bartenders dc
Photos: Monica Alford

Behind the Bar: June 2016

Sean Simmons,  Senior Bartender at Dacha Beer Garden

On Tap: Dacha offers a range of Belgian, German and U.S. brews. What are your top picks from the current lineup?
Sean Simmons: I’ve been enjoying Bayerische Bahnhof’s Porticus. It’s a Baltic porter with brett that expertly balances roasty and sweet malt flavors with funky bugs. Visiting drafts aside, I usually go for a Weihenstephaner Dunkelweizen. It’s my favorite style, and Weihenstephaner nails it.

OT: Does being a homebrewer affect your thought process on what beers are a good fit for Dacha’s menu?
SS: I think I steer toward the more experimental and alternative styles because it’s fun to give customers something they’ve never had before.

OT: Tell us a little bit about your brand, Möbius Meadery.
SS: I initially thought it was just an easy way to make booze, but as I brewed more mead, I realized honey has plenty of its own fun idiosyncrasies as a fermentable. I was hooked when I began experimenting with the vast terroir in honey, its ability to pair with fruit, spices and herbs, and its willingness to feed ale yeast.

OT: How would you characterize the ambiance at Dacha?
SS: Being outside and having a very neutral and pleasant aesthetic makes us very accessible. Shaw is an eclectic community, and you see the neighborhood represented pretty well at Dacha.

OT: What Dacha Beer Club events are on tap for the summer?
SS: Sour Lips on June 8, a massive sour beer event [featuring] eight rare sour beers from all over the world, and DuClaw Brewery on June 15 [and] Longtail Brewery on June 22 presenting two new brews [each].

Sean’s Pick: Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen 

  • Unfiltered, Bavarian-style wheat beer characterized by its clove-like aroma and banana flavor

Learn more about Möbius Meadery on social media: @mobiusmeadery.

Dacha Beer Garden: 1600 7th St. NW, DC; 

Chris Bassett, Bar Manager at Blackwall Hitch

On Tap: What flavor profiles do you look for in drinks when pairing them with seafood?
Chris Bassett: Initially, I’m looking for something light and crisp to complement the dish. Citrus always works well, and if I can incorporate a fresh herb, then I feel as if I’ve really done my job.

OT: Your drink menu offers a great breakdown of summer cocktail options, from light and fruit-forward to bold and spicy. Any customer favorites?
CB: Quite a few are quickly becoming fan favorites! Our version of the Pimm’s Cup, Hibiscus Mojito, Southern Mule and the Dill Lemon Spritzer have just been flying out of here.

OT: When you’re not working, what summer cocktail or libation are you most likely to order?
CB: I’m a big fan of rum – just neat, maybe a little ice. But I could just as easily make a day of drinking Coors Light. I enjoy all things alcoholic!

OT: Does the restaurant have a local or craft beer focus?
CB: We actually have 24 beers on tap – a wide range. What I have done with the program here [is] make a majority of the line brewery specific. This way I can change the style/type of beer whenever something new comes out or a season changes, or just because. I try to keep them as local and/or craft as possible.

OT: How would you describe Blackwall Hitch’s outdoor space?
CB: Our back patio has an amazing view of the water, [plus] fire pits and a bar. It’s a really chill place to hang out and enjoy the lovely weather. Sitting at the fire pit, relaxing, eating oysters with a bottle of wine – [I] can’t think of a better way to spend a summer night.

Chris’s Pick: Grapefruit Wine Crush 

  • Deep Eddy grapefruit vodka
  • Lillet Blanc
  • Agave
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Topped with soda water

Blackwall Hitch: 5 Cameron St. Alexandria, VA; 

Colin Sugalski, Beverage Director at Maketto 

OT: Does Maketto’s drink menu include Cambodian and Taiwanese influences?
CS: Yes! We strive to differentiate ourselves from other Asian-inspired bar programs. The array of flavors in that world are far too wide to not utilize! Some of the highlights include making coconut cream with Sichuan peppercorns and chilies, a Southeast Asian-inspired tonic syrup that features kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass, and infusing Kaoliang (Taiwan’s answer to moonshine) with Shou Pu-erh tea from Taiwan.

OT: Will any seasonal cocktails be making their debut this summer?
CS: A big menu that we are really excited about is centered on vermouth, which will roll into Negroni Week [on] June [6-12]. We also have plans [to make] a Khmer tiki program. Lastly, our vinegar cocktails are always centered around whatever produce is currently in abundance.

OT: What’s most notable about the restaurant’s wine selection?
CS: Rather than focusing on the classic ideals of quelling spice with sweetness, my team and I have assiduously tasted through the menu to find unorthodox pairings like South African cabernet sauvignon or Georgian Amber wines to fit snugly next to a coconut nam prik sauce or a char siu bao.

OT: How does Maketto’s communal atmosphere translate to the experience of enjoying libations in the courtyard or on the roof deck?
CS: I love it when people are outside on the roof deck and they see someone holding a cocktail that is a compelling shade of pink, and in that moment they can’t help but tap him or her on the shoulder and ask, “What the hell is that thing?” Curiosity is an ineffable force that brings people together in their daily happenings. What is better to be curious about than a delicious drink?

Colin’s Pick: Giuseppe Opens a Beer Bar in Kentucky 

  • Uncouth pear ginger
  • Bourbon
  • Citra-hopped Strega

Maketto: 1351 H St. NE, DC; 

Photos: Monica Alford