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Imbiber’s Agenda: Pull Me a Margarita

First it was beer on draft, then wine. Now it’s not unusual to find cocktails on tap, too.

Now on tap at Mockingbird Hill: apple gin-and-tonics. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Combined-in-advance mixers have long been the secret to fast service at high-volume bars, but only recently have we begun to see premade cocktails poured from a tap.

“Kegging” a batch of a restaurant’s specialty drinks ensures consistency—the only skill that the on-duty bartender needs is the ability to pour—and the draft cocktails often cost a few dollars less than their à la minute counterparts.

Here, five of our favorites.

El Codo Margarita from El Chucho

3313 11th St., NW; 202- 290-3313

Five bucks—four during the weekday happy hour (4 to 6:30 and all night Monday)—buys you an excellent on-tap house margarita at this Columbia Heights Mexican spot. Made with silver tequila, Triple Sec, and lime juice, it’s refreshing and balanced—just right with the menu’s unfussy tacos and tortas.

A Draft of Route 74 from Jackson 20

480 King St., Alexandria; 703-842-2790

Head bartender Dean Feddaoui will serve you an $11 refresher of watermelon water, lime, and orgeat (almond syrup with orange-flower water) poured from a tap crowned with a bobblehead of Andrew Jackson, for whom the restaurant is named. Feddaoui adds vodka and orange liqueur just before serving, but customers are also welcome to sip the concoction booze-free for $7.

Lemonade Punch from Kapnos

2201 14th St., NW; 202-234-5000

Taha Ismail developed three draft punches ($11) for Mike Isabella’s new Greek restaurant. Skinos, a floral Greek liqueur, forms the basis of a cocktail with watermelon, tarragon, and lemon. The gin ade—with Batavia Arrack, honey, thyme, and soda—gets a hint of smoke from a grilled lemon. Rum plus lemon-verbena tea, lemon, cane syrup, and angostura bitters make up the elegant third option, our favorite of the lot.

Sage-and-Green-Apple Gin and Tonic from Mockingbird Hill and Red Apron Butcher

Mockingbird Hill, 1843 Seventh St., NW, 202-316-9396; Red Apron Butcher, 1309 Fifth St., NE, 202-524-6807

Sage and tart apple complement the locally made Green Hat gin’s fennel notes in this effervescent debut from Brigade—a collaboration between Passenger/Columbia Room owner Derek Brown, bartender J.P. Fetherston, and a few of their friends. Find it for $9 at Brown’s new sherry bar, Mockingbird Hill, and for $9 at the Union Market location of the charcuterie shop Red Apron Butcher.

On-Tap Sangría from Hogo

1017 Seventh St., NW; 202-393-1313

At the easygoing tiki bar Hogo—run by Passenger co-owner Tom Brown—general manager Julia Ebell developed this slightly fizzy, island-inspired red-wine mixer with ginger, hibiscus, and lime juice ($8). Ebell’s drink is less intense than the typical tropical cocktail, but she sneaks in those citrus and spice notes to winning effect.

This article appears in the October 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

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