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Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Women’s Issue Edition

DC has risen in the ranks as one of the most exciting bar scenes in the country as of late. At the helm of many of the buzziest bars in the city are women leading award-winning teams to craft the best and brightest cocktail programs. Whether they’re mainstays, newcomers or home to a specific spirit, each one is worth taking note of – not just because of the world-class drinks, but for the noteworthy ladies at the helm, too.


Megan Barnes (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Megan Barnes

Beverage Director + Partner, Espita Mezcaleria

Notice mezcal popping up across the city over the past few years? You probably have Espita Mezcaleria’s Megan Barnes to thank for that. The Shaw spot’s menu highlights the spicy and smoky spirit’s best qualities, converting even the most stubborn drinkers into passionate connoisseurs who keep diaries around their favorite varieties.

“I loved it from first sip,” Barnes says of the spirit.

She got her start at Columbia Room working under Drink Company’s Derek Brown, who introduced her to mezcal.

“After work, I would walk down to Oyamel because at the time, that was the only place you could get mezcal. Now, I go down to Mexico about three times a year, and that’s also opened the door for me to learn about different ranges, styles, techniques and flavors. And meeting the families who are producing the mezcal – it’s really kind of a romance.”

Although Barnes’ time at Espita so far has been a well-awarded one, including a RAMMY last year for best bar program, she credits the bar team behind her and the city’s supportive cocktail scene for her continued successes.

“The DC bar scene is probably the best in the entire country. We’re so tight-knit and we’re always rooting each other on, especially the women in the city. We love each other so much.”

Espita Margarita (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Margarita
Tequila
Lime
Ligit Triple
“Nogave” syrup

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

 


Alex Bookless (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Alexandra Bookless

Beverage Director, Eaton Workshop

Eaton Workshop’s ambitious pursuit of creating a social justice-minded hub for travelers and locals alike is a perfect match for seasoned beverage director Alexandra Bookless.

“We’ve got four concepts including the cafe [and] the coworking space, and we do events as well, so there’s a lot going on,” she says of the bars she oversees within the multi-use downtown space, which sees about a 50/50 split between natives and visitors.

Bookless and her team develop detailed menus for Allegory, American Son, Kintsugi, Wild Days and a soon-to-open bar within their coworking space. Not only do they make it seem effortless, but Bookless has helped usher in a new wave of luxury hotels as spots for community and craft cocktails.

“People really support our ideas and allow us to have a strong creative voice, which is really on theme for Eaton Workshop in general – just supporting art in all forms. It’s kind of a holistic approach to supporting creative outlets here.”

Allegory drink (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

2666 from Allegory
Pechuga mezcal 
Reposado tequila
Sherry 
Creme de cacao
Mole bitters
Chocolate-covered fig made in-house 

Eaton Workshop: 1201 K St. NW, DC; www.eatonworkshop.com

 


Alejandra Martin 2 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Alejandra Martin

Bartender + Manager, Gaslight Tavern

Alejandra Martin credits her family with her love of the food and beverage industry. Her parents owned a Mexican restaurant in California, and she says the restaurant world has always been in her blood. A bartender of 11 years, she joined the team at Shaw’s Gaslight Tavern when it opened last January.

“It’s been great to have been here from the beginning,” she says of the Art Deco-inspired bar. “We base our cocktails on the setting, so a lot are classic cocktails or spins on them. We stick to that time period but still get creative with them.”

Martin’s creativity shines in drinks she creates outside of the pantheon of classics, too. She crafted a current special called the Mezcalito, an homage to her love of the spirit. She keeps the retro feel with a float and an ornate glass.

“I like it because it’s a little different and it’s layered, with a fernet float on top. It’s cute and flavorful – a complex yet simple cocktail.”

The warm and inviting space is filled with – as the name would suggest – fireplaces, and its location sees locals stopping in to be guided into the arena of old-school drinks by Martin.

Mezcalito (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Mezcalito
Mezcal
Agave syrup
Pinch of salt
Fernet float
Dehydrated lime
Fresh-squeezed lemon

Gaslight Tavern: 2012-2014 9th St. NW, DC; www.gaslight-dc.com

 


Columbia Room (Photo - Daniel Lempres)

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Suzy Critchlow

Head Bartender, Columbia Room

Suzy Critchlow has risen to the top of the industry thanks to her curiosity, creativity and initiative. Despite reverence for the history of the craft, change is part of the ethos of Columbia Room. Critchlow and her team are constantly reimagining and refining their menu at the award-winning Blagden Alley spot, pushing the boundaries of classic cocktails. Their current menu Distortion is no exception.

“We’re distorting ingredients, flavors, visuals and sound,” she says. “Another menu I really loved was one called Women Rule. It was all inspired by female chefs, mixologists and bartenders. Pretty much as soon as we release a menu, we hit the ground running designing a new one.”

And although there’s no shortage of innovation in her current role, she says DC’s fast-paced drink scene keeps her on her toes and always challenges her to be even better.

“There are new places opening all the time, [which] challenges you to make sure that you’re still keeping your standards very high because there are so many people out there who are so talented and have a lot to bring to the table. It gets better [in DC] every day.”

Columbia Room_drink (Photo - Daniel Lempres)

Photo: Daniel Lempres

The Prose Punch
Gin
Fino
Pear
Roses
Whey
White vermouth

Columbia Room: 124 Blagden Alley NW, DC; www.columbiaroomdc.com

 


Erin Adams (Photo - Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Erin Adams

General Manager, AC Hotel National Harbor

On Tap: Tell us a bit about the offerings at AC Lounge within the hotel.
Erin Adams: AC Lounge is our bar area where guests can enjoy local craft beers, expertly made signature cocktails such as locally inspired gin and tonics, specialty wines sourced from around the world including Spanish Albarino and Rioja, and a curated selection of tapas-style small bites.

OT: Any mainstays or customer favorites on the drink menu?
EA:
To kick the evening off, we offer a nightly ritual of passing the porrón – a tradition started because of our Spanish roots. The porrón is a traditional glass wine pitcher filled with wine and tipped directly into mouths as a conclusion to the work day and kickoff to the evening.

OT: Why should local drink enthusiasts visit the lounge?
EA: AC Lounge is unique from other National Harbor bars as we highlight our Spanish roots and culture in the experience. Our bar shelves resemble National Harbor’s picturesque sunsets, and the space offers floor-to-ceiling window views of the destination as well as an outdoor terrace that can be enjoyed year-round.

AC Hotel cocktail (Photo - Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotels

Cherry Blossom Sour
Sloop Betty Vodka
St. Germain
Simple syrup
Cherry brandy
Oloroso sherry
Lemon juice

AC Hotel National Harbor: 156 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD: www.marriott.com/hotels

Daniel Lempres contributed to this article.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith
Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Behind the Bar: Left Door, Destination Wedding and Prequel

Don’t let the cold keep you inside this winter. With a whole host of festive drinks throughout the District, there are plenty of reasons to bundle up, venture out, and indulge in the sweet, the spicy and the seasonal this winter. We rounded up three of our favorite winter-ready drinks to add to your list of spots to enjoy over your holiday break.


 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left Door
Mick Perrigo, Owner

On Tap: What are your winter-centric drinks for this year?
Mick Perrigo: What I’m making now is the Cocoa Nog Fizz, and we do this drink every year. It’s a refreshing but fattening eggnog drink. We’re doing it a little differently this year than in the past. Last year, we did it just with Irish whiskey and brandy.

OT: What other items on your menu tend to do well during the holidays?
MP: We’re going to have a bubbly drink called Krampus Got A Brand New Bag with tequila, lime, agave, allspice dram, angostura bitters and a sparkling rose.

OT: What’s your favorite drink on the menu and why?
MP: I’d say it’s probably the Where the Buffalo Roam. It was a drink I had been working on for a while. It’s delicious, dry and altogether a refreshing cocktail.

OT: What sets Left Door apart from other bars in the area?
MP: We stay true to exactly what we said we would do when we opened up: we focus on hospitality and on the cocktails. I don’t feel like we’ve strayed from that, and I think that’s the reason people keep coming back here.

 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Cocoa Nog Fizz
Catoctin Creek rye
Brandy
Sherry
Egg white
Heavy cream
Vanilla
Cane
Cocoa powder
Nutmeg
House-made cinnamon tincture

Left Door: 1345 S St. NW, DC; www.dcleftdoor.com


Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Destination Wedding
Lukas B. Smith, Owner

On Tap: What winter drinks are you featuring this year? 
Lukas B. Smith: We like to keep our menu rolling, so guests can expect to see a lot of seasonality. Our first drink of fall is the Tee & T. It features Teeling Irish whiskey and a spiced pineapple tonic from a new recipe of mine. The tonic is made with molasses, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne and ginger to ride along with pineapple husk, lemon stock and cinchona. The spices and molasses bring around autumnal feels but the tonic stays bright and poppy.

OT: Can you tell me more about the menu and concept in general?
LBS: Our goal was to make a bar that had good, balanced drinks, fair pricing and extremely fast and friendly service. We run draft cocktails with both CO2 and N2, and a frozen machine to keep things moving. As far as concept goes, I feel that weddings are the best examples of get-togethers. People are at weddings not so much to dine, drink or dance but to have an all around good time, all the while celebrating togetherness, family, friendship, traditions and new beginnings. They’re great.

OT: What sets Destination Wedding apart from other DC bars?
LBS: Over 90 percent of what we serve is made by Redbeard at Union Kitchen, meaning we’re more than 90 percent waste-free. We use dehydrated garnishes, clarify juices for enhanced stability, and repurpose the hulls from citrus and pineapple juicing to make our syrups and, occasionally, our bittering agents.

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Tee & T
Teeling Irish whiskey
Spiced pineapple tonic
Pineapple husk
Lemon stock
Cinchona

Destination Wedding: 1800 14th St. NW, DC; www.fb.com/destinationweddingdc


Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Prequel
Rob McGill, Beverage Director
Rob Long, Head Bartender

On Tap: Tell us a bit more about the Left-handed Golf Clubs, your pick for a great seasonal drink.
Rob Long: I first infused plums and nutmeg with brandy about two years ago, and added the allspice dram to get more seasonal winter notes. It worked but it wasn’t quite right. Then Rob was messing around with the pear and red wine syrup, which added a depth and body. The pear, which we poach in the syrup, is delicious. It’s an old fashioned style drink, it’s pretty spirit-forward and not too sweet.

OT: What other drinks from your expansive cocktail menu would you say are holiday flavor-forward?
Rob McGill: We change things up pretty much weekly, especially if we have a new spirit coming in. We have been doing the Meowzabub which has a great spice to it, and people seem to really enjoy spicier drinks.

OT: If you had to pick a favorite, what would it be and why?
RL: I’m really proud of the Warm & Fuzzy. It uses cachaca, which is an underused spirit, and a little bit of citrus, cinnamon syrup and Benedictine for an herbal note. It’s on the sweeter side but it screams Christmas – it’s like if cinnamon gave you a hug.
RM: I’m torn between the Freeman Morgan and the Oh Bother. The Oh Bother was changed up for the fall so it wasn’t as floral and we added rosemary, but it’s really straightforward and definitely a bestselling drink that we get great feedback on.

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left-handed Golf Clubs
Plum & nutmeg-infused Maison Rouge VSOP
Red wine & spiced pear syrup
Allspice dram
Cherry bark vanilla bitters

Prequel: 919 19th St. NW, DC; www.prequelrestaurant.com

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