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Photos: Trent Johnson
Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Slash Run, Sotto and The Crown & Crow

There are few greater simple joys than listening to great live music with an even better drink in your hand. This month, we rounded up DC’s musically minded watering holes to find out more about their bars, drinks and live music lineups.


Slash Run - Christine Lilyea and Ana Latour (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Slash Run
Christine Lilyea, Owner and GM
Ana Latour, Bartender and Manager

On Tap: What does Slash Run add to Petworth as a neighborhood?
Ana Latour: There’s something about the versatility of Slash Run that speaks to its importance in Petworth. This neighborhood is a family spot, but also a growing place for young people who want to live in the city. Slash Run can be all of those things.

OT: As a music venue, what’s the local to national act ratio?
Christine Lilyea: It’s a mix of local and national. A lot of the people I work with are local bookers, but they always bring [artists] from out of town.
AL: We had a band here last night from Japan. They were insane! It was probably one of the wildest things I’ve seen since I got here. The band who opened for them was from down the street.

OT: Any local favorites you book regularly or try to bring into the mix as often as possible?
CL: They’re from New York, and they’re called The Nuclears. They’re just really nice guys and their music is insanely good. It’s like Thin Lizzy [or] Cheap Trick – just good, in your face, on the ground sweating rock ‘n’ roll.

OT: Tell us about the drinks at Slash Run.
CL: I have managed restaurants before, so I’m really big on this. It’s supposed to be a dive bar and have shitty wine, but I can’t do it. I’m very picky about our wines and beers. If people want PBR, I’ll give it to them, but then I’ll find something cool too.

Check Slash Run’s website for a full list of upcoming shows, including:
Biff Bang Pow, a 60s garage/psych/glam vinyl dance party on November 10
Part Time with Bottled Up on November 19
Super Unison, Downtrodder, Coward and Bacchae on November 17

Slash Run - Spiced Cider (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Spiced Cider
Cotton & Reed Mellow Gold Rum 
Warmed cider 
Cloves
Cinnamon sticks
Star anise
Citrus butter
Orange and lemon zest

Slash Run: 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.slashrun.com


Sotto - Savi Gopalan (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Sotto
Savi Gopalan, Bar Manager

On Tap: How has Sotto has changed since opening three years ago?
Savi Gopalan: Sotto has really changed into a venue focusing on music. I think originally, the music was more of a perk rather than a focus; whereas now, we define ourselves as a music venue.

OT: How do you think the local jazz scene has changed in recent years? Why is it important to offer live music at Sotto?
SG: I think there’s more community behind it, not just within the musicians but the clientele as well. There’s a real connection within the jazz scene now that I don’t think was as predominant previously.

OT: Do you have any new vinos this winter?
SG: I’m really excited about the new rosé we’re offering by the glass, G.D. Vajra Rosabella. We have a smaller wine list because we are more of a cocktail-focused place, but I do like a lot of the options we offer.

OT: What’s your process for crafting new cocktails each season?
SG: When you’re going into a new season, I always look at what flavors are popular. I pick different flavors that stand out to me and I’ll build cocktails around that. For instance, the mezcal smokiness is appropriate for fall, [and] calvados too. Even though people don’t really do brandy cocktails anymore, I think it fits with the season.

OT: It seems almost all your beers are local. Why is it important to support DC area breweries?
SG: We definitely try to keep all of our beer choices super local. We try to push for local spirits as well, because there are so many great places in the area. It would be a shame not to have them on the list.

Visit Sotto’s website for a full list of upcoming shows, including:
The Lionel Lyles Quintet on November 9
Tashera on November 15
Champion Sound on November 29

Sotto - Back To December (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Back To December
Red wine
Mulled wine syrup
Lemon
Orange
St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram

Sotto: 1610 14th St. NW, DC; www.sottodc.com


Crown and Crow - Ben Sislen and Brian Harrison (Photo - Trent Johnson)

The Crown & Crow
Brian Harrison, Owner, Creator and Barman
Ben Sislen, Owner
Brooke Stonebanks, Event Coordinator

On Tap: What inspired your Victorian era theme?
Ben Sislen: We were flexible with what we were going to be. It started when we found our bar in the front room and it was [from the] Victorian era timeframe.

Brian Harrison: We thought the first room would be rustic, and the other would be sophisticated. Once that vintage feel took hold in the front, it carried throughout.

OT: Your cocktail menu seems reflective of that time period as well.What was the creative process for coming up with unique takes on period cocktails?
Brooke Stonebanks: I want to go along with the theme. The cocktails we had when we first opened were just plays off classic cocktails. Moving forward, the drinks will focus on obscure ingredients that promote smaller brands.

OT: What kinds of cocktails are you looking to make this winter?
Stonebanks: I want to focus on the spirit and and [make] simple cocktails. We have a lot of Irish and American whiskeys and we’re looking to add more. I want them to be whiskey-heavy.

OT: What’s your process for booking musical acts? Any local names you use regularly?
BS: Mostly local acts. We don’t charge a cover because we want the music to be accessible, and we want people coming in and trying out the bar.

Visit Crown & Crow’s website for shows as they’re added through the month, including:
Anthony Pirog on November 3 and Swampcandy on November 15

Crown and Crow - Le Corbeau Sanglant and The Burning Crow (Photo - Trent Johnson)

The Burning Crow
High West Campfire Whiskey
Five-spice syrup
Orange bitters 
Cinnamon stick

Le Corbeau Sanglant 
Compass Box Great King St. Glasgow Blend Whisky 
Luxardo cherry sangue 
Dolin Rouge vermouth
Blood orange juice

The Crown & Crow: 1317 14th St. NW, DC; www.thecrownandcrow.com

 

Photos: Kayla Marsh
Photos: Kayla Marsh

Behind the Bar: The Gibson, The Hamilton and Chaplin’s

The weather is cooling down and our palates are warming up! Just in time for apple-picking season, we’re exploring the most delicious,
fall-themed apple cocktails in DC. Packed with unique ingredients and boldly flavored spirits, see what fruit-forward autumn libations made our short list this month.


Gibson_JuliaEbell (1)

The Gibson
Julia Ebell, Creative Director

On Tap: Is The Gibson debuting any new fall cocktails?
Julia Ebell: We are going to have one apple-themed drink in particular called The Gleanings. Gleanings are what’s left at the field at the end of harvest for animals [and] foragers of human or non-human types – the things that aren’t part of the harvest.

OT: What spin do you take on classic cocktails to keep them authentic but unique to The Gibson?
JE: All of these are very old school and would’ve been behind a bar any time past World War I when chartreuse hit America. It’s just about approaching them with intention. I want something that smells like burnt hay, so I have a blended Islay heavy scotch. I want something that’s a little overripe, so I have a Palo Cortado [sherry]. It’s about approaching them in a way that lets the ingredients speak for themselves.

OT: How does The Gibson maintain its speakeasy atmosphere on 14th Street?
JE: I refer to this as a craft cocktail bar. It’s not so much a secret to get here, but hopefully once you make your way through the hallway, you find something [you enjoy] that we can make for you. “Speakeasy” implies a slight standoffishness. Your bartender should be there as a spirit guide. My goal is to have people come in and look at our menus, and really think about what they like and why.

Gibson_TheGleanings (4)

The Gleanings
Smoky blended scotch
Yellow chartreuse
Dried apple chip
PX Sherry
Calvados

The Gibson: 2009 14th St. NW, DC; www.thegibsondc.com


TheHamilton_MariaDenton (1)

The Hamilton
Maria Denton, Beverage Director

On Tap: One of your featured originals is the District Cider, “a cider with serious bite.” What other fall options are available?
Maria Denton: The RocknRock Collins is coming on [with] Granny Smith apple flavors from the Betty’s Apple [cocktail], just repurposed. We added a little of our house-made bitters, which add that pie-spiced note. It’s still a light and refreshing, gin-based drink with CapRock Gin – much like a Tom Collins – but we “appled” it up for fall with a Bold Rock IPA.

OT: What are the ultimate fall food/drink pairings for the District Cider and RocknRock Collins?
MD: The herbal gin flavor and sour, green apple touch from the RocknRock Collins really goes well [with] our Nashville-style hot chicken, a perennial for us. The spices that come out in the District Cider’s apple whiskey and herbal liqueur play off our hearty, glazed meatloaf.

OT: What gives The Hamilton its upscale, sophisticated atmosphere?
MD: The museum-quality, historical [National Audubon Society] printed art makes us special. [It’s] lively and vibrant and gives that sense of color and pizazz. The comfortable wooden chairs give you the feeling that you’re dining in an old-school tavern.

Photos: Kayla Marsh

Photos: Kayla Marsh

District Cider
Leopold Bros. Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur
Leopold Bros. New York Apple Whiskey
Spiced turbinado sugar rim
Fresh apple cider

The Hamilton: 600 14th St. NW, DC; www.thehamiltondc.com


Chaplins_MicahAriWilder

Chaplin’s
Ari and Micah Wilder, Owners

On Tap: Can you break down the flavor profiles of some of your apple cocktails?
Micah Wilder: The One Eyed Jack is really awesome because it’s got our local [Cotton & Reed] spiced rum with calvados. We use B grade maple syrup, which is wilder than A grade and pops with ginger [and] then, [Graft Cider] Farm Flor Rustic for a funky fall, apple finish. A Dog’s Life is great because of the smoked apple ice, prosecco, walnuts and honey.

OT: What do you hope customers take away from your drink menu?
MW: Hopefully they can be excited and inspired. We [use] a lot of really fun, intense ingredients. It’s constantly changing. It’s about how much further we can push the bar. We have to keep evolving.

OT: How is your food menu changing with the colder weather?
Ari Wilder: The nabe [or hot pot] section is a new category we’ve added for the fall and winter. You customize at your table, choosing from three different broths and exotic Japanese vegetables. It’s a really savory, cozy, warming Japanese food.

OT: What are some key elements of Chaplin’s 1930s vibe?
MW: We project silent films upstairs and the popcorn machine is always going. Maggie [O’Neill, of design firm SWATCHROOM] and I wanted to dress [the spot] with posters for shows and custom chandeliers. There are stage lighting fixtures to convey the old world of silent film, with a battered red carpet painted up the staircase.

Chaplins_OneEyedJack (4)

One Eyed Jack
Graft Cider Farm Flor Rustic
Cotton & Reed Spiced Rum
Maple ginger
Calvados
Lemon

Chaplin’s: 1501 9th St. NW, DC; www.chaplinsdc.com

 

 

Photos: M.K. Koszycki
Photos: M.K. Koszycki

Behind The Bar: Archipelago, Paladar and Bar Charley

Rum is so much more than the liquor component of a piña colada. We chatted with three local experts about the vibrant world of rum and tiki, and the best drinks their spots have to offer in honor of National Rum Day on August 16.


Owen Thomson - Photo by M.K

Owen Thomson
Owner, Archipelago

On Tap: Tell me about the different rums featured on your menu.
Owen Thomson: Rum is one of the most varied spirits in the world because no other spirit is produced in as many places. It’s made from sugarcane – most are made from molasses – and you’ll find a few producers making it from fresh-pressed sugarcane juice. There’s a whole manner of ways people try to classify rum, and the easiest way that I was taught has to do with colonial pieces: there’s English, French and Spanish.

OT: How do you decide which style of rum goes in which drink?
OT: Tiki has a pantheon of classic cocktails that call upon certain styles of rum, but more interesting is the fact that most of them call on multiple rums. So rather than a drink needing two ounces of Jamaican rum, you might have three different rums in a tiki drink, which creates a drink you really can’t get anywhere else.

OT: What’s your favorite drink on the menu and why?
OT: I always enjoy the Mai Tai. It is obviously an old school drink that people who don’t even work in tiki learn how to make. It was my introduction to this style of drink, so figuring out our Mai Tai blend was one of my favorites.

OT: What sets Archipelago apart from other bars that heavily feature rum-based drinks?
OT: We are the only tiki bar in the area. This time of year, you’ll see a lot of tiki menus or people will flip their outdoor bar for a summer tiki menu. A lot of people switch to rum this time of year, but we do it all year. Tiki is only partially about the drinks. It encompasses the whole vibe, [including] the décor. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a tiki bar.

Jungle Room Experience 2 - Photo by M.K

The Jungle Room Experience
Rhum agricole
Blue Curaçao
Soursop
Cachaça
Apricot
Lemon

Archipelago: 1201 U St. NW, DC; www.archipelagodc.com

Gavin Nazareth 2 Photo by M.K

Gavin Nazareth
Bartender, Paladar Tysons Corner

On Tap: Your menu features a wide array of rums, and a key to what rums are similar to other types of liquors. What inspired your expansive, detailed menu?
Gavin Nazareth: A lot of people aren’t into rums and don’t know what good rums are. If you’re a bourbon drinker, there are rums that we have that will closely mirror a bourbon flavor. Obviously, rums are a little sweeter than bourbons or whiskeys or scotches that might have a bit of a bite to them.

OT: Can you tell me about the flights you offer?
GN: We encourage people to try our rum flights because you get to taste different flavors. They’re only half-ounce pours – that way, you can get a flight or two and still be okay. You can do a Spanish, English, aged or spiced flight.

OT: What are some of the big differences between rum styles?
GN: Spanish and English styles are boiled down, so they’re close to a honey or molasses. Once you have that concentrated flavor, you add water and yeast to it. The French style is different – it’s almost like a gin. You take out the sugarcane juice and add yeast, and they’re more on the botanical side. Spanish and English are more bold and sweet, with a nice buttery finish.

OT: What’s your favorite rum drink?
GN: We showcase a different rum every month, and this month we’re doing the plantation series. Plantation rums are from Barbados. They age them in Barbados and then bring them to France for an additional step. We have something called the Plantation Jungle Burn where we use pineapple plantation rum, fresh juices [and] campari, so it has a really nice finish.

Plantation Jungle Burn - Photo by M.K

Plantation Jungle Burn
Plantation pineapple rum
Pineapple juice
Simple syrup
Lime juice
Campari

Paladar Tysons Corner: 1934 Old Gallows Rd. Vienna, VA; www.paladarlatinkitchen.com

DSCN4320

Brendan Mullin
Bartender, Bar Charley

On Tap: Tell me about the rum drinks you feature on tap.
Brendan Mullin: We have two cocktails on tap, and a whole tiki menu that contains a lot of our rum drinks. One we have on tap right now is called It’s Not a Mai Tai, It’s Our Tai. It’s white rum, curacao, pineapple, orange – a lot of tasty tropical flavors.

OT: What are your favorite drinks on the tiki menu?
BM: The Frog Smoking a Comically Large Cigar is massive, fun and has a ridiculous garnish in it, and has a blend of mezcal and rum. Our Zombie is also fantastic, but my favorite cocktail is the classic Mai Tai. In my opinion, that’s the best American cocktail. It’s a great way to try different rums.

OT: What about the non-tiki rum-based drinks?
BM: On our house cocktail menu, we have the You Can’t Do That on Television that has three different types of rum. One [rum] is infused with jalapeño and [the cocktail] also has a pistachio orgeat, so it’s kind of a riff on a Mai Tai. You Can’t Do That on Television was a show on Nickelodeon back in the day, and the drink is green and looks like slime and is reminiscent of the 90s.

OT: What food pairs best with tiki or tropical drinks?
BM: The best thing on our food menu to have next to our rum drinks is the pupu platter. It has a bunch of different food options like pork belly, wagyu beef skewers, half-smoke pierogies and crab tater tots. Anything that’s salty and has a tropical flavor to it will go really well with a sweeter tiki drink.

OT: What sets Bar Charley apart from other bars with tiki menus and large rum selections?
BM: I’d say just how comprehensive we are. People ask us if we’re a classics bar, a tiki bar or a wine bar. The answer is “Yes” across the board. We have a great wine selection, we have classics and we’re creative on our own. We can also do tiki!

You Can’t Do That On Television
Havana Club rum
Clément V.S.O.P.
Chacho
Dry curaçao
Lime juice
Pistachio orgeat

DSCN4325

Bar Charley: 1825 18th St. NW, DC; www.barcharley.com

Photo: Aja Neal
Photo: Aja Neal

Behind the Bar: ARTECHOUSE, Calico and Service Bar

We’re all guilty of picking a drink from a cocktail menu based on whether or not it will look good on our carefully curated Instagram feeds. Don’t worry, we do it too. In the spirit of embracing all that’s aesthetically pleasing this month, we selected three drinks whose unique garnishes and color combinations definitely make them look as good as they taste. So go ahead, post away – we won’t judge you.


Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Chad Spangler
Co-owner, Service Bar

On Tap: How important is design when creating a cocktail?
Chad Spangler: It’s the whole package together that’s going to create that experience for you. Just because something tastes good or has pretty good intrinsic flavor doesn’t make it great if the presentation isn’t there. Drinking something is as much a full experience of the senses as anything. It should look great, it should smell great, it should taste great, it should feel great.

OT: What’s your most aesthetically pleasing cocktail? 
CS: Our most aesthetically pleasing drink right now is Rhubarb Vodka Soda. We launched it last year. I love almost monochromatic cocktails or monochromatic things, where you can have all different shades of one color on top of another. So that drink is a really, really aesthetically pleasing bright pink that’s all natural from the rhubarb that we get.

OT: What else can you tell me about the presentation of your cocktails?
CS: We like to have fun and we don’t take ourselves too seriously in any direction. We do some whimsical things, and we’re not afraid to put a little extra money into making our drinks look great and to get some cool glassware that people are going to talk about.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Chad’s Pick
Rhubarb Vodka Soda
Rose
Soda
Vodka
Rhubarb
Clarified citrus

Service Bar: 926-928 U St. NW, DC; www.servicebardc.com


Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Ian Fletcher
Beverage Director, Calico

On Tap: What do you think guests enjoy most about your juice box cocktails?
Ian Fletcher: I think it’s a nostalgia thing. People just gravitate toward them. It’s pretty unique. We worked with one of the designers that helped design the space; he did the labels and everything for us.

OT: Do you offer any limited-time cocktails?
IF: We use our frozen drink machine. That’s going to be rotating depending on how well they do. But the intention is that there is no set thing in the frozen drink machine. We’ve been doing piña coladas with espresso. We discovered it on accident. My friend and I were drinking piña coladas and we just happened to have espresso as well and [combined them]. Piña coladas are really, really sweet and espresso is tart and bitter, so it works really well. I think we’re going to do a banana daiquiri next.

OT: What makes your outdoor space unique?
IF: On the weekends, the chef is out there grilling. You can have 200 people back here and everything is designed to be sectioned off so even when it’s packed, you don’t really notice how many people are here. It’s kind of like you’re in your own little backyard world. You can smell the barbecue – it’s just a good feeling.

[Pictured above]

Ian’s Pick
Lavender Lemonade
Vodka
Lemon
Lavender
Raspberry
Giffard Crème de Mure

Calico: 50 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; www.calicodc.com


Bryan Tate
Mixologist, ARTECHOUSE’s “Fractal Worlds” exhibit (July 7 – September 3)

On Tap: What elements of ARTECHOUSE’s “Fractal Worlds” exhibit are incorporated into your cocktails?
Bryan Tate: Fractals as we understand them are geometric shapes. They’re also very mathematical, so from a looks and presentation perspective, we want to incorporate that fractal element. And from a taste perspective, we want it to taste good. But also, the ratios going into the cocktails are on a mathematical basis – the way that the fractals are formed.

OT: How do patrons use the augmented reality app when trying cocktails?
BT: The augmented reality app gives a next dimension experience of the cocktail that allows the guest to experience it in a way they never have before.

OT: What garnishes do you use?
BT: Dehydrated fruits and egg white. We have a way to print a custom image onto a piece of wafer and then put that on top of the egg white, and that in itself is augmented in the cocktail.

OT: What’s your creative process?
BT: It’s decorating as many layers of the experience as you can. The texture changes what it does with the foam or an egg white. Or use creme de coconut to give it a different texture – paint it with that. It’s really important to have the guest experience the cocktail in as many different ways as possible while trying to align our vision with the artist. That’s the really fun part where creating cocktails comes into play: trying to turn what they’ve done – unbelievable art – into a drink.

OT: What flavors are in the Fractal Jungle cocktail?
BT: Flavors with summer aspects: watermelon, honey, matcha, vanilla, blackberry, pineapple. Things that are summery without being too light [so you’ll still get] the full experience.

Photo: Courtesy of ARTECHOUSE

Photo: Courtesy of ARTECHOUSE

Bryan’s Pick
Fractal Jungle
Lime
Mezcal
Sherry
Vanilla
Campari
Pineapple
Blackberry

ARTECHOUSE: 1238 Maryland Ave. SW, DC; www.dc.artechouse.com

Photo: M.K. Koszycki
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
Photos: Amanda Weisbrod

Behind the Bar: May 2018

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo the right way at brand new tequila bar Cortez and trendy mezcal mainstay Espita Mezcaleria, both located in Shaw, or at recently opened Mayahuel Cocina Mexicana in Woodley Park. Find out what the bartenders at these hip spots have to say about their mezcal- and tequila-based creations.


Cortez's Sam Helfstein (Photo - Amanda Weisbrod)

Sam Helfstein
Bartender, Cortez

On Tap: What would you say is your most popular tequila cocktail?
Sam Helfstein: The passion fruit margarita. It’s made with El Jimador Blanco tequila, lime juice, a little bit of agave, triple sec and passion fruit puree. You get the choice of a salt or sugar rim.

OT: What first attracted you to Cortez?
SH: It seemed festive, bright and fun, and I wanted to try something different. I’m used to working in whiskey bars, so this is a definite change.

OT: Do you think DC is lacking in tequila bars? Is Cortez filling that space?
SH: I think that the style of Cortez brings something different to the table because there’s fast, casual dining on the lower level and there’s not really food upstairs – it’s more for just drinking frozen margaritas and fun stuff like that. You don’t find a lot of that in the city.

OT: What do you love most about the atmosphere here?
SH: Everything. Everyone has a really positive, happy vibe. When you walk in, you see how vibrant and bright the murals are. It’s really fun. People get excited and they’re always taking pictures.

Cortez (Photo - Amanda Weisbrod)

Sam’s Pick
Classic Margarita
El Jimador Blanco tequila
Triple sec
Lime juice
Agave

Cortez: 1905 9th St. NW, DC; www.cortezbardc.com


[Pictured Above]

Jordan Utz
Bartender, Espita Mezcaleria

On Tap: Has working at Espita made you more passionate about mezcal?
Jordan Utz: Absolutely. Coming here, I got to develop a passion. I learned all of the nuances about the individual varieties. Every bottle up there has its own characteristics and I think because my background was initially more wine-focused, I can apply a lot of that to mezcal because it’s very terroir-based. Each village and each specific agave is going to have its own expression, and produce unique and specific flavors.

OT: What is Espita’s take on being authentic rather than traditional?
JU: Every ingredient, sauce and spice is made from scratch using largely authentic ingredients. As for the mezcals, we only sell responsibly sourced, traditionally made mezcals here. It’s becoming trendy, but mezcal is just not that kind of spirit. The agave takes a long time to grow. A single agave plant takes at a minimum about eight years to mature, so you can’t rush it. Mezcal shows when it’s cheaply made.

OT: Why do you think mezcal is so popular right now?
JU: Because it’s uncharted territory for a lot of people, there’s an element of curiosity. With mezcal, the reward is really high. If you can really take the time to get to know it, there’s so much depth and nuance about it.

Espita (Photo - Amanda Weisbrod)

Jordan’s Pick
Tehuana Girl (Created by Robin Miller)
Yellow chartreuse
Espadin mezcal
Wheat beer
Elderflower
Honey
Lemon

Espita Mezcaleria: 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.espitadc.com


Mayahuel's Walter Fuentes (left) and Mynor Martin (right) (Photo - Amanda Weisbrod)

Walter Fuentes & Mynor Martin
Bartenders, Mayahuel Cocina Mexicana

On Tap: What inspired Mayahuel’s opening?
Walter Fuentes: We want to bring something new. Mezcal is something that’s going to get more and more popular like tequila did. We’re seeing a lot of people like the smokiness of the mezcal and the different layers of flavors that mezcal brings. We like mezcal because it brings you different parts of Mexico.

OT: What’s your most popular mezcal cocktail?
Mynor Martin: The Chingon is mezcal, scotch, Cocchi vermouth and Angostura bitters. It’s like a Manhattan, but Mexicana-style. The other one is the Smoked Mayahuel. It’s like an Old Fashioned with tequila, mezcal, cinnamon, simple syrup and bitters with mesquite cherry wood on fire.

OT: What makes Mayahuel’s cocktails stand out?
MM: We use only fresh fruit. We don’t use any sour mix or fake stuff. We care about perfect drinks.
WF: We try to keep good quality house tequila and mezcal. We don’t want to use bad quality [liquor]. We want you to come back the next day and drink again, not be hung over!

Mayahuel (Photo - Amanda Weisbrod)

Walter and Mynor’s Pick
Smoked Mayahuel
Mesquite cherry wood on fire
El Silencio mezcal
Milagro tequila
Simple syrup
Cinnamon

Mayahuel Cocina Mexicana: 2609 24th St. NW, DC; www.mayahueldc.com

Photos: Amanda Weisbrod
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