When it comes to mixing hard liquor with feminine style, few do it better than Katie Nelson, bartender at the Columbia Room in DC's Mount Vernon Square neighborhood. We checked in with Nelson about her favorite drink, thoughts on vodka, and morning-after pick-me-ups.
Always on the home bar: Plymouth gin.
Cocktail to make at home: Dark and Stormy with Gosling's ginger beer or Blenheim ginger ale and a dark rum such as Myers's.
Cocktail to impress guests: Gin martini. "I pinch the lemon peel to distribute the oils and then toss it."
First drink: Whiskey sour.
Liqueur: Chartreuse Green.
Brand of tonic: Fever-Tree.
Vodka is . . . : "Tasteless, which can be useful."
Mixer: Blenheim ginger ale; Canada Dry bitter-lemon soda.
Special-occasion drink: Champagne from small growers like Pierre Gimonnet and Henriot.
Secret ingredient: Vinegar, such as Maple Vinegar from Kalustyan's in New York. "I like using it in shrubs or in a version of a Manhattan. Its gives a brightness and tanginess to the drink."
Banned from the bar: Sour mix.
Day drink: Chilled manzanilla sherry.
Bottled water: Apollinaris.
Guilty pleasure: Starbucks vanilla latte.
Hangover remedy: Pedialyte.
I wish I could sip my way through: Chicago.
Place to drink on a day off: Estadio in DC's Logan Circle; the Tabard Inn in DC's Dupont Circle.
Place to eat on a day off: Room 11 in DC's Columbia Heights.
Recently splurged on: Bittercube blackstrap bitters.
On the wish list: Cherry-red Vespa.
Can't live without: MAC Lipglass.
Work outfit: Cocktail dresses. "My favorite is a dark-green wrap dress from Meeps on DC's 18th Street in Adams Morgan that I can wear a zillion different ways."
Breakfast dish: Grits and eggs.
Lunch spot: Absolute Thai in Chinatown for the veggie pad Thai and tofu-seaweed soup.
Ice cream: Dolcezza coconut-milk gelato.
Cocktail book/guide: Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion by Crosby Gaige or Barflies and Cocktails by Harry McElhone.
People I'd like to drink with: Hilary Swank, Zooey Deschanel, Chris Thile, Jon Hamm.
Food shop: Seasonal Pantry in DC's Shaw.
Liquor store: Ace Beverage in upper Northwest DC.
Place to buy glassware: The Hour in Old Town Alexandria.
Place to buy barware: CocktailKingdom.com.
This article appears in the May 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.