reality.

“We want to use the speakeasy to go back to the roots of why people go out: to dress up and see a show. We’re bringing back the roots of hospitality and why we want cocktails,” said Hembree.

“It’s about the history of the drink, illusion of the drink. You want to create a very special experience in the room like a speakeasy, because Peter brings a tremendous amount of experience to the table.”

The new space is currently under construction with an anticipated early fall opening.  Clifton is training the Grazia team on the art of creating handcrafted cocktails and conducting field research in New York to deconstruct successful formats.

Guests of the yet to be named speakeasy format will find a focus on new spirits and the release of a seasonal menu every 3 months plus limited menu items that focus on Grazia Italian Kitchen’s soul food aesthetic.  At opening, guests can indulge in a choice of classic cocktails, signature infused cocktails, aperitifs, digestifs, and other hidden gems.