Late-night dumplings? Check. Classic cocktails? Check. Where we want to be this weekend: Copycat Co., an H Street watering hole from former BarMini tender Devin Gong. The space opens Saturday at 5.
The two-story spot is meant to be a laid-back hangout for drinkers, snackers, and industry folks looking to unwind after work. To that end you'll find the bar open nightly until last call—2 on weeknights and Sunday, 3 on Friday and Saturday—and a Northern Chinese street-food menu served until the wee hours.
Just 12 seats greet customers on the first floor, where an open kitchen produces a small lineup of dishes inspired by Gong's family recipes. Pot stickers, house-made bao buns, and grilled skewers are the focus, with prices in the wallet-friendly range of $1.25 to $4.
Cocktails get a little more complex in the second-floor bar, which can fit 23. A list of classics includes categories like fizzes, old-fashioneds, and martinis, which guests can customize with spirits and preparations of their choosing (gin or bourbon sours, dry versus perfect Manhattans). The menu comes with thorough descriptions of each category of cocktail and method, so more novice drinkers aren't left out. Looking for a quick choice? The back of the menu includes a number of newer creations, such as "fixes"—citrus, sugar, and a booze of choice—as well as hot toddies.
As for the name, Gong says "copycat" speaks to a form of flattery in the bar world.
"Cocktails are inherently duplicable," says Gong. "We make cocktails in the hope of someone making it somewhere else, for someone else. That's the greatest compliment."
Copycat Co. 1110 H St., NE. Open daily, 5 to last call. Kitchen closes 30 minutes prior to last call each night.
Just in time for frigid weather comes Denson Liquor Bar, a cozy, subterranean watering hole from the Ghibellina and Acqua Al 2 team. Mindful Restaurant Group co-owners Ari and Stacy Gejdenson debut the Art Deco-style space in Penn Quarter on Wednesday, bringing classic cocktails and late-night noshing to 600 F Street, Northwest. Here’s what to know before you drop in—or under.
The inspiration: A hotel bar in the 1920s. The Art Deco style runs throughout, from bronze inlay tables and black-and-white tiling to pull-chain toilets in the bathrooms.
The cocktails: Classic. While the barmen get riff-ier at sister watering hole Harold Black, here you’ll find a more straightforward list with a Negroni, Sazerac, Aviation, and Hemingway daiquiri. For those who like their spirits stiffer, the bar pours one- and two-ounce servings of fine whiskeys and Scotches.
The best seat in the house: A corner booth to the right of the door. Not that you have too much choice in the 49 person-capacity bar, lined with deep leather booths. Still, if you want to gaze over the scene while also discreetly sipping drinks with a date, this is the place.
The fun fact: Booths are divided by chicken-wire glass from the historic Hecht Warehouse. The panes are not only a cool memento of DC's past, but also a nod to its future. Gejdenson's next project involves bringing three concepts to the restored building, which is being transformed into the mixed-use Hecht Warehouse District development. While plans aren’t fully set, at least one project will be a sit-down restaurant, the first of its kind in Ivy City.
The “hotel” food: Better than real hotel food, which doesn’t have the best reputation. The small menu follows the bar's theme, serving an eclectic mix that a traveler might enjoy. Guests can snack on bar nuts or cheese and charcuterie platters, or take comfort in warm dishes like a Cubano panini or curried-chicken pot pie.
The late-night noshes: Still to be set, but you’ll likely find that spicy pot pie. The full menu runs until 11:30 most evenings, with a few eats served until last call.
Denson Liquor Bar. 600 F St., NW. Open Monday through Thursday 5 to 2, Friday and Saturday 5 to 3. Closed Sunday.
There once was a popular Union Army general named George McClellan who was known for, among many other things, his retreats from Confederate opponents. Bad for northern Civil War soldiers circa 1862, good for drinkers in 2014. Say hello to McClellan's Retreat, a cozy upper-Dupont bar themed around the general, whose statue resides nearby. The "retreat" in the name nods to both McClellan's not-so-illustrious battle moves and the officers' club vibe that pervades the space. Here's what to look for when the 50-seat watering hole opens Wednesday.
Civil War-chic decor: McClellan's takes over the former Veritas space, and while the concept is focused on cocktails rather than wine, the room remains cozily small. Enhancing that feel are antique and 19th-century touches, such as a dark-wood bar lit by hanging lanterns, plaid booths accented with military jacket buttons, and portraits of the eponymous general.
19th-century sips: Ever tried a Sangaree or sherry cobbler, a.k.a. the cosmo of the 1800s? Now you can. A concise cocktail menu draws half its inspiration from Civil War-era drinks, such as warm spiced rum and the cobbler, made with medium-dry sherry, brandy, lemon, and aromatic gomme syrup. The other half is filled with classics, such as a dry martini, a Negroni, and a Manhattan.
The "officer's reserve" and happy hour: While cocktails are priced standard-for-DC in the $10-to-$14 range, drinkers can splurge on a small high-end whiskey list boasting the likes of Jefferson Reserve 21 year ($20 per ounce). More affordable brown water is also available, as well as a few bottles beers, glasses of wine, and happy hour specials between 4 and 7 on weekdays.
Lincoln-size drinks: If you think our 16th President was tall, check out the cocktail shaker that's brought out for group drinks. Parties of two to four who want the same cocktail can get a monster Manhattan or rum-based Mary Todd shaken in the metal behemoth, which is about five times the size of a regular. Solo imbibers can still get in on the large-format fun by checking out the "daily ration," or punch, served in an antique bowl.
Hardtack: Kidding! The Civil War theme doesn't run that deep—just listen to the music, which is more ambient rock 'n' roll than Dixie. While the bar doesn't have a kitchen to speak of, outsourced snacks like miniature quiches and finger sandwiches are available so the drinking troops don't go hungry.
McClellan's Retreat. 2031 Florida Ave., NW; 202-265-6270. Open daily 4 to close.
1. Coffeehouse Stout: AleWerks Brewing Company
“AleWerks Brewing Company in Williamsburg always scores with their flavor-packed, coffee-infused milk stout (available at Whole Foods and Total Wine & More). I drink coffee until I drink beer, and I’m also lazy, so this totally works.”
—David McGregor, beer director at Lyon Hall, Northside Social, and Liberty Tavern
2. The Kavorka: Jailbreak Brewing Company
“This black-cherry porter (available at Republic and Frisco Taphouse & Brewery) has cherries incorporated in two phases of the brewing process, which gives it a sweet middle flavor and a dry, tart finish. The head brewer is a Dogfish Head alum who does an incredible job incorporating fun and different ingredients into their beers. The name is also a Seinfeld reference—who doesn’t love that?”
—Brett Robison, bar manager at Republic
3. Stone of Arbroath: DC Brau
“DC Brau is bringing back Stone of Arbroath (available at DC Brau’s tasting room and Boundary Stone), a Scotch ale that hasn’t been brewed for two years. It’s full of caramel, malty goodness and will be perfect as the weather cools.”
—Dave Donaldson, beverage director at City Tap House
4. Punkinator: Mad Fox Brewing Company
“Fall is all about the Punkinator (available at Mad Fox). It has fresh-roasted, local pumpkins and tons of Penzeys pumpkin-pie spice. It’s not too sweet and has a great balance of spice without that overdone clove aftertaste.”
—Teddy Folkman, executive chef/co-owner at Granville Moore’s
The local craft-brew scene has been growing for years. But beer makers have recently gotten some help from lawmakers: This year, both DC and Maryland passed laws allowing permitted breweries to sell pints on the premises; Virginia passed similar legislation in 2012. Here are six new breweries to satisfy your cravings for hometown hops.
404-C Browning Ct., Purcellville; 703-722-3144
This tiny brewery gives a new meaning to dark beer, with bottle art featuring cannibals and brews named after metal songs. Still, the concise, mostly barrel-aged line is one of the more creative in the area—take the Perfect Drug, a farmhouse ale infused with wormwood, basil, and sage and served with a green sugar cube so you can pour it absinthe-style. A tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday for samples, ten-ounce pours, growlers (large, reusable jugs that can be filled with beer), and bottle purchases.
1200-1216 Bladensburg Rd., NE; 762-233-7070
Dr. Dremo’s Taphouse, which shuttered in 2008 after a six-year run in Arlington, was revived last year as a vast beer garden in Northeast DC’s Trinidad. The no-frills vibe remains—picnic tables, corn hole, and delivery menus for sustenance—but owner and head brewer Bill Stewart has begun producing beers as well. Look for drafts like the Dremo, an imperial IPA, and the Marion Berry Lambic (get it?), brewed with blackberries. Tabs nod to the place’s ’90s origins, with $3.75 pints and $9.91 pitchers; growler prices vary.
1115 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring; 301-557-9818
Love beer and barbecue? Try this Metro-accessible spot, which serves pulled-pork sandwiches, smoked and spiced chicken, spicy three-bean chili, and more from BBQ Bus food truck owners Che and Tadd Ruddell-Tabisola. In warm weather, a 150-seat patio is the place to sip brewer Jeff Ramirez’s five styles, such as Southside Rye IPA and Born Bohemian Pilsner. Head for the eight-seat indoor bar for tastings and more pints, including pours from other local producers such as the Brewer’s Art in Baltimore and Starr Hill near Charlottesville. Growlers and kegs are available.
44652 Guilford Dr., Ashburn; 703-729-8375
Hop on a bike and head to this family-owned brewery, which sits on the W&OD Trail and keeps tire pumps, racks, and water ready for cyclists. Grab a seat in the tasting room to sample the award-winning rye porter or seasonal beers such as the Oxorcist, a pumpkin brown ale brewed with graham crackers that conjure a pie crust. Those looking to actually eat can order from neighboring Jennifer’s Pastries, which will bring pizzas, sandwiches, and snacks like soft pretzels over to the brewery.
5788 Second St., NE; 202-827-8768
The District’s fourth production brewery claims an unusual mascot: the hellbender, an endangered giant salamander. Head brewer Ben Evans trained as a biologist, and he and cofounder Patrick Mullane run their business with an eco-friendly mission. In addition to fundraising for a new salamander habitat at the National Zoo, their Belgian mash-filter brewing system—only the country’s fifth in a craft brewery—turns out beers like Kölsches and American red ales using up to 20 percent less grain and 40 percent less water. Packaging isn’t expected to begin until 2016. In the meantime, get a sample or fill a growler in the tasting room.
7134 Lineweaver Rd., Vint Hill; 540-347-4777
Despite its name, there’s nothing antiquated about this Fauquier County brewery, which runs on an energy-efficient geothermal system and feeds its spent grains to local livestock to reduce waste. Brewmaster Charles Kling, an alum of Abita and Diamond Bear breweries, has created an eclectic lineup that includes English and American pale ales, IPAs, porters, and root beer. Look for bottles at retail stores around Northern Virginia, or visit for tours and taproom tastings.
This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
Look out, Virginians: The Neighborhood Restaurant Group has more eats and drinks for you. B Side debuts Saturday in the Mosaic District, adjoining its sister eatery Red Apron. Here's what you need to know about the 50-seat spot.
The drinks: Abundant. Modeled loosely after the Partisan, B Side is meant to be more of a watering hole than a sit-down restaurant. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group's all-star drinks team of Greg Engert (beer), Jeff Faile (spirits), and Brent Kroll (wine) is behind the generous bar. Drinkers can pick between 200-plus beers and 12 rotating drafts, 20 wines by the glass and another 120 bottles, and specialty cocktails. Faile dubbed the drinks after B-side album tracks, so you can sip a Don’t Let Me Down with Sobieski vodka, grapefruit, St. Germain, and Tabasco simple syrup.
The food: Drink-friendly. Chef Nate Anda cross-pollinates the menu from Red Apron, so you'll find plenty of charcuterie and cheeses. A mix of bar snacks, small plates, and mains include pork-belly pupusas, an Italian beef burger stacked with provolone and pickled veggies, and steak-and-ale hot pockets. Fans of fried birds can order "rotisifried" chicken, an herbed rotisserie chicken that gets a turn in the fryer. Specials nights are also planned, like taco Tuesday and breakfast for dinner.
The look: Industrial-chic. What else is there?
B-Side. 8298 Glass Alley, Suite 105, Fairfax. Open at 4 PM Monday through Friday, and 11 on Saturday and Sunday. Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
Washington bartenders put a creative twist on cocktail garnishes that go way beyond lemon peels, including house-made sausages, flaming oranges, and liquid arugula.
1. The Gnome with arugula oil at Gypsy Soul
8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax
We've seen plenty of salad-like garnishes in our drinking day, but few in liquid form. Bryan Tetorakis took inspiration from citrus peels, which are prized by bartenders for the color and perfume-y oils they lend to cocktails. Instead, he blends peppery arugula and grapeseed oil, strains and freezes it, and then squeezes droplets onto a herbaceous mix of vodka, Cocchi Americano, and Aperol.
2. Cold War "dumpling shooter" at Chaplin's Restaurant and Bar
Oysters have cornered the bomb market for way too long (except one, see below). Bar-bros Ari and Micah Wilder make a citrusy shot with gin, Pimm's liqueur, ginger, and lemon, to which they add a house-made shrimp dumpling. We suggest chasing one with the other, unless you have a large mouth.
3. District Mary at the Source
575 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
What's more Washington than a half-smoke? A brunch-time Bloody crowned with said house-made sausage, plus an Old Bay rim. Dim sum can't get any better.
4. Oyster Back at Eat the Rich
1839 Seventh St., NW
This oyster shooter is sure to put barnacles on your chest. First, take the shot of Old Overholt Rye, then chase it with the mixture of pickle juice and a freshly shucked Rappahannock oyster. Part bivalve-bomb, part pickleback, and all awesome.
5. I Am Virginia with dried ham at Restaurant Eve
110 South Pitt St., Alexandria
Todd Thrasher creates an ode to the Old Dominion with Wasmund's single-malt whisky, Madeira, and local figs. The finishing touch: Virginia ham, which he dries, grinds, and combines with salt for the rim.
6. Toki Monster at Toki Underground
1234 H St., NE
This pork belly beauty is one of Toki's signatures. It's tempting to eat the kushiyaki skewer immediately, but that's doing the drink an injustice. Let the grilled meat marinate in the bourbon and pepper-honey liqueur, which adds smokiness to the cocktail and a boozy finish to the carnivorous garnish.
7. Volcano Bowl at the Passenger
1021 Seventh St., NW
Order this showstopper during Tiki Tuesday. The four-person drink comes loaded with light and dark rums, fresh juices, house-made syrups, a scattering of flowers, and a tower of flaming oranges. Burning citrus: not just a good band name, but delicious.
8. Pom Cosmo at Stone's Cove Kitbar
2403 Centreville Rd., Herndon/10997 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills
Everyone loves popsicles. Most everyone (secretly) loves cosmos. Put a house-made pomegranate pop in a pom-vodka cosmo and everyone's happy.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
Come Friday you can drink like a fish at Luke's Lobster Georgetown. Co-owner Ben Conniff says the shop will offer Maine microbrews on tap, wines from the Finger Lakes region, and two "seafaring cocktails."
The battle to serve booze in G-town hasn't been an easy one for the lobster chain. A moratorium on liquor licenses in the neighborhood made getting one impossible for two years. When the chance to apply for a limited number came about, Conniff slept on the sidewalk outside the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.
The fruits of that labor come in the form of $6 brews, $9 wines, and $10 cocktails including a Dark and Stormy and a vodka-based Salty Dog. The team is also extending a drink-and-roll combo with beers for $3 and the other two options for $5, and plans to begin offering trivia and Hoya basketball game nights.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
Georgetown is about to have not one, but two piano bars when the sensibly named Georgetown Piano Bar opens Friday evening. Co-owner Hunter Lang (formerly of Mr. Smith's, the other piano bar that recently reopened in the neighborhood) and fellow pianist Spencer Bates will lead nightly concerts in the 90-seat space.
The music: Inclusive. Lyric books will be available to encourage sing-alongs, and those looking to perform a solo act can make requests.
The liquid courage: Wine ($7), draft beers ($6), and specialty cocktails and martinis named after famous musicians. Dean Martin is sounding pretty tasty these days with Grey Goose vodka, dry vermouth, and St. Germaine.
Best seats: Spotlight-seekers should snag a spot at the 20-seat bar in the middle of the room.
Date night-do: The place is pretty no-frills and won't serve food, but paying guests can bring their own. Grab takeout lobster rolls from nearby Luke's Lobster, get the vocal chords lubed with a glass of wine, and be ready to sing when the piano show starts at 9.
Date night-don't: Have too many drinks and insist on a solo performance of "Chopsticks."
Another alcohol delivery service is set to launch in DC, thanks to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Drizly, a smartphone app that sends liquor, beer, and wine to your doorstep, was just approved by ABRA for operations in the District. Service is slated to commence in the coming days, with an advertised delivery window of 20 to 40 minutes.
Drizly, which also serves at-home drinkers in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and more, isn’t the first booze app in Washington. Klink also delivers, and offers daily deals and a “party summons” feature for users in search of drinking buddies. Both use scanning devices similar to what you'd find in liquor stores to verify 21-and-up identification.
ABRA’s ruling may open the door to a number of new alcohol delivery apps—if they follow the proper guidelines. Hate last-minute beer runs? You may never have to make one again.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.