By Jessica Voelker
A trip to the Museum of American History is always an edifying experience, but all the learnin’ goes down a lot easier when you’ve got a strong drink in your hand. Last Wednesday, guests of the museum had the very cool opportunity to sip cocktails made by some of the city’s best bartenders at an event called Raise a Glass to the Silver Screen, part of the Mingle at the Museum series and a collaboration with the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) in New Orleans.
The Tabard Inn’s Chantal Tseng and Tim Burt served up gin drinks inspired by The Thin Man, while Passenger ’tenders mixed and poured at the Casablanca table. Local cocktail scribe Philip Greene, a MOTAC cofounder, served as emcee, taking guests through a montage of cocktail cameos in films like The Idle Class, Animal House, and Dead Reckoning.
Check out the slideshow for a close-up look at the boozy event, and visit MOTAC’s website to find out about future opportunities to learn while you drink.
I’ve been out drinking a lot of cocktails over the past few months. Quite a lot, if we’re being honest. Some of them were not so good, some of them were great. Here are five of the latter.
Champagne Crusta at Bistro Bohem
This riff on the classic brandy crusta (Cognac, orange curaçao, lemon juice, bitters) is the only cocktail on the wee Czech restaurant’s brief brunch menu, and it’s excellent. Bar manager Mark Reyburn shakes Ragnaud-Sabourin Cognac with Cointreau and lemon juice, pours the contents into a sugar-rimmed flute, and tops the drink with the semisweet sparkling wine Russkoe Igristoje—it’s a light, lovely way to start a Sunday.
Almost Home at Columbia Room
Katie Nelson offered up this invention—dreamed up on a cab ride home, thus the name—at a recent Columbia Room class on honey (the Seventh Street lounge keeps a beehive on the roof). She starts by heating honey and infusing it with lavender. This is combined with crisp Manzanilla sherry and Yamazaki 12 Year, a bright Japanese whiskey. You have to reserve a stool in advance at this tiny libations spot (and keep in mind it will be closed briefly this month), but there’s magic happening behind that bar.
By Jessica Voelker
If you’re a hardcore Passenger and/or Columbia Room fan, better gulp it up now. A rep tells us that the conjoining Seventh Street bars—owned by brothers Tom and Derek Brown—will close temporarily this month.
The occasion is Tales of the Cocktail, the boozy convention held each July at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Along with seminars, tasting events, and other stumble-inducing events, the conference hosts an important industry awards ceremony known as the Spirited Awards. This year, Columbia Room is a contender for Best American Cocktail bar, competing against Anvil Bar in Houston, Clover Club in Brooklyn, and Los Angeles’s the Varnish. When the winner is announced on Saturday, July 28, nearly 20 Passenger/Columbia Room staffers will be in NOLA cheering on the little libations lounge.
Both bars will be closed starting July 25, reopening on the 29th. In an unrelated honor, Columbia Room was counted among Playboy's Best Bars this year. “Owner Derek Brown is one of the friendliest and smartest barmen ever to shake one up,” says Playboy. Cheers to that.
The scorching temperatures are bad enough—not to mention fierce storms causing the lights (and A/C) to fail for hundreds of thousands of people. The power companies may be dragging their feet, but fortunately the bars and restaurant have your back. Here are six deals popping up today to help you beat the heat, from cheap drinks to summery dishes.
Half-Price Iced Tea and Lattes at Bayou Bakery
Until the power is back in Arlington, chef-owner David Guas is filling 20-ounce glasses with half-price pours of hibiscus-ginger iced tea and basil-mint lattes. Factor in ample seating and free wi-fi, and you may have just found your new office.
Unlimited Refills at Dino
Forget super-size sodas—the Dino crew are pouring limitless glasses of non-alcoholic house-made drinks while the weather stays unreasonably hot, such as grapefruit fizzes, ginger ale, and local blackberry or strawberry limeade. They’re also waving the $3 fee for their purified still and sparkling water.
Frozen Rooftop Cocktails at Donovan House
As if you needed another incentive to sip poolside drinks on this swank Kimpton Hotel rooftop, the bartenders are mixing up $5 frozen Hurricanes and Dark and Stormy cocktails. Get yours during happy hour this week, 5 to 7 PM (except for the Fourth of July).
Peaches ’n’ Rosé at Fiola
Head to the bar for a light special during lunch and dinner this week: balsamic-drizzled peach salad with basil and toasted hazelnuts alongside a cold glass of Chateau La Tour Petale de Rose, which is typically only sold by the bottle. The duo is $28 per person.
Drink Special at Johnny’s Half-Shell
Global warming brings something positive for once with the special Climate Change cocktail, offered all week for $5. The icy combination of grapefruit-infused vodka and a splash of cranberry is only available on the covered courtyard terrace, where you’ll appreciate its meaning even more.
Margaritas for $2 at Tackle Box
When the mercury rises, dispel dreams of moving to Alaska with $2 margaritas at Tackle Box in Georgetown. Owner Jonathan Umbel is offering the deal any time the temperature hits above 90 degrees, which pretty much means until September.
A BAR at Avenue Suites—that's what it’s called—had its first night of service last night, says bar manager Brennan Adams, an alum of Richard Sandoval’s Masa14 and El Centro D.F. Garen Minton is the chef; he previously toiled under Top Cheffers Bryan Voltaggio (at Volt) and Mike Isabella (at Graffiato).
It’s a small-plates spot with an indoor lounge that accommodates 44 and a patio with 35 more seats. “We’re trying to sell it as a happy hour spot,” says Adams. “I’m not trying to do the Gibson. The idea is to put out fun craft cocktails at a good value.” An added enticement: All the wines by the bottle are available by the glass if customers commit to buying two glasses. Cocktails include the Midnight in Paris, with sparkling brut, St. Germain, lime juice, and chili-grenadine syrup; and the Clooney: Old Forester bourbon, apple and cherry cider, Carpano Antica, and orange bitters. Adams will also feature a fresh “patio punch” that will change up throughout the summer.
Minton’s limited menu will include chilled corn and crab chowder with cucumber with crème fraîche; kumquat, prosciutto, and maple-yogurt flatbread; seared tuna with rye croutons and sesame-ginger slaw; and panini. The daily happy hour currently features $5 wines, a $6 specialty cocktail, and $4 punch and select beers. During soft opening, it will be offered from 5 to 7; those hours will change to 4 to 7 next Wednesday.
A BAR at Avenue Suites. 2500 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-333-8060.
By Jessica Voelker
Cleveland Park tapas spot Pulpo (3407 Connecticut Ave., NW) opened for dinner a few weeks back, but at the time had not yet secured its all-important liquor license. We can say with certainty, however, that the restaurant in the former Tackle Box space is now serving beer, wine, and cocktails. Co-owner Mike Finkelstein designed the menu of mixed drinks. The best we've tried so far is the Cuba Libre Deconstruido—a riff on the classic white rum, lime, and Coca-Cola highball drink with a dark spiced rum from Captain Morgan's, lime-infused simple syrup, and Coke syrup. The bar was not serving the Gintonic—Hendrick's, house-made cucumber tonic, and rosemary water—on the night of our visit, but we look forward to trying that one as well.
Wines by the glass include a couple of cavas, a very serviceable vinho verde, and some French and Italian reds. There are six draft beers, including Estrella Damm Lager from Barcelona, Negro Modelo, Matilda from the great Goose Island in Chicago, DC Brau's Corruption IPA, and Bud Light. Beers in bottles and cans include Shipyard IPA from Portland and 312, Goose Island's summer wheat ale. Pitchers of three types of sangria (red, white, pink—with rosé wine) and a punch called Agua de Valencia (cava, orange juice, vodka, and gin) are also on offer.
Happy hour lasts from 5 to 7 daily at Pulpo. Consult its Facebook page for details and updates.
Food and drink writers are quick to call certain trends out or passé. Often, it’s wishful thinking—just because we’re weary of press releases about cupcakes and sliders doesn’t mean the eating public is prepared to stop loving them. And why should they be? Cupcakes and sliders are delicious. And in fact, the trajectory of these trends is usually less “arrive and then disappear” than it is “arrive, hang out, ebb, flow, seem to disappear, reappear with a vengeance,” and so on. Here are three cocktail trends that seem to have some staying power around these parts.
Fat-washing—adding melted fat to a spirit, chilling it so the fat solidifies, then skimming and straining the spirit—flared up a few years in New York City as the Next Big Thing. This winter it showed up at Fiola, where bar manager Jeff Faile served a beverage called Deer in the Headlights that featured Rittenhouse rye whiskey fat-washed with venison from the kitchen and mixed with Averna and Bitter Truth’s EXR bitters. You can’t get it anymore—“sadly, venison is off the menu now, and so is the drink,” reports Faile—but there’s always next year.
If you’d like to try a fat-washed drink today, however, you’re in luck. Ripple bartender Josh Berner recently debuted three. There’s the Chile Manteca, y Dulce with bacon-infused Benevá Joven mezcal, cayenne, and pecan syrup; Berner says it was inspired by the bar’s compulsively consumable bacon-roasted pecans. “‘Chile, manteca, y dulce’ literally translates to ‘chili, lard, and sweet,’” explains Berner. “The phrase is also a Mexican idiom that means ‘A little of everything.’” Apt, says Berner, since his cocktail is “smoky, sweet, nutty, and spicy, with hints of herbaceousness and tartness.”
Chefs and bartenders often pay homage to their family on menus (and on tattoos), but mixtress Gina Chersevani is going one step further with Buffalo and Bergen, a soda shop-cum-bar joining the slew of just-released vendors at the soon-to-open Union Market.
Chersevani is also collaborating with Jamie Leeds on her Hank’s on the Hill project.
Gina Chersevani Out at PS 7’s
Tales of the Cocktail--the spirits bacchanal held each July in New Orleans--announced the finalists for its Spirited Awards last night. The awards honor bartenders, bars, and cocktail writing around the country and the world.
American Bartender of the Year is always among the most anticipated honors, so it's very exciting Washington's Derek Brown--owner of the Passenger and the Columbia Room--is a contender. He's up against some heavy hitters: Portland's Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Jamie Boudreau from Seattle, and LA's Vincenzo Marianella are all well-known names among the cocktail-erati.
Brown's Columbia Room, often overseen by talented 'tendress Katie Nelson, is a contender for Best American Cocktail Bar. The 7th Street lounge also made it to the James Beard semifinals this year, and again finds itself up against some stiff New York and LA competition. San Francisco's beloved Bourbon & Branch is in the running, as is the much-lauded Anvil in Houston. In the Best Cocktail Writing--Author category, the Washington Post's Jason Wilson will take on libation luminary David Wondrich along with the Atlantic's Wayne Curtis, who happens to live in New Orleans.
Winners of the Spirited Awards will be announced during a ceremony on Saturday, July 28. Don't forget to cheer on your local sons.
Through May 13, we celebrate World Cocktail Week, an annual happening that began in 2006 at the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, according to that establishment's managing director, Laura McMillian.
Here in Washington, it's an excellent excuse to take advantage of the drinking opportunities available to us--from cocktail classes to weekly tiki parties--as well as create better drinks at home. Here are some ideas.