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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

 

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Master Mixologist Paul Gonzalez

The concept of a passionate person is often talked about at parties and in cover letters, but it’s rare to meet someone in the flesh who truly embodies the phrase. For me, the sense of confidence and wonder that local mixologist Paul Gonzalez holds for the drink industry is uniquely infectious and authentic, and one of a litany of reasons we decided to pick his brain about his role in the local mixology scene.

On Tap: How did you get into the drink industry, and mixology specifically?
Paul Gonzalez: I’ve always been in the food and beverage industry. I’m the oldest of the four kids in my family so when I was younger, that made me my grandmother’s sous chef and that’s kind of where my flavor sensibilities started growing.  I worked in the industry through college, from server to bartender, and it was one of those things where you need the experience to get hired but can’t get experience unless you work. I would work for free until you gave me a job.

OT: Was there an “a-ha” moment when you knew this is what you are meant to do?
PG: When I got out of college, I was doing tons of stuff. I was cutting down trees, doing construction and working some office jobs because I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I landed on this because I always loved what I was doing in this industry, and I always kept it in my back pocket. Even after long weeks, I wanted to get behind the bar and see my friends. If everyone is there, why be anywhere else?


Mixology Must-Haves
A strong team
A positive outlook
Good liquor
Jiggers


OT: At what point did you know moving from Norfolk to a bigger market like DC was the right move for you?
PG: I knew I needed to move and continue growing. One of my good friends moved to DC and I would go back and forth to help with his catering company. By luck, one of his roommates happened to be running the bar program at Zaytinya. I started talking to him at one of the events we used to do, and when he found out I was driving up from Norfolk, he told me if I wanted to come up to DC full-time, he’d hire me there. So I literally came up on a Thursday, interviewed, got hired and then moved my stuff up that weekend.

OT: What was your first experience in a bigger market like?
PG: I worked for ThinkFoodGroup for about three years, and I learned a ton from them. A lot of it was their philosophy on hospitality. On the drink side, they focused heavily on flavors, so it wasn’t just, “Make me an Old Fashioned or a sazerac,” but they’d give us this flavor and that flavor, and challenge us to make something with it. That process makes you hone in on what each spirit tastes like and why.

OT: After that, you landed a gig with the wildly popular Drink Company’s pop-ups. How did that move come about?
PG: I bounced around for awhile and basically interned at a few places in the area I really wanted to work for. Columbia Room was one of those places, as I had friends there. I was pretty annoying about wanting a job with them, so I worked there for free, and it kind of burnt me out. [Laughs] But as soon as they had an opening at Southern Efficiency, they let me know I was in the running. At the time, whiskey was my weakest subject, but I leaned into it and told them directly, “I came to DC to get better, this is my weakest area and that’s why I want to work here,” and the rest is history.

OT: You recently worked at The Gibson, which was described as a “dream team” of mixologists by the Washington City Paper. Was this as fun as it sounds?
PG: It was really, really cool. I’ve had a blast working with The Gibson crew. It was one of those things that just kind of snowballed. My good friend Ed Lainez took over the bar program and after running into him, he told me who he was bringing on and I immediately was like, “Can I join?” Everyone there was super talented – we just checked our egos at the door and had in-depth conversations about drinks. We just wanted to get them right.


Can’t Live Without
My girlfriend
My puppy, Puppy the Vampire Slayer
Passion for anything you do
Good food
Good drinks


OT: Your next project is back with Drink Company at Eaton Hotel’s new bar. How far along is that?
PG: The whole hotel concept is super guest interactive. The bar will be a speakeasy-esque cocktail bar. We like the boozy drinks, but there will also be light, easy sipping beverages. I believe in the three-drink philosophy, where there’s three varietals of every type of cocktail. We want people to have a good time, but the goal is to make a memory and make it last. We’re shooting for a mid-August or September opening.

OT: In the meantime, you’ve been bouncing around and freelancing at different places. Is this just to learn and pick up new skills?
PG: I took this time to work with people who inspire me and who I want to learn from. I see all these awesome people running awesome programs, and I want to go work with them and pick their brains. There aren’t many industries where you can do this. One example is Hank’s Cocktail Bar up in Petworth. Jessica Weinstein is the beverage director for all of the Hank’s [locations], and she’s someone I’ve known for a long time now. You can see that she has her own style and [has made her own] footprint on elevated cocktails, but she’s taken all of the pretension out of it.

OT: What is your process for working on drinks? Do you have a concept and then work on it alone, or do you take ideas to others?
PG: It’s a little bit of both. The team works on ideas at least once a season. For instance, I’ll tell Jackson Crowder, co-manager at the Eaton Hotel’s bar, and then on the next day we both have off, we’ll hammer out variations of whatever concept. Then we’ll take those to the big meeting, and maybe one or two – or none – make it. Drink Company’s system is one of the best I’ve seen because they’re very open to ideas and collaboration

OT: Now that you’re moving into a managerial role and you’re the one giving tips and advice to younger people in the industry, what’s your long-term plan?
PG: It’s the same thing it’s been since I did my first interview in DC: I want to have my own bar in five years. I think I said that three years ago, so I have to start making moves. [Laughs] This is such a great city for it, and I would love to do something like that here.

For updates on Eaton Hotel, visit www.eatonworkshop.com/hotel.

Follow Gonzalez on Instagram at @paullyygee.

Eaton Hotel: 1201 K St. NW, DC; 202-289-7600; www.eatonworkshop.com/hotel

Photo; Courtesy of The Bruery
Photo; Courtesy of The Bruery

Summer of the Sour Beer

Sour is the beer of summer. No, we’re not bestowing the varietal brew with this title simply for alliteration. When your body is being beaten down by 90-degree heat regularly, your taste buds don’t yearn for a malty ale, nor do they beg for a deep chocolate stout. Your tongue desires dry acidity in a beer, something with a lower alcohol percentage so you can return to the bartender or fridge again and again. You want a sour.

Now that we’ve discovered your heart’s sour desire, it’s time to figure out what factors contribute to a delicious sour beer. There are two popular methods to brewing sours: 1) the traditional fermenting process with equipment specifically suited for crafting a sour beer and 2) the kettle method, which allows brewers to sour unfermented wort in a few days by introducing a lactobacillus that transforms sugars into lactic acid, providing a tart flavor.

Many breweries handle the process differently. Some operate in two brewhouses to keep sours separate from their regularly offered varietals, and others just take extreme precautions to prevent contamination. Within these processes comes the additions of fruit flavors and other options that create the unique, tangy flavors that help quench thirst while providing a buzz.

Luckily for us, there are a number of breweries offering sours in the area using both techniques, and if you don’t buy what we’re saying about the summer belonging to sours, perhaps you’ll listen to them.

Photo: Rose Collins

Photo: Rose Collins

Bluejacket

Whereas most breweries lean one side or the other as far as the methodology for sours, beer director Greg Engbert says Bluejacket does both. With the need to keep sours on two to three taps at all times, the turnover of kettle sours is helpful. But the brewery still uses a mixed-fermentation, barrel-aged process for select offerings.

“We have a steady stream of delicious sours coming out at all times,” Engbert says. “Recently, we released a cherry-raspberry sour called Eighties Fan, and we also had a limited bottling of Mural, a sour brown ale aged 14 months in Napa Valley Cabernet Franc barrels.”

With this diversity, and the production of other “clean” beers, Engbert says the team at Bluejacket is extremely fastidious in their approach. To him, sour brewing is the most traditional practice when it comes to making beer.

“It embraces yeasts and bacteria known for producing wilder, often acidic flavors not typically associated with the cleaner styles created over the last few hundred years,” he says. “By once again involving some of the wilder flavors born of older forms of fermentation, we are enhancing and expanding the flavor possibility of craft beer today.”

Engbert says that hints of butter, candy corn and Cheerios represent items of flavor you don’t want in your sour, and even though that seems obvious, he assures it’s common.

“We consider a great sour to be one where all flavors are deliciously impactful, yet balanced. We seek to deliver a clean sour: one that is briskly tart, composted and aromatically inviting, with fruit and funk side by side in harmony.”

Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of The Bruery

Photo: Courtesy of The Bruery

Bruery Terreux

Bruery Terreux, the sour sister brand of The Bruery, is a brewery in California completely tasked with crafting traditional sours and American wilds. Ethen Adams, the manager at Union Market-based The Bruery Store, says the brand became its own in 2005 when they decided to use two separate facilities to isolate all the diverse bacteria.

“We saw a need after having the experience of an infection issue,” Adams says. “There are a lot of breweries that are still brewing both in the same facility, and it can screw up really good beers. We learned the hard way early on, and since we had the space, we decided to segregate the two.”

This has spurred a friendly competition between Bruery Terreux and The Bruery’s brewhouses, with each offering radically different taprooms on the West Coast.

“The guys at Terreux have been making great sour beers, and figured out some new varieties to level the playing field.”

Nearly all of the sours touch oak at some point at Terreux, Adams says. And a majority of gallons run through their foeder, an 8,000-gallon barrel.

“We like the traditional, historical approach to our sour beers because the microbes take up residence in the wood and the beer sours on its own terms,” he continues. “We feel like there are more complexities and nuance with the traditional method, but a lot of breweries unfortunately don’t have the option.”

Popular Terreux products at The Bruery Store include goses, Berliner weisses and American wild ales.

“Sour and the Rye is an American wild ale, and you’re getting a different level of acidity with those labels,” Adams says. “They’ll still maintain complexities and be very approachable, but the acidity is very high and might pucker a newcomer to sour beers.”

The Bruery Store: 513 Morse St. NE, DC; www.thebruery.com/the-bruery-dc

Photo: Courtesy of Devils Backbone

Photo: Courtesy of Devils Backbone

Devils Backbone

With a Cranberry Gose offered year-round, Devils Backbone doesn’t do too much tinkering when it comes to sour beers. But the ones they do concoct offer a change of pace for the brewery as it shifts the order of operations for a few days, says production brewmaster Joshua French.

“It’s not a hassle,” French says. “We do kettle sours because of the precautions, and it’s interesting because we have to manipulate our one-way system in order to do one. It’s time consuming, because it sits in a mash kettle for 48 hours, and while it sits there you can’t do anything else. You have to rearrange the whole brew house.”

As for the difference between kettle sours and traditional sours, French says it’s generally a personal preference.

“It’s such a divided line in the industry,” he says. “With the kettle, you can take the acidity and start the process there, and it’s very controllable. On the other side, there’s the art and skill of blending different cultures and barrels to achieve the taste you want.”

French is all about the traditional Belgian sours because the taste provides nostalgic feels, but most importantly, he doesn’t want too much meddling in those old-school varietals. Too much of anything in a sour is off-putting.

“I don’t want to drink sour raspberry jam,” he says. “I still want the beer flavor and subtle lactic acid notes. I want subtlety in my sours – that’s what I prefer.”

Devils Backbone brews are carried at various locations throughout the DMV. Go to www.dbbrewingcompany.com for a list of spots to pick them up.

Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub: 200 Mosbys Run, Roseland, VA; www.dbbrewingcompany.com

Photo: Courtesy of Mad Fox

Photo: Courtesy of Mad Fox

Mad Fox Brewing Company

Bill Madden has been brewing sours at the Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church since about 2014, but the first time was a complete accident. After bacteria jumped into a barrel batch of another brew, the team decided to blend and bottle the beer to keep the microscopic invaders from infiltrating the rest of the brewery. In order to sanitize the workspace, Mad Fox painted walls, cleared out the barrels and underwent a sour hiatus.

“Now we’re doing kettle sours because it controls bacteria better,” Madden says. “We’ve been doing that since last year, and we’ve done about half a dozen so far.”

Though he’s only been operating the kettle process for less than a year, Madden says he actively studied the method beforehand to ensure he was comfortable after the sour hiccup in 2014.

“Souring beer goes against everything I learned at brewing school,” he continues. “You’re always taught to keep those bacteria out. But once you invite them in, you have to control it because if they get into everything, it doesn’t fare well for a kölsch beer or pale ale.”

Mad Fox offers a Berliner weisse called the Humdinger year-round, and the brew showcases light stone fruit notes and tartness.

“We were so focused on getting our Berliner weisse right,” Maddens says. “We wanted to get that first one near perfect before we moved onto other sour beers. Patrons are asking for [fruity] versions, such as our cherry sour. I’m taking steps to slowly work through different styles, so we can perfect what we want out of the flavor profile.”

Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 West Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com

Photo: Right Proper

Photo: Right Proper

Right Proper

Right Proper’s Brookland Production House offers four different Berliner weisse sours including Jammy Smears, Convergent Worlds, Vol. 2, and Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne. Using the more traditional method of brewing sours with fermenter tanks and barrels, brewmaster Nathan Zeedner says the strict regimen that brewing sour beers calls is par for the course, as the mainstays haven’t changed radically over the years.

“How I usually explain it is we have one brew house and two breweries within these walls,” Zeedner says. “On certain days, we’re only using specific equipment, and we have it color-coded so we don’t mess up. We use very strict sanitation practices, so we don’t see any carry over. We’re very strict to our fermentation.”

Though the kettle sour method is popular because it requires less equipment such as fermenter tanks, Zeedner feels the taste misses out on the full fermentation process. While the acidity is there in kettle sours, there’s generally less character because of how quick the turnaround is.

“[The traditional method] takes longer, and [with the kettle method], you don’t have to segment equipment,” he continues. “And most people are worried about lactate jumping to other beers. But when we allow for our beers to undergo the longer process, you end up with a really beautiful fermentation character because the flavor compounds.”

Zeedner is proud of Right Proper’s family of Berliner weisse brews, saying the beers offer “a strong fermentation character and a pleasing tartness and dryness.”

Right Proper Brookland Production House: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; www.rightproperbrewing.com


Supplemental Sours

Oh hello, looking to skip the article and just find out where you can score some delicious sour beers near you? Well, we caught you peeking, but don’t feel bad. These delicious brews are worth a trip, and here are a few places in the DMV that will give you your fill.

3 Stars Brewing
With a rotating list and expansive distribution list, 3 Stars mentioned their American wild ales like Ricky Rose and Two Headed Unicorn, and the sour ale Saber Tooth Unicorn. 6400 Chillum Pl. NW, DC; www.3starsbrewing.com

Atlas Brew Works
The Ivy City-based brewery has a canned Blood Orange Gose brewed with blood orange and Himalayan pink salt, and Ugly & Stoned, an American sour with “ugly stone fruit.” 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com

Brookland Pint, Meridian Pint, and Smoke and Barrel
Beer aficionado Jace Gonnerman – also the beverage director at Brookland Pint, Meridian Pint, and Smoke and Barrel – told On Tap that he gets sours from all over the country. Despite that, and because of the great brewing culture in DC, he’s always rotating beers from local spots as well. For sours, he recommends Right Proper’s Silver Branch Convergent Worlds Vol. 2 and The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness with black currants.
Brookland Pint: 716 Monroe St. NE, DC; www.brooklandpint.com
Meridian Pint: 3400 11th St. NW, DC; www.meridianpint.com
Smoke and Barrel: 2471 18th St. NW, DC; www.smokeandbarreldc.com

City Tap House
In the mood for some variety? City Tap House has a variety of sours on the menu, and you can even partake in multiple at a time with a flight. 901 9th St. NW, DC and 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC
www.citytap.com

Dacha Beer Garden
On the heels of their late-June celebration, Sour Liz, this beer garden is flush with remaining gallons of beer, so hurry before they run out for good. 1600 7th St. NW, DC; www.dachadc.com

Granville Moore’s
Granville Moore’s carries a variety of big format sours, whether bottled or canned, and routinely have at least one on tap. 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com

High Side
High Side offers a variety of sour beers including Old Ox Funky Face Margarita Gose, Collective Arts Gose with blackberry, black currant and lemon zest, and a number of others on draft and in bottles. 4009 Chain Bridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.highsideva.com

Roofers Union
Roofers Union in Adams Morgan offers multiple sour beers, including Sierra Nevada’s Otra Vez, Allagash’s Interlude and even a graft cider titled Fields & Flowers. And that’s only a touch of the expansive menu at this spot. 2446 18th St. NW, DC; www.roofersuniondc.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