Small Town Secrets: The story behind Bryan’s popular speakeasy


Down an alley behind a pizzeria in Downtown Bryan is a locked door with a black masquerade mask emblazoned on it. Entrance to what lies behind this door is only acquired by punching in a secret code that changes daily. When the door swings open, patrons are greeted by plush leather seats and pitch-black walls accented by a glowing neon sign that welcomes guests saying, “This must be the place.”

Word of Mouth has no social media accounts. The bar has never been marketed, even lacking a sign above the door. If you turn to Google, the address that pops up will lead to the Downtown Bryan cocktail bar, West End Elixir Company, rather than the passcode-protected speakeasy that Brazos Valley residents have grown to love. 

First opening in October of 2023, WoM has become the go-to destination for finely crafted cocktails in Bryan/College Station. It may seem crazy for a bar tucked into a back alley with no advertising to succeed, but this speakeasy-inspired bar has thrived through word of mouth alone, thus earning its name.

Dustin Batson is the owner of WoM and West End Elixir Company. He first began barbacking while working as a doorman at Daisy Dukes in college. 

“One day the bartender didn’t show up for work and they needed me to bartend,” Dustin says. “I’d never even been behind a bar at that point, so I just learned on the fly. This guy came up and asked for an old-fashioned and I didn’t know how to make an old-fashioned at that point — I was just making whiskey Cokes, vodka Sprites and popping beers. He looks at me with disgust on his face and says, ‘You don’t know how to make an old-fashioned?’ So I had to explain to the guy, ‘Look, I’m just a barback. I don’t know where the girls are. If you just walk me through it I’ll make it.’ And he was like, ‘You know what, never mind. Just give me a beer.’ But I felt embarrassed, so I went home and YouTubed how to make an old-fashioned. Then the paranoia in me said, ‘What if I get asked to make a martini or one of these other things?’ So I started YouTubing [every cocktail I could think of]. After that, it kind of became my passion slash obsession.”

With his new hyperfixation found, Dustin would eventually leave college to open his own bar. Since then, his passion for nightlife and craft cocktails has brought many entrepreneurial ventures.

“There were no craft cocktail bars in town, with the exception of maybe The Republic Steakhouse, so I really wanted to open a craft cocktail bar,” Dustin says. “That’s when I amassed as much money as I could and partnered up with my roommate at the time, and we opened West End Elixir on Northgate in 2015.”

Dustin would go on to open Down Town Elixir and 5 Knocks Speakeasy in Bryan inside the La Salle Hotel. He later opened 3rd Floor Cantina as a jazz club and bar above Mr. G’s Italian Pizzaria and a cigar lounge in Downtown Bryan, The Velvet Leaf. 

It wasn’t until he sold 3rd Floor Cantina that Dustin began looking to purchase another business and received a promising recommendation for the perfect location.

“The owner of the building said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this other space I want to show you and it’s in an alleyway,’” Dustin says. “I kind of rolled my eyes initially but he’s the nicest guy and was excited to show me. He showed us this space and I was just blown away. I said, ‘Where do I sign? I’ll take it right now.’ We signed and got this place open in seven weeks.

“I also liked the fact that as an alleyway bar, you can’t promote it as anything other than a secret bar or speakeasy. We’re not prohibition-themed here. We don’t have a theme, per se, it’s just a secret bar, and everyone wants to be in on a secret. Originally, I wasn’t going to call it anything, and [the bar] wasn’t going to have a name at all.”

The name “Word of Mouth” came from a conversation with a regular customer at The Velvet Leaf when he asked how people would know about a bar with no name.

“I [told him people would know through] just word of mouth,” Dustin says. “And then he goes, ‘That’s a really cool name for a bar.’ So we called it Word of Mouth.”

WoM stays busy every night that it’s open. Popular drinks among patrons are espresso martinis and, ironically, the old-fashioned which is what the bar has come to be known for, Dustin says. Dustin prides himself on his bar’s hospitality and is always looking to provide patrons with an elevated experience.

“We cater to anybody that wants to get out and have a good time,” Dustin says. “I wouldn’t say we have a target demographic, but I will say that what we see as a trend is mostly around age 25.”

It’s this philosophy of hospitality that has pushed WoM into the limelight and has made this “secret” bar so popular.

“Some bartenders will refuse to make drinks because they don’t want to make that drink or because they’re busy,” Dustin says. “A lot of people won’t even make you an old-fashioned when it’s busy. If we get busy I‘ll still make you a Ramos Gin Fizz.”

While West End Elixir is a classic cocktail bar, WoM is a laboratory where bartenders get to use all of their “mad scientist skills” to create new flavor combinations, Dustin says.

“I like to combine weird tastes,” Dustin says. “We have a cocktail that has corn puree in it. It’s called the Scorpion Filipiniana and it’s [made with] reposado tequila, corn puree, pineapple juice, egg white, hot honey syrup, infused with sage and we sprinkle cayenne pepper on top. It’s pretty popular. We also have a cocktail called the True Blood. It’s made with mezcal and red bell pepper puree.”

The attention to detail that Dustin puts into creating a cohesive experience at each of his businesses is something he says he developed in the Marine Corps throughout three tours of duty, two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

“I was in the infantry,” Dustin explains. “During combat, I was in Fallujah. I was in the sniper-infested area called Al-Karmah and Zayouna. I was in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. I was a squad leader so I had 12 Marines underneath me and their lives were a part of all my decisions. I had to notice everything. Sometimes I can get upset about what most people think is trivial, but I look at everything as if it needs to be perfect. Whether it’s the drink making or has anyone checked on that table recently, and so on and so forth.”

Dustin and his wife recently welcomed the birth of their first daughter in June, so while he soaks up precious family time, he plans on taking it easy with his ever-growing business plans — at least for a little while. 

“Eventually I want to open a tiki bar,” Dustin says. “That’s a big goal of mine, and I want to open up a bar-cade after that.”

Dustin will leave a seat open for those who want to be in on the secret. Check @WestEndElixirCompany and @Batsons_Bar_Stuff Instagram stories to find the nightly passcode to get inside.

“Just come check it out,” Dustin says. “It’s not everybody’s cup of tea but we have a great vibe that most people love.”

Visit West End Elixir Company at 107 S. Main St. to get directions to Word of Mouth speakeasy. WoM is open Wednesday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. and stays open until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.