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Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar with The Peoples Drug’s Jon Schott

Jon Schott is a rare breed of professional, the kind of person whose brain is never really turned off. From coming up with some of his best cocktail ideas while walking his pups in the woods to making every orgeat and tincture on his expansive drink menu from scratch, he brings a level of enthusiasm and thoughtfulness to his work that seems unparalleled. The best part? He’s completely unpretentious about the art and consumption of craft cocktails. His creations are jotted down A Beautiful Mind-style in an old-school notebook that he’s happy to share with cocktail nerds, and he loves nothing more than to answer questions from customers about some of the more layered or complex concoctions on his menu.

Enter The Peoples Drug, the retro-inspired, neighborhood cocktail bar and food spot where Schott wears many hats as both beverage director and general manager. The Old Town, Alexandria locale modeled after the nostalgic local drugstore chain of the same name has steadily picked up buzz since opening last summer, with rotating seasonal and classic cocktail menus from Schott and a brand-new food menu launched earlier this month. We caught up with the man behind the well-crafted drinks about the labor of love that goes into each new creation and the casual, community vibe of his bar, among other cocktail-related things.

On Tap: You’ve got a lot of cleverly named cocktails on your winter menu like the Schrute Farms Margarita with spiced beet agave and Pistachio Mustachio with pistachio orgeat, to name a few. What’s your creative process for naming them?
Jon Schott:
I like people to step a little bit outside of their comfort zone, and I think a great way to do that is to have a clever or comforting name. We get their guard down a little bit and then get a new drink in their hand, and now they’re trying new things. And who knows if that sparks this whole new journey of them trying new drinks and stepping outside of their comfort zone, which is the fun thing about food and drink – there’s infinite possibilities.

OT: As someone who grew up here and has worked in the bar industry for nearly two decades, how do you think NoVA’s cocktail scene has shifted in recent years?
JS:
Everything seems to have shifted toward [being] more casual, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality or atmosphere. Just because you want a good drink doesn’t mean you have to make plans to do it. That’s what we were hoping for here, where you’d see everyone come in – whether you’re dressed up and on your way to a date or running errands and still in your sweatpants. We’re always open to the public. We never do reservations. You just walk in.

OT: Why do you think Old Town is the right location for Peoples?
JS:
People in Old Town know good food and they know good drinks. They’re a really tight, really cool community. We’re a nightcap or before-you-go-out, happy hour [spot] because we’re casual. Come in here, let your hair down, relax and [enjoy] the good vibes.

OT: Walk me through the classic versus seasonal menus, and how you came up with the concepts.
JS:
I like balancing a list with classics. If you know cocktails, you can look at the classics and see we know what we’re doing. It lets people know you can get good classics here and we’re following script.

OT: What about going off script for the seasonal menu? What inspires those selections?
JS:
It’s really important for guests to have a well-crafted and constructed cocktail, because it’s built with love. Time and energy goes into these, totally. We juice citrus every morning. Everything you see on the menu – like an orgeat or tincture or fusion or syrup – I made it myself. If it’s a syrup or an orgeat, I’ve made it within the last [few] days. Like the dehydrated fruit, I do that in my house and bring it in. That’s why I love the seasonals. These are all things that we have made [where] I started with a thought for a drink and as a team, we knocked it down into a really fun, well-balanced and creative drink. Enjoy yourself and don’t be pretentious about the cocktails.

OT: Does the classic menu stay the same or is it dynamic?
JS:
I change it every season because there’s certain classic cocktails that I think fit certain seasons. This season, they’re big because it’s winter. There’s a lot of Manhattan- and martini-style drinks, and spirit-forward ones. I also do barrel-aged [cocktails] where I age the cocktail in an oak barrel for 32 days and then bottle and serve it. I spy on people when they have a sip of their drink to see their first reaction. That will [tell me] the most honest feeling they have about the drink.

OT: What seems to be the customer favorite right now?
JS:
The most popular one is the Schrute Farms Margarita. People relate to the name of it and the color of it is super bright.

OT: Can you give us a sneak peek of the spring menu?
JS:
There’s one drink I dedicated to my mom. She told me, “If you’re going to succeed in this industry, you need to appreciate gin, and that’s when you’ll get all the real drinkers.” And she was right. So [this cocktail] plays with gin, tea and fresh things like orchids, lavender and roses. I’d love to introduce cucumber bubbles. It’s a way of stacking up bubbles. I can layer them on top of the drink. You know what I’m really excited for? [My] team to submit original ideas [they’re] working on. I love to open the menu up to the whole staff. It has to be a team effort.

OT: What about funky ingredients? What flavor profiles are you intrigued by at the moment?
JS:
I love playing with orgeats, so any syrup with any type of nut in it. I’m looking forward to playing with cedar and gin and sage [on the spring menu]. Those things together remind me of walking in the woods. And then maybe sneaking an amaro in there.

OT: Any food options you recommend pairing with cocktails?
JS:
We have a lot more sharable snacks [on our new menu], like finger foods. I think the truffle fries go well with any cocktail. A little bit of salt also helps all the flavors pop. Our sandwiches are really tasty too.


[HEADER] Photos - Trent Johnson

Wasabi Martini
Tito’s Vodka infused with wasabi
Snow pea and sea salt tincture
Domaine de Canton


Learn more about Schott’s classic and seasonal cocktails and the spot’s revamped food menu at www.thepeoplesdrug.com.

The Peoples Drug: 103 N. Alfred St. Alexandria, VA; 571-257-8851 www.thepeoplesdrug.com

Photo: Scott Suchman

Siren Mixes Shrubs and Seafood

The evening began ascending into a regal, underwater grotto where I wanted to reach out and touch the deep, captivating shades of blues and greens, perfectly capturing the depths of the ocean in the moonlight. Brass trim sparkled, bathed in a low golden hue emanating from the ceiling. Smooth jazz beckoned me deeper into the room. The whole effect was seductive, yet soothing. I now understand the name, Siren, as the restaurant’s atmosphere mimics the effects of a siren’s song.

Michelin-starred Siren by Robert Wiedmaier – located on the ground floor of The Darcy hotel near Logan Circle – is dedicated to seafood. The menu is constantly inspired by daily catches and its strong agricultural partnerships. However, the restaurant does more for their partners than just utilize their products; it celebrates them with FarmStead Evening dinners. This series spotlights the relationships Siren has with other regional businesses, and December 12, Siren turned the spotlight on Element Shrub: a family-run agribusiness that produces “herbal elixirs” that can be drunk on their own or incorporated into food and beverages.

The word shrub comes from the Arabic word “sharāb,” which means to drink. Shrubs are age-old beverages made from using vinegar to preserve fruits, herbs and spices. Element Shrub strictly uses organic apple cider vinegar containing raw enzymes and gut-friendly bacteria known as “the mother” as a base. With this as the foundation, a variety of fruits, herbs and spices are added for a diverse range of products.

Siren Chef Brian McBride worked with Element Shrub Founder Charlie Berkinshaw to create a five-course meal with pairings highlighting nine shrubs: blood orange saffron, honeydew jalapeno, lemon mint, cranberry hibiscus, grapefruit vanilla, pineapple turmeric, blueberry rosemary, chair pear and cranberry hibiscus. Attendees were seated in Siren’s elegant private dining space, which feels like part of the main restaurant but is secluded enough for guests to enjoy dinner with a different element of presentation and raucous conversation.

Much to my delight, we were greeted with a glass of champagne, providing a sensation only truly good champagne can. No sooner than when I placed my flute on the table, my hand held a glass once more with the welcome “Shrub Down” cocktail – a concoction of blood orange saffron soda shrub with citric honey syrup and orange bitters. Every sip was robust, a marriage of all its ingredients washing across every part of my taste buds.

However, this cocktail was nothing compared to the amuse-bouche. The dish, a salty Gigamoto oyster topped with a brilliant honeydew jalapeno shrub gelée, prompted diners at my table to perform an impromptu rock-paper-scissors match for who could eat the coveted last oyster. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me; damn the scissors.

As I was getting over my angst at not having a second oyster, a delicate bowl of bay scallops with lemon mint and spruce was set. Accompanied by “Shrubbles,” a cocktail with cranberry hibiscus shrub and sparkling wine, the scallops were the true star of the course. Perfectly paced, a bowl of peekytoe crab under a sabayon sauce of grapefruit vanilla shrub soon followed. The dish proved whimsical, unusual and perfectly pleasant.

The crescendo of the meal was not a flamboyant whole-roasted fish, but a Rohan duck with blueberry rosemary shrub, Brussels sprout leaves, black trumpet, black onion soubise and master stock brittle. For this course, I have only two things to say: first, anything that resembles spittle should firmly be left off the plate; the reign of foams and airs needs to be over. Second, the concept of stock brittle was excellent, but its execution left me feeling like a three-year-old panicked about her teeth never unsticking after biting off too much caramel candy.

The crowning jewel of the evening was the caramel pear compote made with a crispy crepe, chai pear shrub apricot sauce, toasted rice ice cream and hazelnuts. Coming from someone who is not a dessert person, this dish deserved a standing ovation. Delightfully made to look like egg rolls, every bite was crispy on the outside with a warm, soft middle full of perfectly textured sweet fruits that were heightened once paired with toasted rice ice cream.

For more information about Siren and their FarmStead Evening series, visit here. For information about Elemental Shrub, visit here.

The Darcy: 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC; 202-521-7171; www.sirenbyrw.com

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Behind the Bar: Left Door, Destination Wedding and Prequel

Don’t let the cold keep you inside this winter. With a whole host of festive drinks throughout the District, there are plenty of reasons to bundle up, venture out, and indulge in the sweet, the spicy and the seasonal this winter. We rounded up three of our favorite winter-ready drinks to add to your list of spots to enjoy over your holiday break.


 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left Door
Mick Perrigo, Owner

On Tap: What are your winter-centric drinks for this year?
Mick Perrigo: What I’m making now is the Cocoa Nog Fizz, and we do this drink every year. It’s a refreshing but fattening eggnog drink. We’re doing it a little differently this year than in the past. Last year, we did it just with Irish whiskey and brandy.

OT: What other items on your menu tend to do well during the holidays?
MP: We’re going to have a bubbly drink called Krampus Got A Brand New Bag with tequila, lime, agave, allspice dram, angostura bitters and a sparkling rose.

OT: What’s your favorite drink on the menu and why?
MP: I’d say it’s probably the Where the Buffalo Roam. It was a drink I had been working on for a while. It’s delicious, dry and altogether a refreshing cocktail.

OT: What sets Left Door apart from other bars in the area?
MP: We stay true to exactly what we said we would do when we opened up: we focus on hospitality and on the cocktails. I don’t feel like we’ve strayed from that, and I think that’s the reason people keep coming back here.

 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Cocoa Nog Fizz
Catoctin Creek rye
Brandy
Sherry
Egg white
Heavy cream
Vanilla
Cane
Cocoa powder
Nutmeg
House-made cinnamon tincture

Left Door: 1345 S St. NW, DC; www.dcleftdoor.com


Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Destination Wedding
Lukas B. Smith, Owner

On Tap: What winter drinks are you featuring this year? 
Lukas B. Smith: We like to keep our menu rolling, so guests can expect to see a lot of seasonality. Our first drink of fall is the Tee & T. It features Teeling Irish whiskey and a spiced pineapple tonic from a new recipe of mine. The tonic is made with molasses, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne and ginger to ride along with pineapple husk, lemon stock and cinchona. The spices and molasses bring around autumnal feels but the tonic stays bright and poppy.

OT: Can you tell me more about the menu and concept in general?
LBS: Our goal was to make a bar that had good, balanced drinks, fair pricing and extremely fast and friendly service. We run draft cocktails with both CO2 and N2, and a frozen machine to keep things moving. As far as concept goes, I feel that weddings are the best examples of get-togethers. People are at weddings not so much to dine, drink or dance but to have an all around good time, all the while celebrating togetherness, family, friendship, traditions and new beginnings. They’re great.

OT: What sets Destination Wedding apart from other DC bars?
LBS: Over 90 percent of what we serve is made by Redbeard at Union Kitchen, meaning we’re more than 90 percent waste-free. We use dehydrated garnishes, clarify juices for enhanced stability, and repurpose the hulls from citrus and pineapple juicing to make our syrups and, occasionally, our bittering agents.

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Tee & T
Teeling Irish whiskey
Spiced pineapple tonic
Pineapple husk
Lemon stock
Cinchona

Destination Wedding: 1800 14th St. NW, DC; www.fb.com/destinationweddingdc


Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Prequel
Rob McGill, Beverage Director
Rob Long, Head Bartender

On Tap: Tell us a bit more about the Left-handed Golf Clubs, your pick for a great seasonal drink.
Rob Long: I first infused plums and nutmeg with brandy about two years ago, and added the allspice dram to get more seasonal winter notes. It worked but it wasn’t quite right. Then Rob was messing around with the pear and red wine syrup, which added a depth and body. The pear, which we poach in the syrup, is delicious. It’s an old fashioned style drink, it’s pretty spirit-forward and not too sweet.

OT: What other drinks from your expansive cocktail menu would you say are holiday flavor-forward?
Rob McGill: We change things up pretty much weekly, especially if we have a new spirit coming in. We have been doing the Meowzabub which has a great spice to it, and people seem to really enjoy spicier drinks.

OT: If you had to pick a favorite, what would it be and why?
RL: I’m really proud of the Warm & Fuzzy. It uses cachaca, which is an underused spirit, and a little bit of citrus, cinnamon syrup and Benedictine for an herbal note. It’s on the sweeter side but it screams Christmas – it’s like if cinnamon gave you a hug.
RM: I’m torn between the Freeman Morgan and the Oh Bother. The Oh Bother was changed up for the fall so it wasn’t as floral and we added rosemary, but it’s really straightforward and definitely a bestselling drink that we get great feedback on.

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left-handed Golf Clubs
Plum & nutmeg-infused Maison Rouge VSOP
Red wine & spiced pear syrup
Allspice dram
Cherry bark vanilla bitters

Prequel: 919 19th St. NW, DC; www.prequelrestaurant.com

Photo: Courtesy of Sally's Middle Name

Foodie Forecast: DC Cocktail Week Returns

DC Cocktail Week is taking our city by storm again this fall with innovative cocktails carefully crafted by 60-plus participating local restaurants and bars. From November 12-18, DC area foodies are invited to enjoy the ultimate one-price food and cocktail pairings at this annual Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington event. On Tap chatted with a dozen DMV-based spots participating in this year’s festivities to get the scoop on their featured cocktails and buzzworthy beverage programs.


Photo: Courtesy of American Son

Photo: Courtesy of American Son

Allegory, American Son & Wild Days at Eaton Workshop

The brand-new Eaton DC isn’t just the latest boutique hotel downtown; it’s a progressive space designed to promote social justice and a strong sense of community. Eaton DC is home to two cocktail bars, the speakeasy-style Allegory and enclosed rooftop venue Wild Days, and Chef Tim Ma’s latest venture American Son, a stunning comfort food restaurant with a nod to global fare.

“Every space [within Eaton DC] has its purpose and feel to it that’s different than anyplace else,” says Ma, who also owns popular French-Asian fusion spot Kyirisan.

He says that everything on American Son’s menu is very ingredient- and produce-driven.

“If you look at the menu, it’s the [main] ingredient – that’s how you name each cocktail. That’s the centerpiece of each one.”

Eaton’s beverage manager Alexandra Bookless is particularly excited about the Apple, one of American Son’s fall cocktails.

“I think that the Apple will be a huge hit,” she says. “It’s a quintessential fall/winter flavor. Some whiskey and cherry in there give it some nuttiness. I think it’s super delicious, so I hope people like it.”

Guests can enjoy quality tequila- and mezcal-heavy cocktails at Wild Days. Whether you’re lounging by the outdoor firepit or enjoying high-energy live music, you can sip on a refreshing drink like featured cocktail Imagine, an apple-celery margarita with an ancho-celery-salt rim, or Plug on Oaxaca, a spin on traditional cocktail Lion’s Tail that Bookless says is served on the rocks with mezcal “so you get that smoky flavor going into fall.” The celery margarita and smoky cocktail were crafted to pair perfectly with Ma’s Asian-inspired taco menu.

Back downstairs, Allegory’s intimate ambiance makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a hidden locale. Guests navigate from Eaton’s lobby to its politically charged library where they’ll find a subtly nestled door to Allegory leading to the dimly lit, art-filled space. Ma says the bar was designed to resemble the Bemelmans Bar on the Upper East Side. Bookless recommends Allegory’s Kokoro, a unique take on a gimlet.

“Instead of gin, we use a split base of sake, sherry and overproof rum,” Bookless says.
Add house-made fino, lime cordial and amazake to the mix and suddenly you have a “really nice light, fermented, yeasty, bready flavor,” according to the beverage manager.

“It’s cool and beautiful in its own way,” she says of the Kokoro.

But her passion extends to Eaton DC as a whole.

“We’re a different hotel, and we have very concentrated and curated programs here. I hope people can appreciate and enjoy them.”

1201 K St. NW, DC; www.allegory-dc.com; www.americanson1978.com; www.wild-days-dc.com


Photo: Courtesy of Baba

Photo: Courtesy of Baba

Baba

This Balkan cocktail bar tucked beneath Ambar’s Clarendon location offers an eclectic drink menu ranging from light and refreshing to strong and buzzy.

Mixologist Marko Strugar says Baba recently added a new category to its cocktail list – Drinks with Benefits – featuring WU Gentleman, a twist on the famous New Orleans libation Vieux Carre that’s served in a jar full of smoke right before your eyes.

“We will be playing with rakia, [our] national brandy made from fermentation of different kind of fruits,” Strugar says. “Rakia warms you up in any shape.”

Pro tip: try the spot’s popular cocktail Welcome to Belgrade, made with apple-based rakia, vodka and apple juice.

2901 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.baba.bar


Photo: Maya Oren

Photo: Maya Oren

Colada Shop

You don’t have to travel far for the holidays to enjoy an island-inspired cocktail. In fact, you can drink a fruity, citrus-flavored rum cocktail right in DC – or nearby Sterling, Virginia – at Cuban-inspired Colada Shop. With an impressive lineup of authentic Cuban coffee, cocktails and fare, beverage director Mario Monte is excited to focus on warm spices used widely throughout the Caribbean like sweet plantains, cinnamon, brown sugar, lots of citrus, tamarind and delicious, homemade cider for Colada’s winter libations.

“Our special item this winter season, [the Carajillo cocktail is] a gorgeous blend of rum and Licor 43 that is truly diverse,” he says.

This seasonal cocktail is served hot with fresh espresso or shaken up in a coupe. Warm up this winter with the Carajillo and other featured drinks on Colada’s menu.

1405 T St. NW, DC and 21430 Epicerie Plaza, Sterling, VA; www.coladashop.com


Photo: Courtesy of FISH by José Andrés

Photo: Courtesy of FISH by José Andrés

FISH by José Andrés

Fish by José Andrés at MGM National Harbor is known for its elevated seafood classics. The cocktail menu “captures the spirit of Chef José Andrés, while equally remaining conscious of the flavors he commands from the dishes he creates,” says MGM Director of Communications Malik Husser.

“Our mixologists take pride in [their craft], always wanting to provide an imaginative experience,” Husser continues. “This winter, we have a spirit-focused menu with warm flavors. We’ll be using less sweeteners and juices to allow each spirit to be elevated.”

Customer favorites include José’s Gin & Tonic, the Tractor Pull and DC Cocktail Week pick the Salt Air Margarita.

Husser says all of these cocktails are balanced and “created to blend seamlessly, allowing the spirit to play the leading role.”

101 MGM National Ave. Oxon Hill, MD; www.mgmnationalharbor.com/en/restaurants/fish-by-jose-andres.html


Photo: Courtesy of Iron Gate

Photo: Courtesy of Iron Gate

Iron Gate

Greek and Southern Italian-inspired mainstay Iron Gate will incorporate smoke, root vegetables, earthy amaro and nuts into its seasonal drinks. Spirits manager Nick Farrell says the Dupont Circle restaurant’s Choc Full O’Nuts blends Italian coffee liqueur, nocino, port-finished rye and a touch of chocolate, and predicts that the cocktail will be a favorite throughout the winter months.

Iron Gate is all about what’s fun for the guests, such as the sharable Greek sangria or the eye-catching Amaro Highball featured during DC Cocktail Week. This Italian cocktail is served in a Coke bottle and is “straightforward, challenging and whimsical all at once.”

“The [Amaro Highball] really does taste like a cola so you can just enjoy it without even thinking about it,” Farrell says. “We have fun with ideas and flavors.”

1734 N St. NW, DC; www.irongaterestaurantdc.com


Photo: Mi Vida

Photo: Mi Vida

Mi Vida

This high-end Mexican restaurant at The Wharf is featuring the Famous Sling for DC Cocktail Week, concocted with Fidencio Clásico mezcal, Plantation Rum Pineapple, Aperol and St. George Raspberry Brandy – just one of many ingredient-packed beverages at the waterfront spot.

“We celebrate agave,” says beverage director Darlin Kulla.

The secondary part of the drink menu “highlights creative cocktails with different agave spirits such as mezcal and sotol.”

This season, expect intense, warming flavors at Mi Vida.

“We see a similar trend with exploring anejos and mezcal,” Kulla continues. “The smoke and spice in both appeal to guests in the colder months.”

If you’re into sweet and spicy, sipping on the Cielo Rojo Margarita made with spicy watermelon juice will add some heat to your chilly days.

98 District Sq. SW, DC; www.mividamexico.com


Photo: The Partisan

Photo: The Partisan

The Partisan

Penn Quarter’s The Partisan, which shares walls with Red Apron Butcher and is a go-to cocktail spot for local theatregoers pre- and post-show, is always trying to find creative ways to express flavors on its drink menu.

“We go back and forth with our chef team, [distilleries] and even [local] farmers to create drinks that are whimsical, nuanced and just plain smashable,” says spirits manager Brian McGahey.

Chef Nate Anda concocts dishes with rich, deep flavors, and McGahey says the cocktail menu aims to support that with “balanced acid profiles and savory notes.”

“From herbaceous to spiced, [our] drinks have enough body and flavor to warm you up.”

The Everlasting Gaze seems to be the right cocktail for chilly weather, featuring Maison Rouge Cognac, Velvet Falernum, roasted Yokohama squash puree, coconut cream and St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. Come try this boozy, flavor-packed drink during DC Cocktail Week.

709 D St. NW, DC; www.thepartisandc.com


Photo: Courtesy of Sally's Middle Name

Photo: Courtesy of Sally’s Middle Name

Sally’s Middle Name

Approachable, local and educational are the adjectives beverage director Gary Enchelmaier uses to describe the cocktail menu at Sally’s Middle Name.

“I try to use the most local ingredients and create the drink menu with base spirits in mind,” he says.

The hip H Street locale’s cocktails are sure to be warming and welcoming this winter, and Sally’s perfect example of that is DC Cocktail Week pick the Golden Hind made with One Eight Distilling’s District-made, barrel-aged gin, local apple brandy, local amaretto and black walnut bitters. Though the cocktails are experimental and delicious, Enchelmaier says ultimately, the goal is to let the food shine.

“I’ll work with the kitchen to really see where they’re going. My decisions for the bar have to pair well with our food first.”

Stop by this farm-to-table spot for a unique and fresh pairing experience. And for every cocktail pairing sold during DC Cocktail Week, Sally’s Middle Name will donate $1 to Roots for Life, a nonprofit centered in food-insecure DC areas to educate and empower communities.

1320 H St. NE, DC; www.sallysmiddlename.com


Photo: Courtesy of Slate Wine Bar + Bistro

Photo: Courtesy of Slate Wine Bar + Bistro

Slate Wine Bar + Bistro

“Simple, yet eclectic,” says chef and sommelier Danny Lledó about the Glover Park spot’s drink menu. Slate will offer two new cocktails for DC Cocktail Week: the “light, airy and refreshing” Flying Monk made with vodka, green chartreuse and lime juice, and the festive Pumpkin Old Fashioned featuring roasted pumpkin-infused whiskey.

Slate’s extensive wine list looks to “introduce new tastes of obscure and unique wines to discover” while the cocktail menu aims to maintain “a balance of boozy cocktails and more fruit-driven cocktails,” according to Lledó.

Indulge in other deliciously balanced Slate favorites such as The Lobbyist (Slate’s take on a rickey) or The Prossecorita, a refreshing margarita topped with prosecco and berries.

2404 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.slatewinebar.com


Photo: Courtesy of Stable

Photo: Courtesy of Stable

Stable

This Swiss establishment on H Street offers a particularly creative theme for its cocktail program, focusing on “medicinal” concoctions like absinthe, amaro, schnapps and other authentic ingredients like old-school and herbal liquors from Switzerland.

“We’re focusing on our medicinal cocktails during the flu season,” says beverage director Silvan Kraemer. “And hot cocktails come back into play around the end of November.”

The Immune Booster has been a popular cocktail this fall, featuring bourbon, raspberry schnapps and lemon juice.

“During the fall, people tend to drink darker spirits,” he continues. “They can enjoy this well-balanced cocktail with nice acidity, bourbon notes and that fresh rose hip finish.”

Try Stable’s DC Cocktail Week pairing for something truly unique: a ham and Dijon mustard croissant and the Brandied Pear Cocktail made with Asbach Uralt brandy, Williams Pear Schnapps, lemon juice and rosemary simple syrup.

1324 H St. NE, DC; www.stabledc.com


Photo: Succotash

Photo: Succotash

Succotash

This upscale, Southern-inspired spot in Penn Quarter puts a heavy focus on whiskey – specifically bourbon – as its driving force, according to beverage director Darlin Kulla.

“We update our cocktails based on seasonality while focusing on crafting great classics such as [the] Old Fashioned, Manhattan [and] Mint Julep, among others.”

With a menu of fun, Southern-themed cocktails like Hey Peaches and Scarlett Sunset, Succotash is adding another smashing option for DC Cocktail Week: bourbon-based libation Hey Peanut featuring Buffalo Trace Eagle Rare bourbon, house-made salted peanut orgeat and yellow chartreuse.

Kulla says bourbon drinkers come out in the winter ready to explore new takes on their preferred spirit, so be sure to check out Succotash during the event to expand your palate.

915 F St. NW, DC; www.succotashrestaurant.com


Photo: Unconventional Diner

Photo: Unconventional Diner

Unconventional Diner

Chef David Deshaies is turning a familiar flavor pairing into what beverage director Andra Johnson calls “a twist on a popular classic” for DC Cocktail Week.

The trendy restaurant – just a stone’s throw from the Washington Convention Center – will offer the foie gras PB&J to adventurous eaters during the event. Served on toast with Concord grapes, port reduction, pomegranate seeds, sliced celery and dehydrated peanut butter snow, the dish will be paired with The Jam, made with Dogfish Head Roasted Peanut Vodka, Jack Natural Grenadine, port reduction and lemon.

Not into PB&J? Go for the seasonally versatile Paradise City with bourbon, hibiscus liqueur, Velvet Falernum and lime, served on the rocks and garnished with an orchid blossom.

“The flavors are fresh and fun without being too bright or too sweet,” Johnson says. “[The Paradise City has] definitely [been] a crowd-pleaser since I put it on the list back in July.”

1207 9th St. NW, DC; www.unconventionaldiner.com


DC Cocktail Week takes place from Monday, November 12 to Sunday, November 18. To learn more about pricing and participating venues, visit www.dccocktailweek.com.

A Survey of Scotch

Whisky and bourbon continue to dominate bar shelves and cocktail menus around DC, all the more so as the brisk temperatures roll in and the nights become longer. The sweet, nutty and woody notes of a well-made Old Fashioned cut through even the stiffest of fall gales. Yet for all of DC’s growing interest in and curiosity toward brown spirits, the city is still warming up to cocktails made with Scotch whisky – arguably the most well-revered style in the family.

For one, Scotch (referring to whisky made across Scotland) is often seen as a high-quality liquor that shouldn’t be mixed or diluted with other spirits or ingredients.

“While Scotch has been around forever and is one of the most beloved spirits in the world, it’s known to be by itself,” says Chris Mendenhall, lead mixologist at Quadrant Bar in DC’s West End.

He says he’s only used Scotch whiskies in a handful of the recipes he’s created for Quadrant, bringing up another reason for the overall lack of Scotch drinks on cocktail lists.

“Scotch is very difficult to work with,” he continues. “It has such a strong character to it.”

This character ranges from the pungent and smoky peat of whiskies from Scotland’s Islay region to sweeter, grassier drams of Speyside. The possibilities are enough to make a drinker’s head spin before ever taking a sip. Placing the spirit in a cocktail requires some additional, careful calculation.

“In an original cocktail, using Scotch is tough,” says Ben Long, general manager of Reliable Tavern in Petworth. “The ingredients need elbows.”

In other words, they need enough of their own “oomph,” or elbow room, to remain distinct without becoming overpowered. Think ingredients like ginger and zippy citruses.

Mendenhall is a fan of the Blood and Sand, a classic drink and a feature on his upcoming cocktail menu. It features Scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy and freshly-squeezed orange juice, resulting in a flavor profile that softens up some of the spirit’s harsh edges.

Classic Scotch cocktails are also a favorite at Reliable Tavern, where bartenders guide guests through cocktail orders by asking about preferences in spirits and flavors. Long calls it an Omakase-style experience, borrowing the term from the world of Japanese sushi tasting counters where the chefs take the lead in guiding diners.

Long says he and his staff usually tend to gravitate toward classics and riffs of tried-and-true recipes rather than going for original creation, a technique that’s especially useful when dealing with Scotch.

His suggestions for go-to Scotch drinks vary from the citrusy Penicillin with lemon juice and simple syrup to a twist on a stirred drink like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. He also recommends a drink called The Short Walk Home made with a dash of honey, a dash of Benedictine liqueur, Scotch, bitters and an orange twist.

That’s not to say that Scotch has no place in unique creations. At downtown’s Rare Steakhouse, bar manager Chelsea Wood happened upon the tasty Smoke Signal cocktail after quickly whipping something together for a happy hour regular who asked for something that was both smoky and smooth. The boozy drink features a rinse of Laphroaig whisky, Eagle Rare bourbon, honey and orange bitters.

“It’s one of my favorite cocktails that we made for the menu,” Wood says. “You’re not assaulting the palate with a really smoky, peaty Scotch.”

Offsetting that bold flavor is key when it comes to acquainting guests with a spirit that many are still dipping their toe into.

“The general population that’s coming into restaurants doesn’t really have a palate yet for some of those brown, stronger spirits,” she continues. “You have to find a way to play with [Scotch] and make it approachable and not scary.”

Check out the locations below for original takes on Scotch cocktails.

Quadrant Bar & Lounge: 1150 22nd St. NW, DC; www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/washington-dc/dc/dining/quadrant
Reliable Tavern: 3655 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.reliable-tavern.com
Rare Steakhouse: 1595 I St. NW, DC; www.raresteaks.com/location/washington-dc

Photos: Kayla Marsh

Behind the Bar: The Gibson, The Hamilton and Chaplin’s

The weather is cooling down and our palates are warming up! Just in time for apple-picking season, we’re exploring the most delicious,
fall-themed apple cocktails in DC. Packed with unique ingredients and boldly flavored spirits, see what fruit-forward autumn libations made our short list this month.


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The Gibson
Julia Ebell, Creative Director

On Tap: Is The Gibson debuting any new fall cocktails?
Julia Ebell: We are going to have one apple-themed drink in particular called The Gleanings. Gleanings are what’s left at the field at the end of harvest for animals [and] foragers of human or non-human types – the things that aren’t part of the harvest.

OT: What spin do you take on classic cocktails to keep them authentic but unique to The Gibson?
JE: All of these are very old school and would’ve been behind a bar any time past World War I when chartreuse hit America. It’s just about approaching them with intention. I want something that smells like burnt hay, so I have a blended Islay heavy scotch. I want something that’s a little overripe, so I have a Palo Cortado [sherry]. It’s about approaching them in a way that lets the ingredients speak for themselves.

OT: How does The Gibson maintain its speakeasy atmosphere on 14th Street?
JE: I refer to this as a craft cocktail bar. It’s not so much a secret to get here, but hopefully once you make your way through the hallway, you find something [you enjoy] that we can make for you. “Speakeasy” implies a slight standoffishness. Your bartender should be there as a spirit guide. My goal is to have people come in and look at our menus, and really think about what they like and why.

Gibson_TheGleanings (4)

The Gleanings
Smoky blended scotch
Yellow chartreuse
Dried apple chip
PX Sherry
Calvados

The Gibson: 2009 14th St. NW, DC; www.thegibsondc.com


TheHamilton_MariaDenton (1)

The Hamilton
Maria Denton, Beverage Director

On Tap: One of your featured originals is the District Cider, “a cider with serious bite.” What other fall options are available?
Maria Denton: The RocknRock Collins is coming on [with] Granny Smith apple flavors from the Betty’s Apple [cocktail], just repurposed. We added a little of our house-made bitters, which add that pie-spiced note. It’s still a light and refreshing, gin-based drink with CapRock Gin – much like a Tom Collins – but we “appled” it up for fall with a Bold Rock IPA.

OT: What are the ultimate fall food/drink pairings for the District Cider and RocknRock Collins?
MD: The herbal gin flavor and sour, green apple touch from the RocknRock Collins really goes well [with] our Nashville-style hot chicken, a perennial for us. The spices that come out in the District Cider’s apple whiskey and herbal liqueur play off our hearty, glazed meatloaf.

OT: What gives The Hamilton its upscale, sophisticated atmosphere?
MD: The museum-quality, historical [National Audubon Society] printed art makes us special. [It’s] lively and vibrant and gives that sense of color and pizazz. The comfortable wooden chairs give you the feeling that you’re dining in an old-school tavern.

Photos: Kayla Marsh

Photos: Kayla Marsh

District Cider
Leopold Bros. Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur
Leopold Bros. New York Apple Whiskey
Spiced turbinado sugar rim
Fresh apple cider

The Hamilton: 600 14th St. NW, DC; www.thehamiltondc.com


Chaplins_MicahAriWilder

Chaplin’s
Ari and Micah Wilder, Owners

On Tap: Can you break down the flavor profiles of some of your apple cocktails?
Micah Wilder: The One Eyed Jack is really awesome because it’s got our local [Cotton & Reed] spiced rum with calvados. We use B grade maple syrup, which is wilder than A grade and pops with ginger [and] then, [Graft Cider] Farm Flor Rustic for a funky fall, apple finish. A Dog’s Life is great because of the smoked apple ice, prosecco, walnuts and honey.

OT: What do you hope customers take away from your drink menu?
MW: Hopefully they can be excited and inspired. We [use] a lot of really fun, intense ingredients. It’s constantly changing. It’s about how much further we can push the bar. We have to keep evolving.

OT: How is your food menu changing with the colder weather?
Ari Wilder: The nabe [or hot pot] section is a new category we’ve added for the fall and winter. You customize at your table, choosing from three different broths and exotic Japanese vegetables. It’s a really savory, cozy, warming Japanese food.

OT: What are some key elements of Chaplin’s 1930s vibe?
MW: We project silent films upstairs and the popcorn machine is always going. Maggie [O’Neill, of design firm SWATCHROOM] and I wanted to dress [the spot] with posters for shows and custom chandeliers. There are stage lighting fixtures to convey the old world of silent film, with a battered red carpet painted up the staircase.

Chaplins_OneEyedJack (4)

One Eyed Jack
Graft Cider Farm Flor Rustic
Cotton & Reed Spiced Rum
Maple ginger
Calvados
Lemon

Chaplin’s: 1501 9th St. NW, DC; www.chaplinsdc.com

 

 

Photo: Courtesy of EatBar

Roll Out the Rum

Rum is one of the most nuanced spirits, both in its craft and taste. Regional differences mean there’s a bottle of rum for just about every palate. Too often, rum’s potential is restrained behind the bar, as it’s used for little more than boozing up tropical coolers best suited for cutting through triple-digit heat indexes. Those tiki-style drinks can be fun and refreshing, but they also leave the rum itself as afterthought, masked among layers of syrupy juices and sodas.

“I think a lot of spirits professionals will second me on this,” says Matt Strickland, head distiller at District Distilling on U Street. “I think the biggest problem is that rum is viewed as sweet, cheap and not very serious.”

Refusing to let rum live with this basic reputation, a growing chorus of bartenders are ditching blenders and pineapple wedges in favor of sophisticated cocktails that showcase rum’s natural flavors. Here are five cocktails in DC designed to highlight rum’s true colors.

Crown of Love at EatBar

2 oz. Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum
0.25 oz. rhum sirop
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl
Mole Bitters
lemon peel rim

This rum cocktail is based on Arcade Fire’s song “Crown of Love,” according to EatBar Spirits Manager Brian McGahey.

“‘[The song] captures the essence of crazy mad love,” he says. “It is a fitting name for this cocktail, which combines the intensity of a molasses-based dark rum that is a blend of Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados rums bottled at 69 percent alcohol, blended with a bit of rhum sirop from Martinique.”

EatBar: 415 8th St. SE, DC; www.eat-bar.com

The Migration at Kith/Kin

0.75 oz. cynar
0.75 oz. Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum
0.75 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
0.75 oz. Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino

The Kith/Kin bar team draws on two types of dark rum for its Manhattan-style riff, a recipe it originally credits to Ben Long of Reliable Tavern in DC’s Petworth neighborhood. The drink gets extra treatment here, spending two months aging in used Mount Gay Rum barrels before being served.

The result is a smooth, sippable cocktail with notes of charcoal and oak that bartender Dimitre Darrocan says imparts a whiskey-like flavor – one that’s miles away from tiki.

Kith/Kin at InterContinental Washington DC: 801 Wharf St. SW, DC ; www.kithandkindc.com

Full Moon Party (Photo - Courtesy of Quill - The Jefferson)

Full Moon Party at Quill

1.5 oz. Mount Gay Rum
2 oz. Thai tea apricot mix
0.25 oz. fresh lemon juice

“One of the biggest misconceptions about rum is that it’s not as versatile as other spirits, and that all rum tastes the same,” says Quill bartender Sophie Szych.

The upscale hotel bar, which also serves a Hamilton-inspired rum cocktail, takes advantage of that flexibility by using Thai tea in its Full Moon Party.

“The addition of condensed milk adds creamy roundness to the sharpness of the apricot,” Szych says.

Quill at The Jefferson: 1200 16th St. NW, DC; www.jeffersondc.com

La Fin du Monde (Photo - Courtesty of District Distilling)

La Fin Du Monde at District Distilling

1.5 oz. aged Buzzard Point Rum
0.75 oz. lemon juice
.075 oz. grenadine
0.25 oz. curacao

“When I approach a rum cocktail and it isn’t going to be tiki, I tend to look at classic serious cocktails in the canon, things like a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned,” Strickland says. “Subbing rum in for whiskey is the easiest thing to do, but you can get much more adventurous than that.”

Strickland is reviving this long forgotten rum cocktail (it originally appeared in the 1908 cocktail book World Drinks and How to Mix Them by William Boothby) in his distillery tasting room and using his distillery’s new barrel-aged rum as the base.

District Distilling: 1414 U St. NW, DC; www.district-distilling.com

Columbia Room cocktail (Photo - Karlin Villondo Photography)

A Spot in the Shade at Columbia Room

3 oz. clarified watermelon juice
1.5 oz. Bly Rum
0.325 oz. fresh lime
0.25 oz. Keepwell Carolina gold rice vinegar
0.5 oz. rich simple syrup

“This is a refreshing summer cocktail inspired by a picnic,” says Columbia Room Head Bartender Suzy Critchlow. “We are using Bly, a new white rum from the folks that make Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka in Pennsylvania.”

The cocktail is part of the award-winning bar’s four-course summer tasting menu. If a seat at the intimate bar is too much of a task, Critchlow says the drink can be easily made at home and even batched up into a punch for sharing.

Columbia Room: 124 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; www.columbiaroomdc.com

These cocktails represent just a small number of bartenders in and around DC that are challenging how we drink rum and use it in cocktails. Notes of vanilla, caramel, oak, molasses and spices are being highlighted in drinks that range from from revised takes on stirred classics to light and fruity sippers that balance sour and sweet. So next time a rum craving hits, put down the umbrella drink and consider something more suitable for a dimly lit cocktail bar than a sunny beach.

Photos: M.K. Koszycki

Behind The Bar: Archipelago, Paladar and Bar Charley

Rum is so much more than the liquor component of a piña colada. We chatted with three local experts about the vibrant world of rum and tiki, and the best drinks their spots have to offer in honor of National Rum Day on August 16.


Owen Thomson - Photo by M.K

Owen Thomson
Owner, Archipelago

On Tap: Tell me about the different rums featured on your menu.
Owen Thomson: Rum is one of the most varied spirits in the world because no other spirit is produced in as many places. It’s made from sugarcane – most are made from molasses – and you’ll find a few producers making it from fresh-pressed sugarcane juice. There’s a whole manner of ways people try to classify rum, and the easiest way that I was taught has to do with colonial pieces: there’s English, French and Spanish.

OT: How do you decide which style of rum goes in which drink?
OT: Tiki has a pantheon of classic cocktails that call upon certain styles of rum, but more interesting is the fact that most of them call on multiple rums. So rather than a drink needing two ounces of Jamaican rum, you might have three different rums in a tiki drink, which creates a drink you really can’t get anywhere else.

OT: What’s your favorite drink on the menu and why?
OT: I always enjoy the Mai Tai. It is obviously an old school drink that people who don’t even work in tiki learn how to make. It was my introduction to this style of drink, so figuring out our Mai Tai blend was one of my favorites.

OT: What sets Archipelago apart from other bars that heavily feature rum-based drinks?
OT: We are the only tiki bar in the area. This time of year, you’ll see a lot of tiki menus or people will flip their outdoor bar for a summer tiki menu. A lot of people switch to rum this time of year, but we do it all year. Tiki is only partially about the drinks. It encompasses the whole vibe, [including] the décor. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a tiki bar.

Jungle Room Experience 2 - Photo by M.K

The Jungle Room Experience
Rhum agricole
Blue Curaçao
Soursop
Cachaça
Apricot
Lemon

Archipelago: 1201 U St. NW, DC; www.archipelagodc.com

Gavin Nazareth 2 Photo by M.K

Gavin Nazareth
Bartender, Paladar Tysons Corner

On Tap: Your menu features a wide array of rums, and a key to what rums are similar to other types of liquors. What inspired your expansive, detailed menu?
Gavin Nazareth: A lot of people aren’t into rums and don’t know what good rums are. If you’re a bourbon drinker, there are rums that we have that will closely mirror a bourbon flavor. Obviously, rums are a little sweeter than bourbons or whiskeys or scotches that might have a bit of a bite to them.

OT: Can you tell me about the flights you offer?
GN: We encourage people to try our rum flights because you get to taste different flavors. They’re only half-ounce pours – that way, you can get a flight or two and still be okay. You can do a Spanish, English, aged or spiced flight.

OT: What are some of the big differences between rum styles?
GN: Spanish and English styles are boiled down, so they’re close to a honey or molasses. Once you have that concentrated flavor, you add water and yeast to it. The French style is different – it’s almost like a gin. You take out the sugarcane juice and add yeast, and they’re more on the botanical side. Spanish and English are more bold and sweet, with a nice buttery finish.

OT: What’s your favorite rum drink?
GN: We showcase a different rum every month, and this month we’re doing the plantation series. Plantation rums are from Barbados. They age them in Barbados and then bring them to France for an additional step. We have something called the Plantation Jungle Burn where we use pineapple plantation rum, fresh juices [and] campari, so it has a really nice finish.

Plantation Jungle Burn - Photo by M.K

Plantation Jungle Burn
Plantation pineapple rum
Pineapple juice
Simple syrup
Lime juice
Campari

Paladar Tysons Corner: 1934 Old Gallows Rd. Vienna, VA; www.paladarlatinkitchen.com

DSCN4320

Brendan Mullin
Bartender, Bar Charley

On Tap: Tell me about the rum drinks you feature on tap.
Brendan Mullin: We have two cocktails on tap, and a whole tiki menu that contains a lot of our rum drinks. One we have on tap right now is called It’s Not a Mai Tai, It’s Our Tai. It’s white rum, curacao, pineapple, orange – a lot of tasty tropical flavors.

OT: What are your favorite drinks on the tiki menu?
BM: The Frog Smoking a Comically Large Cigar is massive, fun and has a ridiculous garnish in it, and has a blend of mezcal and rum. Our Zombie is also fantastic, but my favorite cocktail is the classic Mai Tai. In my opinion, that’s the best American cocktail. It’s a great way to try different rums.

OT: What about the non-tiki rum-based drinks?
BM: On our house cocktail menu, we have the You Can’t Do That on Television that has three different types of rum. One [rum] is infused with jalapeño and [the cocktail] also has a pistachio orgeat, so it’s kind of a riff on a Mai Tai. You Can’t Do That on Television was a show on Nickelodeon back in the day, and the drink is green and looks like slime and is reminiscent of the 90s.

OT: What food pairs best with tiki or tropical drinks?
BM: The best thing on our food menu to have next to our rum drinks is the pupu platter. It has a bunch of different food options like pork belly, wagyu beef skewers, half-smoke pierogies and crab tater tots. Anything that’s salty and has a tropical flavor to it will go really well with a sweeter tiki drink.

OT: What sets Bar Charley apart from other bars with tiki menus and large rum selections?
BM: I’d say just how comprehensive we are. People ask us if we’re a classics bar, a tiki bar or a wine bar. The answer is “Yes” across the board. We have a great wine selection, we have classics and we’re creative on our own. We can also do tiki!

You Can’t Do That On Television
Havana Club rum
Clément V.S.O.P.
Chacho
Dry curaçao
Lime juice
Pistachio orgeat

DSCN4325

Bar Charley: 1825 18th St. NW, DC; www.barcharley.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Master Mixologist Paul Gonzalez

The concept of a passionate person is often talked about at parties and in cover letters, but it’s rare to meet someone in the flesh who truly embodies the phrase. For me, the sense of confidence and wonder that local mixologist Paul Gonzalez holds for the drink industry is uniquely infectious and authentic, and one of a litany of reasons we decided to pick his brain about his role in the local mixology scene.

On Tap: How did you get into the drink industry, and mixology specifically?
Paul Gonzalez: I’ve always been in the food and beverage industry. I’m the oldest of the four kids in my family so when I was younger, that made me my grandmother’s sous chef and that’s kind of where my flavor sensibilities started growing.  I worked in the industry through college, from server to bartender, and it was one of those things where you need the experience to get hired but can’t get experience unless you work. I would work for free until you gave me a job.

OT: Was there an “a-ha” moment when you knew this is what you are meant to do?
PG: When I got out of college, I was doing tons of stuff. I was cutting down trees, doing construction and working some office jobs because I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I landed on this because I always loved what I was doing in this industry, and I always kept it in my back pocket. Even after long weeks, I wanted to get behind the bar and see my friends. If everyone is there, why be anywhere else?


Mixology Must-Haves
A strong team
A positive outlook
Good liquor
Jiggers


OT: At what point did you know moving from Norfolk to a bigger market like DC was the right move for you?
PG: I knew I needed to move and continue growing. One of my good friends moved to DC and I would go back and forth to help with his catering company. By luck, one of his roommates happened to be running the bar program at Zaytinya. I started talking to him at one of the events we used to do, and when he found out I was driving up from Norfolk, he told me if I wanted to come up to DC full-time, he’d hire me there. So I literally came up on a Thursday, interviewed, got hired and then moved my stuff up that weekend.

OT: What was your first experience in a bigger market like?
PG: I worked for ThinkFoodGroup for about three years, and I learned a ton from them. A lot of it was their philosophy on hospitality. On the drink side, they focused heavily on flavors, so it wasn’t just, “Make me an Old Fashioned or a sazerac,” but they’d give us this flavor and that flavor, and challenge us to make something with it. That process makes you hone in on what each spirit tastes like and why.

OT: After that, you landed a gig with the wildly popular Drink Company’s pop-ups. How did that move come about?
PG: I bounced around for awhile and basically interned at a few places in the area I really wanted to work for. Columbia Room was one of those places, as I had friends there. I was pretty annoying about wanting a job with them, so I worked there for free, and it kind of burnt me out. [Laughs] But as soon as they had an opening at Southern Efficiency, they let me know I was in the running. At the time, whiskey was my weakest subject, but I leaned into it and told them directly, “I came to DC to get better, this is my weakest area and that’s why I want to work here,” and the rest is history.

OT: You recently worked at The Gibson, which was described as a “dream team” of mixologists by the Washington City Paper. Was this as fun as it sounds?
PG: It was really, really cool. I’ve had a blast working with The Gibson crew. It was one of those things that just kind of snowballed. My good friend Ed Lainez took over the bar program and after running into him, he told me who he was bringing on and I immediately was like, “Can I join?” Everyone there was super talented – we just checked our egos at the door and had in-depth conversations about drinks. We just wanted to get them right.


Can’t Live Without
My girlfriend
My puppy, Puppy the Vampire Slayer
Passion for anything you do
Good food
Good drinks


OT: Your next project is back with Drink Company at Eaton Hotel’s new bar. How far along is that?
PG: The whole hotel concept is super guest interactive. The bar will be a speakeasy-esque cocktail bar. We like the boozy drinks, but there will also be light, easy sipping beverages. I believe in the three-drink philosophy, where there’s three varietals of every type of cocktail. We want people to have a good time, but the goal is to make a memory and make it last. We’re shooting for a mid-August or September opening.

OT: In the meantime, you’ve been bouncing around and freelancing at different places. Is this just to learn and pick up new skills?
PG: I took this time to work with people who inspire me and who I want to learn from. I see all these awesome people running awesome programs, and I want to go work with them and pick their brains. There aren’t many industries where you can do this. One example is Hank’s Cocktail Bar up in Petworth. Jessica Weinstein is the beverage director for all of the Hank’s [locations], and she’s someone I’ve known for a long time now. You can see that she has her own style and [has made her own] footprint on elevated cocktails, but she’s taken all of the pretension out of it.

OT: What is your process for working on drinks? Do you have a concept and then work on it alone, or do you take ideas to others?
PG: It’s a little bit of both. The team works on ideas at least once a season. For instance, I’ll tell Jackson Crowder, co-manager at the Eaton Hotel’s bar, and then on the next day we both have off, we’ll hammer out variations of whatever concept. Then we’ll take those to the big meeting, and maybe one or two – or none – make it. Drink Company’s system is one of the best I’ve seen because they’re very open to ideas and collaboration

OT: Now that you’re moving into a managerial role and you’re the one giving tips and advice to younger people in the industry, what’s your long-term plan?
PG: It’s the same thing it’s been since I did my first interview in DC: I want to have my own bar in five years. I think I said that three years ago, so I have to start making moves. [Laughs] This is such a great city for it, and I would love to do something like that here.

For updates on Eaton Hotel, visit www.eatonworkshop.com/hotel.

Follow Gonzalez on Instagram at @paullyygee.

Eaton Hotel: 1201 K St. NW, DC; 202-289-7600; www.eatonworkshop.com/hotel

Photo: Courtesy of Cortez

Where the Cocktails are as good as the Views

Views of grand monuments, quirky rowhouses and historic streets make Washington’s outdoor bars endlessly alluring. This summer, there’s a new crop of rooftop and patio watering holes to explore across the city, each perched high above the hustle and bustle. And it’s not just the view that makes them worthwhile – several of the city’s best outdoor spaces also feature excellent cocktail programs. Here are six new spots to check out this season.

Calico

Calico’s urban backyard is proof you can create an oasis right in the middle of one of DC’s hottest neighborhoods.

“We’re this hidden escape in the middle of Blagden Alley,” says Calico’s co-founder, Greg Algie, whose secluded bar opened in the fall of 2017.

Now that the warm weather is here, Algie says to expect a new slate of summer activities, including cookout-style meals and outdoor fitness classes like yoga and pilates on weekends. A selection of frozen cocktails will join the bar’s popular (and dangerously crushable) “adult” juice pouches.

In addition to drinks, Calico’s chef Nathan Beauchamp is turning out some nostalgic comfort food like Philly-style tomato pie and the Italian-style Blagden hoagie.

50 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; www.calicodc.com

Colada Shop

Colada Shop’s new rooftop garden has made it even easier to get into the spirit of Cuba and the Caribbean. The space is designed to appeal to groups large and small, and is open for everything from morning coffee to evening drinks.

“We really wanted the rooftop to just look fresh and lighthearted, really taking inspiration from Little Havana,” says Mario Monte, Colada’s food and beverage director.

The rooftop cocktail menu has a tropical inspiration that’s entirely separate from the downstairs café. Highlights include a few variations of pouched cocktails (they’re calling them Havana Sippers) along with pitchers of mojitos and sparkling pineapple sangria.

Swing by on Thursdays throughout the summer for special “Havana Night” deals of $6 cocktails and $2 empanadas paired with Caribbean tunes from 4 p.m. to close. Monte also expects to use these evenings as a way to experiment with some new menu items.

1405 T St. NW, DC; www.coladashop.com

Cortez

Baja-style fare and drinks are the go-to items at Cortez in Shaw. The colorful Mexican bar and rooftop opened in March and offers views of the colorful rowhouses and businesses of the surrounding streets.

“It’s really meant to be a transformational experience for the guests,” says owner Ryan Seelbach. “It’s a very relaxed but lively atmosphere – a playful atmosphere – on our rooftop.”

The drink menu at Cortez includes classic and passionfruit margaritas along with choices like a pineapple daiquiri, a twist on a Paloma and more. There’s also a frozen margarita available exclusively on the rooftop. Food focuses on lighter options, all made in-house, such as fish tacos, chips and salsa, and street corn. Cortez offers rotating happy hour specials from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and a $10 beer-tequila-and-taco special Friday and Saturday nights after 10 p.m.

1905 9th St. NW, DC; www.cortezbardc.com

Fix Bar at Morris

Inside, Morris American Bar is a seated-only lounge for enjoying expertly made craft cocktails. But for a more casual experience, grab one of the refreshing, crushed ice “fix” drinks from its new patio, aptly named the Fix Bar.

“A fix is a nontraditional sour cocktail served under crushed ice,” says owner and mixologist David Strauss. “It’s one acid, one sweetener, one spirit – that’s it. It’s one of my favorite categories of classic cocktails.”

The Fix Bar is dog-friendly and encourages standing and mingling with your friends and neighbors. The cocktails are expected to rotate through the year and include items like a Bourbon Honey and a Bramble with gin, lemon and blackberry.

1020 7th St. NW, DC; www.morrisbardc.com

Truxton Inn

Despite its name, there are no rooms available for the night at Truxton Inn. Rather, this Bloomingdale neighborhood spot deals in riffs on classic cocktails in a comfortable lounge atmosphere. The year-old bar unveiled its patio earlier this spring, nearly doubling its capacity.

“Much like all of us, I’m glad we’ve got some outdoor space so we can enjoy the weather after that whirlwind of a winter,” says Brian Nixon, Truxton’s bar manager.

Nixon recommends sipping on the Delano in a White Suit, a combination of bourbon, Giffard Abricot du Rousillon, simple syrup and lime. Truxton Inn plans to roll out a tiki-inspired menu later this summer, and that should make the patio all the more welcoming.

251 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.truxtoninndc.com

Whiskey Charlie

Located on the top of District Wharf’s new Canopy Hotel, Whiskey Charlie offers a panoramic bird’s eye view of DC from the Capitol dome all the way to the Tidal Basin and Arlington. The vista at this Wharf destination rivals any in the city – though that’s far from the bar’s only attraction.

“We also have a really eclectic, approachable drink menu that has something for just about everyone,” says lead bartender Donnavon Lalputan. “Come for the sunset, stay for the drinks!”

House cocktails include the WC Mainstay, made with whiskey, amaretto, lemon, sugar and egg white. With summer approaching, Lalputan recommends the Sundress Season, which mixes crema de mezcal, habanero tequila, grapefruit juice, demerara, lime juice and a splash of soda. The bar also serves a selection of savory snacks and finger foods like crab cakes, short rib sliders, warm soft pretzels, and a cheese and meat plate.

975 7th St. SW, DC; www.whiskeycharliewharf.com