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Bar Manager Heather O’Brien serves up one of the 106 martinis offered at the Officers Club at the Hangar Hotel. The airport night spot features soft listening music, old movies, and billiards in a relaxed atmosphere that evokes the 1940s. Photo by Phil Houseal

The Officers Club at the Hangar Hotel is open Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5 to midnight, with live music from 7 to 10 p.m. each evening. Happy Hour is 7 to 8 p.m., and Thursday is Martini Night. There is no cover charge.

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The Officer’s Club:
One smooth landing

by Phil Houseal
Dec 7, 2005

In the 25 years I’ve called Fredericksburg home, venues for live music have grown in number and variety.

Like many of you, I don’t hang out as much as I did in my scrambling years. But when looking for a nightspot that is a bit different, you might consider landing at the Officers Club in the Hangar Hotel.

The biggest obstacle may be finding it. Some people still don’t know the club exists, even though it has been open since 2002.

Like a shimmering oasis rising up behind the Gillespie County Fair Grounds, the Officers Club is housed in the palm shaded Quonset-shaped Hangar Hotel. As you approach the door under a giant 1940s-era billboard, you hear Glenn Miller playing Moonlight Serenade through a distant radio. Walk inside under the slow spinning ceiling fans, and it’s like stepping into a scene from Casablanca. But that would be Shan - as in Shan Kowert - not Sam, playing the grand piano.

Thursday through Saturday, you can enjoy soft jazz, blues, lounge, and 40s music performed by the likes of Kowert, the Smallwoods, Mike Kasberg Trio, or Duncan Holmes. It may not be the place where everybody knows your name, but by the second time you visit, Heather O’Brien will know your drink preference.

O’Brien is Bar Manager, or, as she refers to herself - mixologist. The club offers more martinis than one can conceive the world might ever need.

“We specialize in martinis,” she said. “We have 106 and counting.”

The personable and professional O’Brien takes special pride in her drink selection.

“I like to design drinks,” she said. “I play with color and combination. I want everything to have a distinctive look.”

Her creations sport names such as Nutty Buddy, Snowberry, Oatmeal Cookie, or - seriously - The Grinch Whose Heart Was Too Small. Instead of using a cherry, O’Brien might add a gumdrop. Or a Jolly Rancher. Or a Hershey Kiss. For the adventurous there is always the Jalapeno stuffed olive.

You can sit back in custom leather chairs alongside the mahogany and granite fireplace, watch the big screen TV showing old movies or partake of a game of chess. There’s a pool table that does not need quarters.

Of course, a fine club is not about the drinks or the furniture. It’s about the people. O’Brien estimates a typical crowd will be half locals, and half tourists.

“We have a pilot who flies in every once in a while and has a cup of coffee and flies off,” she said.

“We call it a casual intimate lounge,” O’Brien said. “This is someplace everyone can go listen to music and still converse with someone across the table. Where else can you enjoy a drink while watching planes fly in? There’s nothing like it around.”

Play it again, Shan.