bartenders dc
bartenders dc

Behind the Bar Hip Hotel Bars

ANDREA TATEOSIAN Urbana at Hotel Palomar
New England native Andrea Tateosian first began bartending in college, but it wasn’t until she moved to the DC area that she fell in love with everything behind the bar. She worked at the Gibson for four years – while also juggling a 9 to 5 – and considered the bartending gig more of a hobby where she could learn about the history of cocktails, explore the different spirits available to her and learn the art of hospitality.  For the past year, she’s been striking the perfect balance between craft cocktail knowledge and quality guest experience at Dupont Circle’s Urbana, a contemporary Italian restaurant within Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar.

On Tap: Do you have any tips for those of us with limited craft cocktail knowledge about ordering drinks at speakeasy-style locations? 
Andrea Tateosian: Don’t be intimidated by arm garters and man buns and twirly moustaches. The bartender is there to take care of you. I don’t care how much they know about craft spirits. If they want to make their guests feel inferior, they’re not a good bartender. There’s a backlash in the bartending community against the snobby mixologist trope. It’s overdone, and it’s not fun for anyone. I think bartenders now are more focused than ever on having a well-rounded culture of knowledge, great ingredients and quality of experience.

OT: What’s your process for selecting the seasonal lineup on the cocktail menu?
AT: It’s really important to me to have a focused menu each season so that everything works well together. I like to have a menu where there’s something for everybody, and then also push some boundaries.

OT: Can you give us a sneak peek of what might be on Urbana’s spring drink list? 
AT: There’s an Italian liqueur that isn’t necessarily a cherry liqueur, but it has a lot of berry flavors. It’s also slightly reminiscent of Pimm’s, so we’re going to do a Pimm’s Cup variation with that. What we really have fun with at Urbana is taking the Italian style of drinking and adapting it to American cocktail sensibilities.

OT: Do you have any special ingredients in mind for the warmer months?
AT: This summer, I want to use some of the fresh ingredients from our garden [at Urbana] to make a house soda to incorporate in a seasonal rickey. I’m leaning toward yellow bell pepper and potentially some basil – just get a little weird. Keep it weird, keep it sexy.

URBANA: 2121 P St. NW, DC; 202-956-6650; www.urbanadc.com 

BEN COLQUE  Cambria Hotel & Suites 
The bar at Cambria’s DC location near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The boutique hotel experience at an affordable price suits Colque, who thrives off of the welcoming environment at the bar. Before becoming Cambria’s Bar Manager last year, Colque worked as lead bartender at L2 Lounge in Georgetown. Now he pairs unique ingredients together for the hotel bar’s seasonal menus.

On Tap: Bartending at a hotel must lend itself to a lot of interesting requests from guests. Is this the case, or are travelers more normal than I think?  
Ben Colque: We have people that come all the way from Europe, Asia, South America, [and] of course, the whole United States. I just found out that they put a little bit of Malbec in their whiskey in Argentina. I was like, “Really? Okay.”

OT: So the guests keep you on your toes then.
BC: Of course. Every day, different people come here and you’re surprised. You try [their cocktail selections], and they’re not bad. They’re not bad at all.

OT: Do these guest recommendations from around the world ever inspire your seasonal menu? 
BC: [This year], I’m going to try to make at least two, maybe three, cocktails from each region [including] Europe, the U.S. and South America. I think people will feel welcome. They will feel like they came from home, and [now] they’re coming home. I think that’s our goal here in the hotel.

OT: What’s the weirdest thing someone has ever requested from Cambria’s bar? 
BC: My bartender was like, “Okay, I need to talk to you. [This guest] wants me to boil vodka and put it in a huge glass with ice and iced tea. And she wants four [servings].” So we were Googling “boiling vodka.” Apparently, [singers] drink that to clear their throats. And then we [realized] it was Rihanna.

OT: Requests for boiling vodka aside, what do you have in store for the spring and summer? 
BC: We’re getting ready for our new summer cocktails that will include a lot of passion fruit and other juices. We have a new product that is Mr. Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite drink, the Singani 63, from South America. We’re planning to put that as a main drink.

OT: What Cambria cocktail do you have the most fun making? 
BC: The blackberry watermelon mojito. I think it’s the best drink that we have here. The muddling, the mixing, and the color – it’s beautiful.

CAMBRIA SUITES: 899 O St. NW, DC; 202-299-1188;  www.cambriadc.com

ALEXANDRA GORDON Blue Duck Tavern
A DC Craft Bartenders Guild member with five years of bartending experience under her belt that includes three years at the Park Hyatt’s Blue Duck Tavern in Georgetown, Alexandra Gordon is a self-described “gin girl” with a penchant for putting a modern twist on classic cocktails. Gordon is part of a rare breed of DC residents who actually grew up in the area (Reston, Va.) and decided to stay (now in the West End), making her role at Blue Duck even more of a perfect fit – some of their cocktails are even named after DC parks.

On Tap: Do you have any spring cocktails that will pay homage to our fair city’s cherry blossoms?
Alexandra Gordon: We have an incredible tea that’s like a cherry blossom tea, and we want to incorporate that into a cocktail.

OT: Do you work closely with the Blue Duck chefs to create new cocktail recipes? Is it a collaborative process?
AG: I work at such an incredible property. We have a huge downstairs kitchen where I literally could order anything under the sun that I want to play with. All of the chefs are willing to help me with anything I want to try. And there’s a lot of trial and error, to be honest with you.

OT: That’s great to have the freedom to try new things and see what happens.
AG: Oh absolutely, and because I work at such an incredible restaurant, I can experiment. There’s a lot of cool produce and things downstairs that I can play with.

OT: What types of cocktails are you experimenting with now?   
AG: We’re going to start a gin and tonic program where we have three gins and three tonics, and we’ll be listing them by themselves so you can play around with [them]. We’ll have the guests be able to almost create their own [cocktails] through our three and three.

OT: What is your signature cocktail or the biggest crowd-pleaser? 
AG: I would say that bourbon is probably our strength. We have the Park Manhattan, which uses Bulleit rye, sweet and dry vermouth, and orange bitters. That’s become a standard here.

OT: What sets Blue Duck’s drink menu apart from other area bars? 
AG: We’re extremely seasonal. I feel like it excites guests to be able to come and sit down at the bar and always try something new.

BLUE DUCK TAVERN: 1201 24th St. NW, DC; 202-419-6755;  www.blueducktavern.com