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Photo: Courtesy of Sally's Middle Name
Photo: Courtesy of Sally's Middle Name

Foodie Forecast: DC Cocktail Week Returns

DC Cocktail Week is taking our city by storm again this fall with innovative cocktails carefully crafted by 60-plus participating local restaurants and bars. From November 12-18, DC area foodies are invited to enjoy the ultimate one-price food and cocktail pairings at this annual Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington event. On Tap chatted with a dozen DMV-based spots participating in this year’s festivities to get the scoop on their featured cocktails and buzzworthy beverage programs.


Photo: Courtesy of American Son

Photo: Courtesy of American Son

Allegory, American Son & Wild Days at Eaton Workshop

The brand-new Eaton DC isn’t just the latest boutique hotel downtown; it’s a progressive space designed to promote social justice and a strong sense of community. Eaton DC is home to two cocktail bars, the speakeasy-style Allegory and enclosed rooftop venue Wild Days, and Chef Tim Ma’s latest venture American Son, a stunning comfort food restaurant with a nod to global fare.

“Every space [within Eaton DC] has its purpose and feel to it that’s different than anyplace else,” says Ma, who also owns popular French-Asian fusion spot Kyirisan.

He says that everything on American Son’s menu is very ingredient- and produce-driven.

“If you look at the menu, it’s the [main] ingredient – that’s how you name each cocktail. That’s the centerpiece of each one.”

Eaton’s beverage manager Alexandra Bookless is particularly excited about the Apple, one of American Son’s fall cocktails.

“I think that the Apple will be a huge hit,” she says. “It’s a quintessential fall/winter flavor. Some whiskey and cherry in there give it some nuttiness. I think it’s super delicious, so I hope people like it.”

Guests can enjoy quality tequila- and mezcal-heavy cocktails at Wild Days. Whether you’re lounging by the outdoor firepit or enjoying high-energy live music, you can sip on a refreshing drink like featured cocktail Imagine, an apple-celery margarita with an ancho-celery-salt rim, or Plug on Oaxaca, a spin on traditional cocktail Lion’s Tail that Bookless says is served on the rocks with mezcal “so you get that smoky flavor going into fall.” The celery margarita and smoky cocktail were crafted to pair perfectly with Ma’s Asian-inspired taco menu.

Back downstairs, Allegory’s intimate ambiance makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a hidden locale. Guests navigate from Eaton’s lobby to its politically charged library where they’ll find a subtly nestled door to Allegory leading to the dimly lit, art-filled space. Ma says the bar was designed to resemble the Bemelmans Bar on the Upper East Side. Bookless recommends Allegory’s Kokoro, a unique take on a gimlet.

“Instead of gin, we use a split base of sake, sherry and overproof rum,” Bookless says.
Add house-made fino, lime cordial and amazake to the mix and suddenly you have a “really nice light, fermented, yeasty, bready flavor,” according to the beverage manager.

“It’s cool and beautiful in its own way,” she says of the Kokoro.

But her passion extends to Eaton DC as a whole.

“We’re a different hotel, and we have very concentrated and curated programs here. I hope people can appreciate and enjoy them.”

1201 K St. NW, DC; www.allegory-dc.com; www.americanson1978.com; www.wild-days-dc.com


Photo: Courtesy of Baba

Photo: Courtesy of Baba

Baba

This Balkan cocktail bar tucked beneath Ambar’s Clarendon location offers an eclectic drink menu ranging from light and refreshing to strong and buzzy.

Mixologist Marko Strugar says Baba recently added a new category to its cocktail list – Drinks with Benefits – featuring WU Gentleman, a twist on the famous New Orleans libation Vieux Carre that’s served in a jar full of smoke right before your eyes.

“We will be playing with rakia, [our] national brandy made from fermentation of different kind of fruits,” Strugar says. “Rakia warms you up in any shape.”

Pro tip: try the spot’s popular cocktail Welcome to Belgrade, made with apple-based rakia, vodka and apple juice.

2901 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.baba.bar


Photo: Maya Oren

Photo: Maya Oren

Colada Shop

You don’t have to travel far for the holidays to enjoy an island-inspired cocktail. In fact, you can drink a fruity, citrus-flavored rum cocktail right in DC – or nearby Sterling, Virginia – at Cuban-inspired Colada Shop. With an impressive lineup of authentic Cuban coffee, cocktails and fare, beverage director Mario Monte is excited to focus on warm spices used widely throughout the Caribbean like sweet plantains, cinnamon, brown sugar, lots of citrus, tamarind and delicious, homemade cider for Colada’s winter libations.

“Our special item this winter season, [the Carajillo cocktail is] a gorgeous blend of rum and Licor 43 that is truly diverse,” he says.

This seasonal cocktail is served hot with fresh espresso or shaken up in a coupe. Warm up this winter with the Carajillo and other featured drinks on Colada’s menu.

1405 T St. NW, DC and 21430 Epicerie Plaza, Sterling, VA; www.coladashop.com


Photo: Courtesy of FISH by José Andrés

Photo: Courtesy of FISH by José Andrés

FISH by José Andrés

Fish by José Andrés at MGM National Harbor is known for its elevated seafood classics. The cocktail menu “captures the spirit of Chef José Andrés, while equally remaining conscious of the flavors he commands from the dishes he creates,” says MGM Director of Communications Malik Husser.

“Our mixologists take pride in [their craft], always wanting to provide an imaginative experience,” Husser continues. “This winter, we have a spirit-focused menu with warm flavors. We’ll be using less sweeteners and juices to allow each spirit to be elevated.”

Customer favorites include José’s Gin & Tonic, the Tractor Pull and DC Cocktail Week pick the Salt Air Margarita.

Husser says all of these cocktails are balanced and “created to blend seamlessly, allowing the spirit to play the leading role.”

101 MGM National Ave. Oxon Hill, MD; www.mgmnationalharbor.com/en/restaurants/fish-by-jose-andres.html


Photo: Courtesy of Iron Gate

Photo: Courtesy of Iron Gate

Iron Gate

Greek and Southern Italian-inspired mainstay Iron Gate will incorporate smoke, root vegetables, earthy amaro and nuts into its seasonal drinks. Spirits manager Nick Farrell says the Dupont Circle restaurant’s Choc Full O’Nuts blends Italian coffee liqueur, nocino, port-finished rye and a touch of chocolate, and predicts that the cocktail will be a favorite throughout the winter months.

Iron Gate is all about what’s fun for the guests, such as the sharable Greek sangria or the eye-catching Amaro Highball featured during DC Cocktail Week. This Italian cocktail is served in a Coke bottle and is “straightforward, challenging and whimsical all at once.”

“The [Amaro Highball] really does taste like a cola so you can just enjoy it without even thinking about it,” Farrell says. “We have fun with ideas and flavors.”

1734 N St. NW, DC; www.irongaterestaurantdc.com


Photo: Mi Vida

Photo: Mi Vida

Mi Vida

This high-end Mexican restaurant at The Wharf is featuring the Famous Sling for DC Cocktail Week, concocted with Fidencio Clásico mezcal, Plantation Rum Pineapple, Aperol and St. George Raspberry Brandy – just one of many ingredient-packed beverages at the waterfront spot.

“We celebrate agave,” says beverage director Darlin Kulla.

The secondary part of the drink menu “highlights creative cocktails with different agave spirits such as mezcal and sotol.”

This season, expect intense, warming flavors at Mi Vida.

“We see a similar trend with exploring anejos and mezcal,” Kulla continues. “The smoke and spice in both appeal to guests in the colder months.”

If you’re into sweet and spicy, sipping on the Cielo Rojo Margarita made with spicy watermelon juice will add some heat to your chilly days.

98 District Sq. SW, DC; www.mividamexico.com


Photo: The Partisan

Photo: The Partisan

The Partisan

Penn Quarter’s The Partisan, which shares walls with Red Apron Butcher and is a go-to cocktail spot for local theatregoers pre- and post-show, is always trying to find creative ways to express flavors on its drink menu.

“We go back and forth with our chef team, [distilleries] and even [local] farmers to create drinks that are whimsical, nuanced and just plain smashable,” says spirits manager Brian McGahey.

Chef Nate Anda concocts dishes with rich, deep flavors, and McGahey says the cocktail menu aims to support that with “balanced acid profiles and savory notes.”

“From herbaceous to spiced, [our] drinks have enough body and flavor to warm you up.”

The Everlasting Gaze seems to be the right cocktail for chilly weather, featuring Maison Rouge Cognac, Velvet Falernum, roasted Yokohama squash puree, coconut cream and St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. Come try this boozy, flavor-packed drink during DC Cocktail Week.

709 D St. NW, DC; www.thepartisandc.com


Photo: Courtesy of Sally's Middle Name

Photo: Courtesy of Sally’s Middle Name

Sally’s Middle Name

Approachable, local and educational are the adjectives beverage director Gary Enchelmaier uses to describe the cocktail menu at Sally’s Middle Name.

“I try to use the most local ingredients and create the drink menu with base spirits in mind,” he says.

The hip H Street locale’s cocktails are sure to be warming and welcoming this winter, and Sally’s perfect example of that is DC Cocktail Week pick the Golden Hind made with One Eight Distilling’s District-made, barrel-aged gin, local apple brandy, local amaretto and black walnut bitters. Though the cocktails are experimental and delicious, Enchelmaier says ultimately, the goal is to let the food shine.

“I’ll work with the kitchen to really see where they’re going. My decisions for the bar have to pair well with our food first.”

Stop by this farm-to-table spot for a unique and fresh pairing experience. And for every cocktail pairing sold during DC Cocktail Week, Sally’s Middle Name will donate $1 to Roots for Life, a nonprofit centered in food-insecure DC areas to educate and empower communities.

1320 H St. NE, DC; www.sallysmiddlename.com


Photo: Courtesy of Slate Wine Bar + Bistro

Photo: Courtesy of Slate Wine Bar + Bistro

Slate Wine Bar + Bistro

“Simple, yet eclectic,” says chef and sommelier Danny Lledó about the Glover Park spot’s drink menu. Slate will offer two new cocktails for DC Cocktail Week: the “light, airy and refreshing” Flying Monk made with vodka, green chartreuse and lime juice, and the festive Pumpkin Old Fashioned featuring roasted pumpkin-infused whiskey.

Slate’s extensive wine list looks to “introduce new tastes of obscure and unique wines to discover” while the cocktail menu aims to maintain “a balance of boozy cocktails and more fruit-driven cocktails,” according to Lledó.

Indulge in other deliciously balanced Slate favorites such as The Lobbyist (Slate’s take on a rickey) or The Prossecorita, a refreshing margarita topped with prosecco and berries.

2404 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.slatewinebar.com


Photo: Courtesy of Stable

Photo: Courtesy of Stable

Stable

This Swiss establishment on H Street offers a particularly creative theme for its cocktail program, focusing on “medicinal” concoctions like absinthe, amaro, schnapps and other authentic ingredients like old-school and herbal liquors from Switzerland.

“We’re focusing on our medicinal cocktails during the flu season,” says beverage director Silvan Kraemer. “And hot cocktails come back into play around the end of November.”

The Immune Booster has been a popular cocktail this fall, featuring bourbon, raspberry schnapps and lemon juice.

“During the fall, people tend to drink darker spirits,” he continues. “They can enjoy this well-balanced cocktail with nice acidity, bourbon notes and that fresh rose hip finish.”

Try Stable’s DC Cocktail Week pairing for something truly unique: a ham and Dijon mustard croissant and the Brandied Pear Cocktail made with Asbach Uralt brandy, Williams Pear Schnapps, lemon juice and rosemary simple syrup.

1324 H St. NE, DC; www.stabledc.com


Photo: Succotash

Photo: Succotash

Succotash

This upscale, Southern-inspired spot in Penn Quarter puts a heavy focus on whiskey – specifically bourbon – as its driving force, according to beverage director Darlin Kulla.

“We update our cocktails based on seasonality while focusing on crafting great classics such as [the] Old Fashioned, Manhattan [and] Mint Julep, among others.”

With a menu of fun, Southern-themed cocktails like Hey Peaches and Scarlett Sunset, Succotash is adding another smashing option for DC Cocktail Week: bourbon-based libation Hey Peanut featuring Buffalo Trace Eagle Rare bourbon, house-made salted peanut orgeat and yellow chartreuse.

Kulla says bourbon drinkers come out in the winter ready to explore new takes on their preferred spirit, so be sure to check out Succotash during the event to expand your palate.

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


Photo: Unconventional Diner

Photo: Unconventional Diner

Unconventional Diner

Chef David Deshaies is turning a familiar flavor pairing into what beverage director Andra Johnson calls “a twist on a popular classic” for DC Cocktail Week.

The trendy restaurant – just a stone’s throw from the Washington Convention Center – will offer the foie gras PB&J to adventurous eaters during the event. Served on toast with Concord grapes, port reduction, pomegranate seeds, sliced celery and dehydrated peanut butter snow, the dish will be paired with The Jam, made with Dogfish Head Roasted Peanut Vodka, Jack Natural Grenadine, port reduction and lemon.

Not into PB&J? Go for the seasonally versatile Paradise City with bourbon, hibiscus liqueur, Velvet Falernum and lime, served on the rocks and garnished with an orchid blossom.

“The flavors are fresh and fun without being too bright or too sweet,” Johnson says. “[The Paradise City has] definitely [been] a crowd-pleaser since I put it on the list back in July.”

1207 9th St. NW, DC; www.unconventionaldiner.com


DC Cocktail Week takes place from Monday, November 12 to Sunday, November 18. To learn more about pricing and participating venues, visit www.dccocktailweek.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

 

 

Photo: Courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery
Photo: Courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Spills on Why Bourbon Stays Strong

September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, a celebration of the uniquely American whiskey distillers have been producing and perfecting for hundreds of years. And while plenty of goods grow stale with age – passed over in favor of the shinier, modern creations (see: mezcal) – interest in bourbon has no ceiling.

Take DC for example, where bourbon-based drinks like the Old Fashioned and Mint Julep are fast becoming menu staples. And many bars and liquor stores now make a point to appeal to customers with a variety of bottles, from the rare to the everyday.

Some may take that as proof that society has reached peak bourbon. But there’s plenty of evidence its trajectory is still on the rise.

“We are seeing growing demand driven in many ways by consumer recognition that Americans can make world-class whiskey [that’s] highly crafted and deliver an amazing array of enjoyable drinking experiences, whether neat or mixed,” says Mark Brown, president and CEO of Frankfort, Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Few sources are better plugged into the bourbon world than Buffalo Trace, which runs the oldest continually operating distillery in the U.S. The Buffalo Trace name was adopted in 1999 with the release of its namesake bourbon, but bourbon has been produced at the site for over 200 years. More than 200,000 visitors a year travel to its headquarters, which was named a national historic landmark in 2013.

What started as a small, 50-employee operation has grown to 450 employees and earned more awards than any other distillery. The rapid growth is a telling snapshot of bourbon’s momentum as a coveted liquor.

When asked what he loves most about bourbon, Brown points to its versatility and flexibility. Bourbon drinkers aren’t afraid of having a little fun.

“I love the approachability, taste and mixability of bourbon,” he says. “We are not tied to stuffy traditions around how whiskey should be consumed.”

As its popularity has grown, bourbon has also become a bridge connecting likeminded drinkers who bond and share experiences tasting and collecting new and favorite bottles. Creating those experiences is the result of art, science and many crafty hands. Just ask Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, who’s worked at the distillery since 1995.

“[Bourbon] is produced from the fields of farmers and brought to the table of consumers by craftsmen that are truly passionate about producing a quality product,” he says.

Wheatley still sees an opportunity to educate customers about the history and intricacies of bourbon. In addition to the manual work involved, for example, there are legal requirements to follow for a whiskey to be designated a bourbon. Among them: the spirit must be produced in the U.S., it must come from at least 51 percent corn and it must be aged in new American oak barrels.

Each bourbon brand also comes with its own quirks, pedigree and way of doing things. That’s all the more important in 2018, when the sheer amount of bourbon choices can be overwhelming even for its biggest fans.

“I think once people understand the history and stories behind the brands, they begin to respect and appreciate the brands a little more,” Wheatley says.

Experimentation has become a bigger part of the bourbon world, too. As general interest expands, distilleries across the country – including One Eight Distilling in Ivy City – are inventing their own twists on the classic bourbon profile. Wheatley says that while it “would be easy to be distracted,” by these new offerings and styles, Buffalo Trace plans to stay the course going forward.

If there’s one downside to the bourbon craze, it’s that consumers are seeing their unquenchable demand met with higher prices. Enjoying bourbon can become a rather expensive and overwhelming hobby. It’s not hard to find bottles for a hundred dollars or more.

It’s a challenge Buffalo Trace, along with all American distillers, must embrace in 2018 and beyond. But as long as there are tasty bourbons being produced, its popularity seems far from peak.

“We are only at the very beginning of bourbon,” Brown says.

Follow Buffalo Trace on Instagram at @buffalotrace and learn more about the distillery at www.buffalotrace.com.


Pearl Dive’s Bardstown Derby, A Bourbon Hit

Photo: Scott Suchman

Photo: Scott Suchman

Buffalo Trace bourbon is the featured spirit in the Bardstown Derby, a cocktail mainstay at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace in Logan Circle. The featured libation on our September cover takes its name from the historic town of Bardstown, Kentucky and has been on the restaurant’s menu for a number of years. It’s a clear customer favorite.

“It’s a riff off a Brown Derby,” says George Sault, bar director for Black Restaurant Group, which owns Pearl Dive.

The drink tweaks the standard Brown Derby formula of bourbon, grapefruit and honey with additions of tart fresh lemon juice and a floral, rich, house-made orange blossom honey syrup.

“It’s our most popular cocktail after the Pearl Cup, which is a gin-based cocktail,” Sault says.

Along with mixing up plenty of Bardstown Derbys on busy nights, Sault has plenty of experience steering bourbon drinkers of all levels toward a great cocktail or dram from Pearl Dive’s menu of both approachable and complex whiskeys. When it comes to bourbon newcomers, Sault says to “dive into what they usually drink.”

Some people gravitate toward citrus-forward drinks or stirred boozy cocktails like an Old Fashioned. Others prefer a simple pour of whiskey, neat or with some ice. From that point, there are endless bottles to explore and taste.

“If someone is well-versed in whiskey, then you start diving into some of the whiskeys that you don’t see on the everyday bar shelves,” he says.

Follow Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on social media at @PearlDiveDC and check out their cocktail menu at www.pearldivedc.com.

Photo: Scott Suchman

Photo: Scott Suchman

The Bardstown Derby
2 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
1.5 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
0.75 oz. orange blossom honey syrup

Add all ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace: 1612 14th St. NW, DC; 202-319-1612; www.pearldivedc.com