DC JazzFest at The Wharf

DC JazzFest hit The Wharf on June 15 and 16 featured four main stages with free world class jazz music on the District and Transit Piers, plus Snarky Puppy, Jose James and more at the Anthem. In addition to live music, festival-goers enjoyed the beer and wine gardens and a diverse marketplace experience. Photos: Beauty By Photography

Beer, Bourbon, BBQ Festival at National Harbor

This year’s Beer, Bourbon, BBQ festival at National Harbor featured all-you-care-to-taste samplings of 60 beers and 40 bourbons on tap, a delicious barbecue selection including the Shrine of Swine with pulled pork right from the source, and live rock and blues music all day. The event comes to Leesburg in October! Photos: Beauty By Photography

Spring Year of Beer Sampling at ARL Rooftop Bar & Grill

ARL Rooftop Bar & Grill hosted the first Year of Beer sampling of the season, featuring two brews from O’Connor, Blue Mountain, Pale Fire and Heavy Seas. Guests received sampling tickets to sample at least one from each brewery, then voted for their favorite and entered a raflle to win an ARL Rooftop gift card.

Pride on The Pier 2019

The Washington Blade’s second annual Pride on The Pier was presented by Absolut, celebrating LGBTQ visibility in the city with DJs, dancing, beer, wine and cocktails, and an amazing fireworks display. Photos: Beauty By Photography

Capitol Riverfront Concert Series: Pebble to Pearl at Yards Park

The Friday night concert series in Capitol Riverfront kicked off last Friday, June 7 with R&B tunes from Pebble to Pearl at Yards Park. Concert-goers enjoyed ice cold Corona and wine while enjoying a relaxing evening in the neighborhood’s waterfront park. Photos: Kimchi Photography

Celebrate Fairfax 2019

This year’s Celebrate Fairfax featured headliner band Better Than Ezra on Friday night, and festival-goers enjoyed a petting zoo, carnival rides and a karaoke championship along with nightly fireworks and plenty of great food. Photos: Beauty By Photography

The Altaire Grand Opening Celebration

Guests who attended The Altaire Grand Opening celebration in Arlington enjoyed specialty cocktails, beer and wine, complimentary bites from local restaurants, live music, giveaways and grand tours of the luxury apartments. Photos: Mark Van Bergh

Photo: courtesy of The Study

The Study at Morrison House Brings Cocktails to Cozy Alexandria Space

It has always been said to never judge a book by its cover, at least that was always told to me as a child. This is how I felt as I approached Morrison House, a new member of the Autograph collection. As I opened the door I was greeted by a softly lit entrance with a fresh linen scent, almost as if I stepped right off King Street into a storybook, providing a quiet reprieve from the heat and chaos of the outside. I was swiftly swept into a cozy bar area, immediately made to feel at home.

The Study at Morrison House is an intimate bar located within Morrison House, a boutique hotel. Situated in a small residential street, just a block over from the hustle and bustle of King Street, they specialize in a seasonal rotation of small plates and signature house-made cocktails.

As I settled into the soft leather backed bar chairs, the bartender Cynthia immediately introduced herself and offered me the signature cocktail of the evening and the rest of the summer, the Gin Chamomile Milk Punch. The punch was incredibly refreshing, and proved to be a good choice even for those who are not fans of gin. The mixture of gin and chamomile was a lovely floral experience for the tongue, and the pre-frosted glasses were a nice added touch for the warm weather.

As the taste was something I had never encountered before, I was intrigued – so much so that I asked Cynthia how it was made. The process takes two days and involves a bottle of gin and many bags of chamomile tea, eventually combined together with milk. As the process is incredibly lengthy, she informed me she gages the necessity based on any events that are being hosted at the hotel.

As I sipped my punch, I noticed the variety of ages and faces around me, telling me that while it can feel like an old fashioned hotel from the outside, you walk in and all your expectations are immediately transformed, especially with the incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff. This space is made for everyone, no matter their age or food and drink favorites. Whether you want a small bite or a glass of local Virginia rosé, The Study at Morrison House has something to offer for your particular palate.

As I finished my drink, food slowly began to be passed around, starting with “Mom’s Pimento Cheese,” a creamy pimento cheese served on the flakiest crostini I have ever encountered. As soon as I finished my bite, I was able to speak to Chef Peter McCall, the mastermind behind the spot’s food program. He told me his focus was on seasonal ingredients and plates, he rotates the menu based on the fresh vegetables and other ingredients he can get from the farmer’s market. On top of that, he wanted the emphasis to be on the cocktails, with a nice flavorful bite to go along with their signature drinks. When I mentioned how much I enjoyed the pimento cheese, he smiled and said it was actually his mother’s recipe. The small plates aspect adds to the overall experience in the sense that you can hold a nice conversation and be able to enjoy rotating varieties of fresh food as well.

If you are looking for an elegant bar where you can come relax and enjoy a refreshing cocktail for a good value, The Study is the ideal place. The concept here is that of a best-kept secret, a place where you can have a cocktail and conversation, away from everything else going on. Especially in the hot days we are bound to encounter in the DC area’s summer, it is a welcome break from the overpowering haze and humidity outside.

Vintage Virginia Wine Festival

This all-you-care-to-enjoy event at Bull Run Special Events Center included over 200 wines from 20+ Virginia wineries, special food pairings, live music and more. Photos: John Gervasi PhotoArts, LLC

Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Design Edition

In a city filled with bars touting the best craft cocktails, local beer programs or even late-night eats, what’s bound to make patrons stick around and even more importantly, come back time and time again? The atmosphere created by a bar can make or break its overall experience, no matter how good the drinks on hand.
Two new additions to DC’s ever-growing cocktail scene, however, prove that providing the best of both is possible. And while the overall style and décor of these locations is not similar at first glance, they share a common goal: unpretentious, enjoyable sips in atmospheres unlike anything else in the city.

Astoria

Eli Schwarzschild

Owner Devin Gong and Bartender // Partner Eli Schwarzschild

“I always rode trains when I was little, and I loved the dining car of the train where you had the bar in the middle and the seating on either end,” owner Devin Gong says of the narrow but inviting locomotives that inspired the look of his newest venture, Dupont Circle’s Astoria. “When I first walked in, it was a very long and narrow space, and it reminded me a lot of a train car.”

With the help of CORE architecture + design, Gong brought his childhood nostalgia to life. With nods to his flagship spot on H Street, Copycat Co., the space invokes the kind of intimate setting you’d perhaps get from a drink on a bustling train car in the midst of a grand adventure. A talented artist himself, Gong painted the three works of art that hang over large, cozy booths – they even look like train car windows at first glance.

It’s a subtle callout, however, and Gong was careful to make sure he didn’t “hit people over the head” with his interior inspirations. Similarly understated is the bar’s approach to food and drink. Astoria’s beverage director Eli Schwarzschild points out that while the concept is inherently creative, they aren’t trying to overthink things.

“It’s a combination of classics paying homage to drinks that have stood the test of time,” Schwarzschild explains. “If the drinks aren’t broken, don’t fix them is partially our philosophy. We want to respect the drinks. But on the other hand, there’s creativity in a sense. We have originals, but it’s not about us per se. We’re just trying to put out drinks that could perhaps be mistaken for a classic; not so many infusions, just going back to the basics and staying true to the ingredients, which is a very French idea.”

One thing that’s present at Astoria but not necessarily at other outposts serving classic cocktails is an array of doodles flanking the menu, hand-drawn by Schwarzschild himself. They’re incredibly detailed and time-consuming to produce, so why do it?

“Not many people notice it, but it’s the one person in a million who does that makes it worth it,” Schwarzschild says. “It’s just that characteristic of art that is almost existential. Whatever you decide and whatever matters to you, that’s what it is. It’s kind of meanderings – left-brain kind of thoughts. As long as there’s a feeling there, I let my brain go with it.”

The bar provides a welcome combination of outside-the-box elements with unpretentious but well-crafted drinks. At the end of the day, it’s clear Gong and Schwarzschild are able to incorporate personal passions into this endeavor, and the bar is even better for that energy.

“I don’t have lofty goals to change the scene or anything like that,” Gong concludes. “I know what I do, and for me this is more self-indulgent than anything else.”

Hummingbird

HUMMINGBIRD
St. Germain
Punt e Mes vermouth
Lemon
Honey
Cinnamon
GF

Astoria: 1521 17th St. NW, DC; www.astoriadc.com

Hex

Kit Yarber

General Manager Kit Yarber

The second floor of The Passenger in Shaw was home to a sporadically used space, only opened on the rare occasion that the neighborhood bar was hosting a band. Kit Yarber saw an opportunity to transform the underutilized level into what he now describes as the “a little goth, a little kitschy” Hex.

As general manager of the newly minted space, Yarber decided the décor and menu would take cues from astrology, tarot and the occult. Numerology comes into play as well, as “hex” indicates the number six and the menu is broken up into six categories. All 12 astrological signs are represented on the menu, and Yarber says he based it off people he knew when deciding what sign to name the drinks after.

“It’s been funny because people come in and want to order their sign, of course, and they’re like, ‘How did you know?’” he explains. “I just tell them I based it off of someone who was that sign.”

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can draw a rune – or divinatory symbol – from a bag behind the bar, and you’ll be presented with a drink that corresponds to the symbol hidden on the menu. There are also runes flanking the wall to the right of the bar, along with a stuffed unicorn head, lovingly called Ophelia.

“I always loved the Victorian haunted mansion, pictures on pictures on pictures look,” Yarber says of the plethora of design elements that adorn the walls and tables. “We talked about having a curio aspect. Everything kind of mismatches but it ends up working out together. We just had fun with it.”

The resulting space is a nod to the supernatural and spiritual without feeling spooky. It’s overall feel is intimate and inviting. Since opening, it’s been a mix of lovers of the elements present at the bar and those who are completely unfamiliar that have stopped in for one of Yarber’s creations. The spot has even caught the attention of local pan-Pagan group The Firefly House, who plans on hosting a handful of regular happy hours at the spot. You can also catch occasional tarot readings.

Whether you’re the type to pull a daily tarot reading and analyze everything through the lens of the zodiac or just want to enjoy a drink in an inviting space, Yarber wants Hex to be a place where you can sit, relax and connect.

“I wanted Hex to have a different ambiance,” Yarber says. “I love the craft cocktail scene and craft cocktail bars, but I feel like they get stuck in a certain era. I don’t want it to feel pretentious. I just want it to be chill. I want to get people up here who love talking to people and [offer] a different ambience that can still be appreciated as something unique.”

The Incantation

THE INCANTATION
Rittenhouse Rye
Sacred Bond Brandy
Averna
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
Punt e Mes vermouth
Orange bitters
Angostura bitters

Hex Bar: 1539 7th St. NW, DC; www.hexbardc.com