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Photo: courtesy of Dram & Grain

Dram & Grain Makes Happy Hour Debut

If the fictional high school chemistry teacher Walter White from AMC’s Breaking Bad put his talents toward making cocktails instead of methamphetamine, he’d be Andy Bixby. At a cocktail tasting hosted at Dram & Grain in Adams Morgan, Bixby threw around terms like “spherification” to describe how he trapped applewood-smoked cucumber juice in a bubble using calcium chloride. He often spoke of cocktail “molarity” to illustrate the balance of his craft beverages. Bigsby even gets dehydrators and pressure cookers involved when he’s experimenting with new tinctures, spirits and syrups for the cocktail menu. 

I nodded like I knew what he was talking about, recalling chemistry as my worst subject in high school. Had high school chemistry class been directed toward creating fun drinks using the periodic table of elements, maybe I would have paid more attention. 

Bixby is the creative director of beverage at Dram & Grain, the speakeasy-style bar that originated in the secluded basement of the Jack Rose Dining Saloon. He is joined by wine director and cocktail collaborator Morgan Kirchner. After a 15-month hiatus, Dram now lives in a much larger, but still intimate, candlelit space down the street under the team’s newest venture, The Imperial. The bar and restaurant opened in November at the corner of 18th street and Florida avenue. 

Dram & Grain is the bar to go to to find a cocktail you couldn’t possibly conceive of alone and have literally never had in your life. I’m not sure where else you could come across a drink that combines ingredients like miso, cucumber juice and ham fat “pearls.” Or what Bixby calls the “anti-Blood Mary,” a light and clean crowd favorite that includes toasted mustard seed and tomato water garnished with a strawberry salt-covered cherry tomato. 

The former umami-forward cocktail with ham fat beads is called Pearls Before Swine and was inspired by a dish Kirchner had in Copenhagen. 

“My background is in culinary arts so taking those things and putting them into a cocktail glass is like, my obsession,” Kirchner says. Its base is tamaro, one of the three house-made base ingredients. 

Tamaro pulls flavors from tamari, dark miso, shoyu, lemongrass and ginger. Base potions anisette and baked citrus amaro join tamaro in the foreground of Dram’s cocktail menu. “I wanted to show others the power of a quarter of an ounce,” Bixby explains. “I wanted to make the base the star of the show. Showcase the versatility of how that ingredient works.” 

In fact, the cocktail menu is organized by base ingredient, followed by the varying drinks that can be made using it. Currently, all three bases get their chance to shine in three different cocktails each. The menu is designed to show guests how tamaro’s complex flavor profile, for example, works just as well in a vodka-forward martini drink as it does in a tiki-inspired rum one.

Before you make a choice and order a drink, however, the Dram & Grain experience begins on arrival. Every guest is greeted with a “Welcome Punch of the Day.” The current iteration carbonated on draft is a blend of Jamaican rum, PX sherry, black walnut liqueur, red verjus and wine. The rotating draft cocktail serves as a little preview of what imaginative concoctions are to come.

Though such rare and intricate cocktails come at $13-$18 a pop (which isn’t so steep considering the time, science and trial-and-error Bixby and Kirchner put into them), these drinkable creations are about to get a lot more accessible: the bar just launched a happy hour for the very first time.   

Starting this week Monday through Friday between 5-7:30 p.m., you can snag one of those detailed, technical-forward out-of-the-box cocktails for $11.

Shareable snacks of note on the happy hour menu include Carroll’s Clam Dip with crème fraîche, horseradish and sea salt lavash and five other delectable dishes

Dram & Grain offers both reservation and open seating sections, and both tasting menu and a la carte options. The cocktail menu will change every couple of months but remain centered around the three house bases. Reservations can be made through Resy and there is a cozy 24-seat fireplace room available for private events. The bar is open Wednesday through Saturday starting at 5 p.m. For more information, click here.

Dram & Grain: 2001 18th St. NW, DC; 202-299-0334; www.dramandgrain.com

What’s On Tap: December 2019

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8

Good Tidings Sunday
Port City Brewing Company is going to deck the halls with boughs of holly and good tidings. Start off the day by trying a Barrel Aged Tidings Ale, aged in a chardonnay barrel, followed by Holiday Trivia at 3 p.m. and photos with Santa from 4-8 p.m. Trivia requires a $7 ticket but it’s free to enjoy the Tasting Room or sit with Santa. 12-8 p.m. Free to attend, trivia ticket $7. Port City Brewing Company: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Wicks & Sips
Enjoy a craft beer while having fun making your own candle. During this event you will create your own soy wax candle, selecting the vessel, scent and color of your choice. 2-5 p.m. Tickets $21. Eavesdrop Brewery: 7223 Centreville Rd. Manassas, VA; www.eavesdropbrewery.com

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10

Crafting Happy Hour
Handi-hour is DC’s original “crafting happy hour.” Get ready for an evening of creativity, live music by local acts and craft beer from local breweries. Featured crafts are tailored to all skill levels. Your ticket includes all-you-can-craft supplies, craft instructions, two beers and a Handi-hour glass for beer and snacks. 5:30-8 p.m. Tickets $25. Renwick Gallery: 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.americanart.si.edu

Sip & Write Workshop
Sip on cider and write! As you wind down 2019, use the crazy highs and lows of the past year as inspiration for short stories in this fiction-focused writing workshop. You will discuss techniques for creating characters, snappy dialogue and vivid scenes. Open to writers of all levels. The workshop will be led by Willona Sloan. Your ticket also includes one pour of cider. 7-9 p.m. Tickets $25. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitolciderhouse.com

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 17, 24 & 31

Pints & Pawns Chess Club
Chess players of any skill level are invited. Games may be played both with and without time controls depending on individual preferences. The club meets in the Taproom at T.J. Stone’s, that means if you enjoy beer, then grab a pint or two as an added bonus. Games start at 7 p.m. Free to attend. T.J. Stone’s: 608 Montgomery St. Alexandria, VA; www.tjstones.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11 & 18

The Comments Section: A Stand-Up Comedy Show
The comments section is the best part of most articles, which is why Capital Laughs anthropomorphized it into a comedy show! In this show, a comic does their set, while four comic commentators write thoughts on comment cards. Then, the host reads the funniest as the performer looks on take in the trolling. 7 p.m. Free to attend. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitallaughs.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12

Brewlights at Zoolights
Friends of the National Zoo’s hoppiest holiday event, BrewLights, a ticketed microbrew and craft beer event, will take place during ZooLights, powered by Pepco. Guests can enjoy beer tastings from dozens of breweries and sample complimentary snacks, all under the bright lights of DC’s favorite holiday tradition. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $65. Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.nationalzoo.si.edu

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13

Can Jam Beer Extravaganza
Come to City Winery to try several canned beers from local breweries with cheese! Can you imagine the delicious local possibilities? 7-9 p.m. Tickets $40. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com

December Brewmaster Tour
Spend your evening like a Brewmaster in the 19th-century home of historic DC brewer Christian Heurich. Admission includes an hour-long guided tour of the museum and a local craft beer tasting. You’ll receive one beer flight per person, featuring 4-oz. pours of three local beers to experience the Brewmaster’s Castle with a drink in your hand. After the tour, guests are welcome to mingle in the Conservatory and purchase full beers. Various times. Tickets $30. Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.heurichhouse.org

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13, 20 & 27

Friday Night Beers & Bites Tour
The Bluejacket Friday Night Tasting Tour is a special brewery tour offered weekly. Upon arrival, guests will be treated to a signature draft, followed by a full tour of the brewery and operations with three tasters throughout the tour. Guests will then head to the Bottle Shop & Tasting Room to enjoy a flight of three additional tasters each expertly paired with a snack from our talented culinary team led by Chef de Cuisine Marcelle Afram. Various times. Tickets $35. Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14

3rd Annual Holiday Market
The days are getting shorter and the holiday season is approaching. 7 Locks Brewing officially set the date for their 3rd Annual Holiday Market. Get your holiday shopping done at this festive event and enjoy live music, food, activities and local vendors. Participating vendors include Shafa Blends, Tea Thoughts, pottery by Mary Lou Relle, pottery by Kira Kibler, Sandy Shuman Jewelry and DRM Photography. 3-7 p.m. Free to attend. 7 Locks Brewing: 12227 Wilkins Ave. Rockville, MD; www.7locksbrewing.com

The Hip Hop & Craft Beer Share
Join ChurchKey, MistaForty and DJ Analyze as the venue hosts the Hip Hop & Craft Beer Bottle Share. Come celebrate diversity in craft beer while DJ Analyze spins some classic and golden era hip-hop tracks. 2-6 p.m. Free to attend. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15

Voarm, Sickdeer, Torvus
Prepare to descend into the underworld with Atlas Brew Works. They’re going to give you more soul crushing black metal to make this a true black winter. Bands include VA doom/black metal group Voarm, DC black/death group Sickdeer and DC occult black/doom group Torvus. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $5-$10. Atlas Brew Works: 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com

MONDAY, DECEMBER 16

Painting & Pints: Winter Wonderland
Come paint and drink amazing beer. We may not all be Van Gogh, but that’s what the beer is for. The session will run approximately 90 minutes and your first pint is included. All design levels are encouraged to participate. 6 p.m. Tickets $30. Fair Winds Brewing: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for a Beer
Join Belga Cafe at The Betsy as they get cozy and pop open some of the most anticipated beers of the year. Sit back and relax while sipping and sampling and talking all things beer. Brews include St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, Straffe Hendrik Xmas Blend, Scaldis Noël and Corsendonk Christmas Ale. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets $39. The Betsy: 514 8th St. SE, DC; www.belgacafe.com

Tuesday Brewsday
Every Tuesday the bar in Kramerbooks & Afterwords showcases 18 half-price pints, including new rotating limited and specialty run drafts and cans. Each week highlights different varietals. It’s a great chance to try out new breweries and flavor profiles. 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. Free to attend. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe: 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.kramers.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18

Holiday Beer Dinner
Join Chef Ryan Gordon and Granville Moore’s beermonger Brendan Kilroy for an evening of food, beer, fun and festivities. Featuring a festive four-course dinner with exclusive holiday beers. 7-10 p.m. Tickets $65. Granville Moore’s: 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21

Draughts & Laughs Comedy Show
Get ready for the finest that comedy has to offer, paired with Twinpanzee’s fresh and delicious signature brews. The North American Comedy Brewery Tour brings the best of the best North American comedians to local breweries across the United States for an evening that keeps the beers flowing and the laughs coming. 8-10 p.m. Tickets $20. Twinpanzee: 101 Executive Dr. Sterling, VA; www.facebook.com/Twinpanzee

Hike and Hops: Sky Meadows and Dirt Farm Brewing
Cold beer is even better at the end of a great day outside. Join REI for a guided hike of the Piedmont Overlook Loop in Sky Meadows State Park. This hike is just more than five miles, and includes spectacular views of the Piedmont and a section of the fabled Appalachian Trail. Then there will be drive a short distance to another peak Blue Ridge experience: the farm-to-pint brewing of Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont, Virginia. 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tickets $75+. Washington DC REI: 201 M St. NE, DC; www.rei.com

Late Night Anonymous: Strange Drink Orders, Questionable Taste Buds and Bad Bar Etiquette

Rowdy parties, annoying drunks, terrible tips, bad decisions, strange drink orders – these are just some of what bartenders and bar employees must deal with, especially later in the night. And they have to be equipped to handle it well. They are also the folks who have seen it all. In this light look at funny stories from around town, we asked some of DC’s bar employees what their most memorable late-night customer memories were. This just-for-fun piece showcases some anonymous drink industry memories of late-night shenanigans that have left their mark.

Extra Hot, Please!

This beverage director at a trendy local hotel bar is accustomed to helping guests stumble back to their rooms after last call and is therefore used to some unusual asks. But this harmless one really brought the heat.

“We get a fair amount of weird orders, especially later in the night. For a week, we had an elderly hotel guest come down after dinner and ask for warm London dry gin, neat. We actually had to put it under the espresso steamer until it was hot.”

Avant-Garde or Bizarre?

Taste buds can work in strange ways, and we all have our own idiosyncrasies. But at what point do they go beyond being “interesting” to just weird?

“We once had a guy, a regular at the time, who would add hot sauce to his glass of water. No kidding. As a Mexican spot, we have a range of salsas and house-made, bottled hot sauces, and he would try a different one each time – in his water, that is. His favorite was the green chili salsa, medium hot.”

Boom, It’s a Magnum!

Another beverage manager proceeded to tell us about this episode. We can’t tell you where this happened, but we can tell you this is an upscale bar in DC with a great – and expensive – wine list.

“It was a busy night at the bar, as we had multiple large parties seated and bottles of wine were flying off the shelf. There was one group celebrating a friend’s recent engagement, and they were going all out on some really nice, expensive bottles of wine. About two hours in, one of the guys came up to the bar and asked for a magnum bottle (1.5 liters) on his tab to toast his friends. Great idea, right? So far, yes. I said I would bring it right over, but he insisted that he would take it back to the table. Now, this was a pricey bottle, so I said, ‘I need to go and retrieve it and will bring it to the table with glasses.’ But he was persistent and said he would wait. I brought it back and opened it and handed it to him, and he started to walk away while I got the glasses ready on a tray to take to them. The next thing I heard was a huge shattering sound and a collective gasp. He had dropped the bottle.”

Loaded Tots

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a plate of fried food at 2 a.m. to soak up the evening’s indulgences, right? But literally soaking it up might be just a tad much.

“By far the oddest combination I have seen is a customer who ordered tater tots and then added on – I should say really doused them – with a shot of Jägermeister. I don’t know if the guy was drunk and mistook the shot for ketchup (he did ask for that too and it was right next to the shot), or if it was intentional. He did finish up the tots, so I guess it was good. I don’t know. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I want to do it.”

Pickle Juice, Pickle Juice, Pickle Juice

No order-shaming here, but he probably didn’t wake up with a hangover the next morning…

“We have specials at the bar every night, and on this particular night, it happened to be a pickleback: a shot of Jameson chased by a shot of pickle juice. It’s pretty popular and we were selling a lot of them that night. This guy came up to the bar with a couple of his friends, and they all ordered picklebacks. But then he wanted to customize the order [with] an entire glass of pickle juice instead of just the shot. I wasn’t sure how much or how big of a glass he wanted, but he told me that instead of a beer chaser, he wanted a pickle chaser. So, I gave him a pint of pickle juice. But here’s the best part: the three of them did another two picklebacks that night, and he had a pint of it each time!”

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

Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Potomac Distilling Company’s Todd Thrasher

The transition from barman to rum distiller was a no-brainer for Todd Thrasher. Add the opportunity to continue energizing the nightlife at the burgeoning Wharf neighborhood to the mix and you’ve got one extremely confident – and rightfully so – business owner.

Thrasher’s Potomac Distilling Company is slated to open this month, a slightly adjusted date based on a few additional construction needs. His distillery’s smokestack is quickly becoming one of the city’s most iconic structures, with the cheeky idiom “Make Rum Not War” painted on one side.

As locals impatiently await the distillery’s opening, Thrasher continues to hone the craft of distilling and prep his four rums – his flagship Green Spice Rum, as well as white, gold and spiced – for consumption. After years leading the Eat Good Food Group and its current spots, the seasoned mixologist says he’s ready to walk away from day-to-day business operations at his NoVa-based ventures.

In fact, he won’t be leading business operations at the distillery either. His wife Maria Chicas will, and he says she’s excited about it. Thrasher, on the other hand, says making rum and expanding his rum’s reach both locally and nationally is his sole focus.

Thrasher’s three cocktail bars within Potomac Distilling range from Polynesian-style tavern Tiki TNT to a grassy rooftop space including a garden with botanicals used for his Green Spice Rum – and managed by his mom, who apparently has quite the green thumb.

He is clearly an option maker, with high hopes of creating yet another reason to visit The Wharf. He wants to pique the interest of locals and tourists alike, offering them access to the distillery, and giving them multiple vibes to choose from for their bar experience.

On Tap: Why is The Wharf the right fit for your distillery?
Todd Thrasher: The water and the rum. Really, it came about because [Wharf developer] Monty Hoffman wanted me to do another Bar PX down here, but I wasn’t interested. So, he floated this idea of a distillery – legend has it there was [once] a distillery down here – and I drink rum, so it was a natural fit for me.

OT: What do you think this neighborhood is bringing to DC?
TT: A waterfront. DC has so much waterfront that has been underutilized. I don’t want to park in Georgetown; that waterfront is small, and the dining and options down there are not so interesting. I think The Wharf itself is bringing something that has long been missed: a waterfront opportunity that’s a gathering place.

OT: How late will the distillery be open?
TT: We’ll be open late, except Sundays. Monday through Thursday we’ll be open till 1:30 a.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays we’ll go until 2 a.m. Me and my business partner have had long discussions about keeping those hours, because that’s a big thing with bars. They say “Yeah, we’ll stay open late,” but when business isn’t happening, they close.


Work Must-Haves
Music
MacBook Pro
Coffee maker
Non-slip floors or mats
Comfortable shoes


OT: Why just rum? Why not multiple spirits?
TT: We may branch out in the future, but there’s a hole in the artisanal rum market right now.

OT: Is rum’s popularity shifting in cocktail culture?
TT: [Yes], and on the craft level. I think we’ve seen that big influx of whiskey, and God knows there’s enough vodka on the market to choke people. New American gin has been kind of big the past few years, but it’s time for rum now.

OT: How long did you spend learning about distilling and experimenting with different rum profiles before setting up shop?
TT: In terms of distilling, [I] probably [started] around 2010. I got into home distilling on a very small scale, and most of the stuff went in the garbage. Over the past two or three years, I’ve taken a few classes at Moonshine University and visited many distilleries.


Can’t Live Without
My wife
Our son Trystan
Vacation
My bed
The ocean (I’m an avid scuba diver)


OT: Are there any challenges to owning a distillery in an urban area?
TT: It’s small in there. I think the distillery itself is just under 1000 square feet, so moving things around is an issue. It’s going to be very tight, so I’m sure storage will be an issue, but hopefully I’ll grow out of the space because of success.

OT: What is your wife’s role in the business?
TT: Clearly she’s the boss [laughs]. She runs our other restaurants on a day-to-day operations basis, but we’re pulling her out of that role. She’s basically going to be the office manager of the entire operation, and she’ll do private parties and all that stuff. She’ll run the business aspect of the whole entity – the distillery and the bar.

OT: How do you feel about Potomac Distilling being in the spotlight? Everyone who crosses the bridge has a prime view of your smokestack.
TT: It’s unbelievable. It’s great. I mean, I joked with a friend of mine about how it’s going to be as big as the National Monument. Everyone who crosses the bridge is going to see that smokestack, and hopefully it’s intriguing to them. It’s reminiscent of the older days when there were billboards.

OT: Who is your ideal customer?
TT: Everybody. I want everyone who’s going to the Fish Market to have a cocktail. I want everyone who’s going to Arena Stage to have a cocktail and a bite to eat. The great thing about DC is it’s a great melting pot of people, and every four years, you get an influx of new people too. I’m equal opportunity.

For more information on Thrasher’s Potomac Distilling Company, click here.

Potomac Distilling Company: 1130 Maine Ave. SW, DC; 202-900-4786; www.wharfdc.com/restaurants/potomac-distilling-company

Photo: Kelli Scott

NoMa’s The Eleanor Offers Bowling and Bragworthy Bites

Don’t label The Eleanor just a bowling alley. It’s much more than that, according to founder Adam Stein.

Ever since he was a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Stein dreamed of opening a lounge with a bowling component to make it a multi-use entertainment space. That vision is realized with The Eleanor.

“You can come here for lots of different reasons,” Stein says. “You can come here because you want to bowl. You can come here because you want to play pinball games. You can come here because you want to have a three-course meal. We’ve got tons of events booked already and through the end of the year.”

Since opening June 19 in NoMa, The Eleanor has offered a place to enjoy 20 beers on tap, well-crafted cocktails, a projector for movie nights and, of course, two mini-bowling lanes with duckpin-sized balls.

The lanes are 45 feet long as opposed to the standard 60 feet, which Stein says can be harder, but it’s also a lower bar of entry. The floors aren’t waxed, so there’s no need to change shoes to play. Also, all of the balls are four pounds. While it’s best to reserve a lane and prepay online, walk-ins are accepted on a waitlist basis. Pricing is $10 per person for one hour of bowling with a $10 ball rental fee.

If you’re not interested in giving bowling a spin, choose from arcade games like Mortal Kombat 3, Pac-Man and Battle Royale, or head over to the Skee-Ball lanes.

When describing The Eleanor, Stein says he didn’t want anything “super slick” or “overly designed.” Instead, he opted for a laid-back but funky lounge with a hometown vibe. There are counter-height tables instead of low-tops to add to the casual atmosphere, and the local focus is found not only in the ingredients but in the name itself, which is a reference to DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The menu adds humor to the spot with cocktails like Wildflowers Don’t Care Where They Grow. Other drinks are named after friends and family such as Jody’s Appletini, inspired by Stein’s mother as appletinis are her favorite cocktail. There are also two refreshing vodka slushies made with Spring 44 vodka, one with house-made horchata and Zeke’s cold brew coffee and the other with a house-made lavender lemonade.

The fare might seem typical at face value – burgers, nachos, fried chicken – but each dish has its own original twist. The buttermilk fried chicken thighs come with masala-spiced carrot puree and braised greens with a bacon and fish sauce. The chicken wings are coated in a General Tso’s-style sauce, the hushpuppies are made “elote loco-style” and the loaded hot dogs come with the optional add-on of kimchi.

Along with its quirky menu, The Eleanor offers a very convenient location across the street from the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station. There is also free, onsite parking.

Stein considered Ivy City before settling on The Eleanor’s NoMa space on Florida Avenue. He was tempted by Ivy City’s warehouse spaces because they could fit full-sized bowling lanes, but he says he ultimately chose the right neighborhood.

“[NoMa is] only going to see an explosion of growth in the next two-and-a-half to three years,” he says. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Follow The Eleanor on Instagram and Facebook at @TheEleanorDC, and learn more about the bar at www.eleanordc.com.

The Eleanor: 100 Florida Ave. NE, DC; 202-758-2235; www.eleanordc.com

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Behind the Bar: Hummingbird, Succotash and Farmers Fishers Bakers

Celebrate warm weather this June with boozy treats by the water. This month’s roundup will keep you hydrated no matter what neighborhood you find yourself enjoying the sunshine in, so read on for our top picks.


[Pictured above]

Chris Sollom
Bartender, Hummingbird

On Tap: Your slush cocktails were in high demand last summer. What makes them so popular?
Chris Sollom: We use fresh ingredients – fresh coconut water, fresh
coconut milk. It has the typical sweetness that people think of with slushes, but I think it takes people by surprise how refreshing and boozy they are.

OT: Based on last summer’s popularity, are you making any changes to your slush menu offerings?
CS: We have two different slushes this year: the frozen aperol spritz and a Painkiller, which is similar to a piña colada, except it includes fresh orange juice for a bit of a different twist.

OT: What’s your top food pick to enjoy while sitting outside sipping on a slush?
CS: The crab cakes are phenomenal. They’re all jumbo lump crabmeat from right here in Maryland. We’re also bringing softshell crabs back when they’re in season. The octopus is great as well.

OT: What drinks do you recommend behind the slush?
CS: I created a drink called Thinking of Summer. It’s a draft cocktail similar to a rum punch. It has coconut rum, dark rum, light rum, passion fruit, orange juice and cranberry, and it’s on draft, which puts CO2 through it for a bit of a different taste. We’ll have that on draft all summer long.

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Chris’ Pick
Thinking of Summer
Lemon
Cranberry
Passion fruit
Orange juice
Coconut, dark and light rum

Hummingbird: 220 S. Union St. Alexandria, VA; www.hummingbirdva.net


Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Darlin Kulla
Beverage Director, Succotash

On Tap: Whiskey seems to be the liquor of choice on your menu. What’s your top whiskey-based drink to enjoy now that warmer weather is upon us?
Darlin Kulla: We are a Southern-inspired restaurant, so bourbon is our big draw. We carry over 100 different whiskies. We love the Belle’s Punch, which is one of our most popular drinks. It has mango-infused vodka and a little bourbon, plus ginger and peach. We finish with bubbles. You get the booze, but also sweetness and spice from the ginger and the peach. It’s a refreshing, easy drink.

OT: You offer four distinct flight selections, some showcasing local ryes and even a collaboration with Maker’s Mark. Tell me more about these curated selections.
DK: We went with a really bold, spicy flavor profile, and finished with a French cuvée for our Maker’s Mark Private Select. Maker’s Mark is usually one of the first bourbons people will try. It’s really interesting to try different iterations alongside the tastes we are going for.

OT: What beer selections do you suggest at Succotash?
DK: We carry different seasonal selections, things that are really bright and citrusy for summer. The one beer we [offer] in both of our locations is a rye beer, which has a hop backbone to it in addition to that rye bitterness. It’s very balanced, because our food is really bold and flavorful.

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Darlin’s Pick
Belle’s Punch
Mint
Peach
Ginger
Bubbles
Jim Beam bourbon
Mango-infused vodka

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


Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Jon Arroyo
Beverage Director, Farmers Fishers Bakers

On Tap: What’s your favorite drink from Farmers’ extensive tiki menu?
Jon Arroyo: The Zombie is the king of tiki cocktails. I would suggest either the 1964 or the 1968. I would kick off your tiki experience that way!

OT: Many of your drinks are available in bowls, so what would you suggest as the best option to satisfy different palates?
JA: The scorpion [bowl], for sure. The cool thing about scorpions is that they can feed half a dozen people easily. Send out a of couple bowls to a party of 12, and that’s a great way to get a fast drink or quench your thirst while you’re waiting for your zombie.

OT: How does using your own Founding Spirits liquor affect the recipes you put together for your menu?
JA: Our spirits are showcased along with some other projects I’ve worked on in the past. We have the amaro daiquiri and the negroni swizzle, just to keep these drinks in the fun vein of tiki. Every time I make a drink, it always goes back to, “Does this fare well with our food [and] our overall guest experience?”

OT: What do you offer beyond cocktails?
JA: We have a rosé that we call Our Virginia Vines. It’s a project that I work on closely with Ben Jordan of Early Mountain Vineyards in Virginia. We’re happy and very proud to be using a local vineyard to partner and produce this rosé with.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Jon’s Pick
Negroni Swizzle
Swizzled and served in a tiki glass
Lemon
Campari
Cinnamon
Founding Farmers Gin
Founding Spirits Arroyo’s “Never Bitter” Amaro

Farmers Fishers Bakers: 3000 K St. NW, DC; www.farmersfishersbakers.com

Photos: Amanda Weisbrod

Behind the Bar: April 2018

Looking for a little hair of the dog? These brunch spots offer some of the best – and most unique – brunch cocktails in the city. On Tap sat down with Green Pig Bistro, HalfSmoke and Whaley’s to find out what makes their brunch cocktails a cut above the rest.


[Pictured Above]

Alexander Taylor

Bar Manager, HalfSmoke

On Tap: What’s the story behind the Breakfast of Shaw cocktail?
Alexander Taylor: The Breakfast of Shaw was created by the owner, Andre McCain, and it’s a local take on the ostentatious Bloody Marys that have come about over the years. Ours consists of a couple of our fried goods – sweet potato tots, mac and cheese bites, Mexican corn bites, French fries – [and] we also throw some chicken wings and a sausage slider on there.

OT: What other drinks make your brunch cocktail menu so special?
AT: I’d say the more popular item that makes our brunch menu special is the fact that we offer free bottomless mimosas. Our mimosas are different in that we source craft bitters, and we use Triple Sec along with champagne and orange juice.

OT: What gives HalfSmoke its whimsical vibe?
AT: Our motto is “Don’t grow up – it’s a trap.” And we’re very nostalgic. You’ll find that we use Trapper Keepers as our menu binders, and we use old Disney VHS cases as our bill folders.

HalfSmoke Breakfast of Shaw (Photo by Amanda Weisbrod)

Alexander’s Pick
The Breakfast of Shaw
Tomato, lemon and lime juice
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Tabasco
Tito’s Vodka

HalfSmoke: 651 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.halfsmoke.com


Whaley's Alahin Mentado, bar manager (Photo - Amanda Weisbrod)

Alahín Mentado

Bar Manager, Whaley’s

On Tap: What is Whaley’s most popular brunch cocktail?
Alahín Mentado: The Number One, which is a rum-based cocktail. It has a little bit of St-Germain, which is a nice elderflower, and that brings some sweetness to it. It’s mixed with fresh grapefruit juice and some sparkling rosé, so you’re going to have a little bit of tartness from the grapefruit, which is a nice balance with the rum, and then a nice, sweet flavor from the sparkling rosé. It’s beautiful.

OT: Do you have any off-the-menu cocktails that guests can try?
AM: If a guest wants to try something different, our bartenders are world-trained and can make anything. We ask [our] guests about their preference of alcohol and from there, we can go make a nice cocktail for them and make them happy. I love to see smiles on people’s faces after they taste a drink. I like to experiment, and that’s a good thing about Whaley’s. You can always come back and try different things at our bar.

OT: What’s the vibe of Whaley’s rose garden?
AM: The rose garden is a unique drinking experience for the city, and an opportunity for diners to forget they are in Washington. The space is very transformative, with the pink and white umbrellas, lush greenery and amazing view of the water. We offer a dozen or so of some of the greatest still and sparkling rosé wines from all over the world – from Israel to Australia. We don’t have a specific opening date for the garden yet, but it’s looking like it should be mid- to late April, depending on weather.

Whaley's Number One2 (Photo - Amanda Weisbrod)

Alahín’s Pick
Number One
Caña Brava rum
Sparkling rosé
St-Germain
Grapefruit

Whaley’s: 301 Water St. SE, DC; www.whaleysdc.com


Tim and Starlynne Vogeley, Green Pig (Photo by Amanda Weisbrod)

Starlynne and Tim Vogeley

Assistant GM and GM & Chef, Green Pig Bistro

On Tap: What inspired the full bar menu for brunch?
Starlynne Vogeley: That’s what our guests want. Our prices for Arlington [are] pretty comparable. But one thing we do have that’s different is if the ingredients call for fresh-squeezed orange juice or lemon juice, we try to get the freshest possible. If we can make it, we do that.

OT: What’s your most unique brunch cocktail?
SV:
I would say the Iced Morning Moonshine. This was actually highlighted by Belle Isle. They came here specifically and interviewed our bartender, Lily King, who is the creator of that drink. Our bartenders are very creative and very talented.

OT: Do you ever experiment with new brunch cocktail recipes?
SV: [We] experiment all the time – constantly. We have a total of six bartenders, my husband as well. I like to drink them. I call myself the official taste tester. I like to consider everybody here perfectionists, and they’re trying to perfect their craft. These cocktails are all original creations by our bartenders.

OT: What makes Green Pig Bistro a sustainable dining option?
Tim Vogeley: We buy a lot of food products from local farms – some are organic, but not all of them. We have a 60-acre farm in Purcellville, and we’re thinking of growing hops. We might even open a small brewery there. We make our own pickles, cheese and hamburger buns.

Green Pig Bacon Bloody Mary1 (Photo by Amanda Weisbrod)

Tim & Starlynne’s Pick
Green Pig Bacon Bloody Mary 
Spicy bloody mix
Vodka
Old Bay
Citrus
Bacon

Green Pig Bistro: 1025 N Fillmore St. Arlington, VA; www.greenpigbistro.com