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1905’s bar manager, Melyssa Mason, demonstrates how to make the restaurant’s staple drink, the Green Lantern. By Alejandro Salinas

Absinthe may still be the main draw at this second-story Shaw restaurant, which opened at the height of the spirit’s craze last year, but bar manager Melyssa Mason has created a cocktail menu with a more well-rounded selection. There’s the 4 O’Clock Rocks ($10), which mixes Hendrick’s gin with muddled cucumbers and limes, and the Mely’s Milkshake ($10)—named after Mason—that’s a combination of vanilla vodka, Frangelico, and Bailey’s.

Also on the menu: 1905’s signature cocktail, the Green Lantern ($11). This gin drink is made with muddled limes and basil, a splash of pineapple juice, and a house-made pineapple simple syrup—the secrets of this last ingredient, says Mason, can’t be revealed. “But regular simple syrup also works,” she adds, tauntingly.

Get a demonstration of how to make the Green Lantern below, and make sure to stop by 1905 for a taste of the fall cocktail lineup, which Mason says will feature some warmed Scotch drinks. The recipe for the Green Lantern is included after the jump.

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Posted at 12:11 PM/ET, 10/07/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
This week, we get a cocktail demonstration from the Washington City Paper’s Beerspotter blogger, Orr Shtuhl. By Alejandro Salinas

He may be the City Paper’s beer expert, but on Saturday, Orr Shtuhl will temporarily ditch the mug for cocktail gear and step behind the bar to host Spice, a cocktail party at the Warehouse (1021 7th St., NW). On the menu: five original drinks—plus some punch and shooters—created by Shtuhl and priced at no more than $7. What makes the party even more sweet: DJ Sean P of Fatback will emcee the event.

The Phillips, a variant of a screwdriver that’s made with paprika-infused vodka, is one of the menu’s more interesting offerings. To infuse the vodka, Shtuhl drew inspiration from a previous Buzzed cocktail demonstration and used a home version of the sous vide technique. Find out how he created the drink below, and make sure to get the recipe as well as a look at the party’s menu after the jump.

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Posted at 05:59 AM/ET, 10/01/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
This week, we drop by Occidental Grill & Seafood for a final taste of summer. By Alejandro Salinas

The calendar may suggest otherwise, but the mugginess outside tells us summer is still here in Washington. So what better time to grab a mojito—the quintessential summer cocktail? Occidental Grill & Seafood, the historic Washington dining room just a short walk from the White House, has a tasty version of this drink that’s easy (and cheap!) to recreate at home: The bottle of Goulart Rosé Spanish Cava, used to top off the drink and give it distinctive taste and red tint, is just $18 at most liquor stores.

Check out our video below to find out how to make this refreshing drink—or stop by the Occidental for the mojito ($12). The recipe is after the jump.

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Posted at 11:14 AM/ET, 09/23/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()

Firefly's rose gin fizz and martini caprese cocktails. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

Summer drinks, says cocktail master Owen Thomson, are all about fresh fruit, citrus, and ice—though they have to be blended right. Too often, he says, summer cocktails such as margaritas end up sweet and syrupy. A good summer drink, bartenders agree, should have some tartness.

Thomson, the bar manager at Bourbon in DC’s Adams Morgan, says that for his favorite warm-weather drink, he stays local—the gin rickey, a mix of gin, lime juice, and soda water: “It’s refreshing, delicious, and was invented right here in Washington.”

His second choice is a guilty pleasure: a piña colada. “Not the syrupy coconut mess that is so frequent,” he’s quick to say. Thomson’s recipe calls for a measured mix of fresh pineapple, rum, and just a bit of coconut water and lime.

At Dupont Circle’s Firefly, Alice Gaber’s summer menu includes a rose gin fizz and a martini caprese. For the gin fizz, she adds rose water to a standard recipe, giving the cocktail, Gaber says, “a summery, flower-garden smell and taste.”

For the martini cocktail, she combines thyme-and-basil-infused vodka with house-made tomato water: “Unlike with sweeter cocktails, the saltiness of the tomato water makes this drink a great complement to food.”

This article first appeared in the August 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.  

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Posted at 09:32 AM/ET, 07/29/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
Learn how to make the perfect mojito and gin and tonic for this summer—and get more best of Washington in our July issue, on stands this week. By Kate Nerenberg

See more from the Best of Washington

With its citrus tang, sugary sweetness, and crisp mint flavor, a mojito is like an adult lemonade—the ultimate summer thirst quencher. We asked DC native Kevin Diedrich, head bartender at Georgetown’s Bourbon Steak, to give us a recipe—and words of wisdom—on how to make a killer version.
Diedrich claps the mint leaves between his hands to release their oils before gently crushing them, being careful not to cause bruising. Too much handling, he says, can cause the mint flavor to turn bitter. Shaved or crushed ice is essential to keep the drink cold and dilute it.

Belga's Beer Cocktail
Happy Hour Finder
Fourth of July Guide

Kevin Diedrich’s Mojito
4 to 5 fresh mint sprigs
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounce sugar-cane syrup
2 ounces 10 Cane rum
Crushed or shaved ice
Soda water

Put mint, lime juice, and cane syrup into a tall glass and gently crush or “muddle” with the back of a wooden spoon. Add rum. Top with crushed ice. Stir gently with a bar spoon. Top with soda water to taste and garnish with a mint sprig.

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Posted at 12:44 PM/ET, 07/21/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
This week, Mie N Yu's Christopher Kelley shows us how to make the refreshing Flying Dragon. By Alejandro Salinas

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Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 07/08/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
This week, we dropped by Belga Café in Capitol Hill, where owner and executive chef Bart Vandaele showed us how to make one of the restaurant’s signature beer cocktails, the Belga. By Alejandro Salinas

Summer is a time for refreshing, fruity cocktails—frozen, muddled, or even swizzled. Or for light brews, such as wheat beers, Pilsners and lambic. Still, we suggest a third option: beer cocktails, which mix beer with liquor. At Belga Café, a small Belgian restaurant on Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row, an ample menu of beer cocktails awaits the adventurous. For owner and executive chef Bart Vandaele, mixing of beers with liquors isn’t unusual—it just requires imagination.

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Posted at 12:16 PM/ET, 06/24/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
For this week’s recipe, we stopped by Potenza—a new Italian restaurant in downtown DC—and chatted with the director of wine and spirits, Elli Benchimol. By Alejandro Salinas

For this week’s recipe, we stopped by Potenza—a new Italian restaurant in downtown DC—and chatted with the director of wine and spirits, Elli Benchimol. A native Californian who moved to Washington four years ago, Benchimol cut her teeth in the local scene overseeing the drink program at Rasika before leaving to open Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak in Miami. Benchimol returned in the fall of 2008, taking over general-manager and sommelier duties at Zola Wine & Kitchen—a job she’s more than happy with: “My original background is making cocktails—I worked as a bartender in San Francisco for about eight years—but I’m more interested in wines. Italian wine is actually my specialty.”

Given her knowledge, Benchimol was an obvious pick to manage the wine-and-spirits program at Potenza, a sister restaurant to Zola, owned by the Stir Food Group.

“The wine program here is set up to be very unpretentious,” she says. “Our menu is very descriptive, so you can confidently pick out a varietal you’ve never had before. You can try something new without feeling discouraged, and hopefully you won’t be disappointed.”

Also interesting, if somewhat smaller in size, is Potenza’s cocktail list, which is designed to play up the restaurant’s Italian cuisine. Classic cocktails have been updated with Italian wines and liquors such as grappa. The Vespa ($8.50), for example, is Benchimol’s take on the sidecar, substituting cherry-infused grappa for brandy and blood orange and Prosecco for Triple Sec. The cocktail is topped with orange bitters and served with an orange-sugar rim.

There’s also the Capriani ($8), a variant of the Caipirinha, Brazil’s signature cocktail, for which Benchimol combines muddled grapes with grappa, Cointreau, and kaffir-lime syrup.

“Our focus when it comes to drinks is seasonal ingredients,” says Benchimol. “As produce goes in and out of season, we want to make sure our cocktails stay fresh.”

Check out Benchimol demonstrating how to make the thirst-quenching Capriani, and make sure to get the recipe after the jump.

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Posted at 11:24 AM/ET, 06/04/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
This week, Jamie MacBain of Sova Espresso & Wine Bar shows us how to make the classic Coffee Cocktail. By Alejandro Salinas

Read our interview with Jamie MacBain after the jump and get the recipe for the Coffee Cocktail.

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Posted at 02:03 PM/ET, 05/13/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
Celebrating the history of cocktails by—what else?—drinking for a week. By Alejandro Salinas

Drinks, anyone?

The word “cocktail” was coined in a newspaper in 1806. To commemorate the occasion, a number of local restaurants, bars, and bartenders are hosting happy hours and parties over a weeklong period. Buck up, liver. Check out these events all over town.

May 6
Bar Pilar's Adam Bernbach will make the Washington cocktail, the rickey, in honor of its inventor, George A. Williamson. Bernbach will be leaving Bar Pilar in a few weeks, so this might be your last chance to watch him make some interesting drinks. 5 to 7. [Ed Note: We previously reported Bernbach's Tuesday Cocktail Session would be devoted to the rickey. That is not the case. The weekly session will feature all original drinks.]

May 7
Bartenders Gina Chersevani (PS 7’s), Jason Strich (Rasika), and Rachel Sergi (Zaytinya) give the ’80s—a decade known for less-than dazzling-cocktails—a second, ahem, shot with a happy-hour party at PS 7’s. A deejay will spin tunes as interesting variations of ’80s cocktails are served. 5 PM.

May 8
Dan Searing of the soon-to-open Room 11 in DC’s Columbia Heights, brings Punch Club back one more time at the Warehouse. He’ll serve a variety of classic punches from 6 to 8.

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Posted at 12:02 PM/ET, 05/08/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()