Bartender Ashley McPherson // Photos: M.K. Koszycki

Behind the Bar: Cane Brings Island Life to the District

Intimate, colorful Trinidadian restaurant Cane popped up on H Street just three months ago, and everything about it will instantly transport you to the islands. The restaurant, co-owned by chef Peter Prime and his sister Jeanine Prime, pays homage to their experiences growing up in Trinidad.

The restaurant is small, but its vivid colors make for a unique and welcoming experience. From the yellow wall decorated with beachy shutters to oil paintings (one even capturing former President Barack Obama in Trinidad) to the textured feature near the bar made of recycled sugar cane, everything about the restaurant is intentional and well thought out to make for a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

While the cuisine and ambiance may be the primary allure of this brand-new spot, the well-rounded cocktail program has become more than an added bonus.

“It’s just like the cherry on top,” says Cane’s bartender Ashley McPherson. “The food is already amazing and then you get a nice, refreshing cocktail that brings out the flavor of the food.”


Carnival
Real McCoy 5-year rum and white rums
Pineapple shrub
Coconut orgeat syrup
Angostura bitters


Nestled by the small bar are shelves stacked high with a wide array of Caribbean rum hand-selected by Peter. Selections include standouts like El Dorado, Scarlet Ibis Trinidadian rum and more. Each cocktail is made to perfection with a different type of rum in each glass adding its own flair to the menu.

“It was a lot of fun to play with these drinks,” McPherson continues. “As we got more rums and more cocktails, we thought, ‘Let’s educate more people on rum.’”

Cane’s drink menu was originally only going to include four cocktails. But because of its growing collection and the menu’s success, they saw it as an opportunity to bring more Caribbean rum into their collection and educate DC foodies on how rum has played a significant role in Trinidadian culture.

The District is no stranger to rum bars, and the steady influx of these locations can partially be associated with the start of Rum Day DC in 2011. However, Cane takes a different approach, highlighting the cultural aspects of the spirit.

Whether it’s the food or drinks, everyone is bound to experience the sweet and spicy kick of flavor found in Trinidad while at Cane – from the Cane Fever, which includes a pineapple-habanero shrub that soaks for a week to bring out the best flavor, to the Carnival containing coconut orgeat syrup and the Indian spice garam masala complemented by Cane’s West Indian and Caribbean style.


Cane Fever
Scarlet Ibis Trinidadian rum
Pineapple-habanero shrub
Lime
Sparking water


McPherson also recommends the Irie Old Fashioned. It’s a particularly great option for those that aren’t as keen on rum, as its ingredients of sugar cane and house-made vanilla bitters have a sweet flavor comparable to a traditional old fashioned.

Although the cocktails tend to take center stage at Cane’s bar, they pair well with appetizers like doubles – a popular Trinidadian street food that consists of two pieces of flat, fried dough filled with curried chickpeas – and the jerk wings.

As for entrées, the tiffin box is a popular option for a party of two or more, depending on your appetite. The four-level pyramid is a traditional dish in Trinidad and India, served with Indian bread and an assortment of chutney and curry samplings.

Cane’s sous chef Kyle Burnett says servers break down the shareable entrée, showing diners what the assortment consists of and the variety of sauces that can be paired with them. Needless to say, the dish will leave you full enough to need a to-go box. The team at Cane plans to continue highlighting their variety of rum cocktails through late summer and fall.

“It’s a pretty intimate space and we are packed out every day, so we are just riding that wave,” McPherson says. “We’ll come up with even more fun cocktails for the fall season.”

Cane: 403 H St. NE, DC; 202-675-2011; www.cane-dc.com