Correction: We misreported the reason behind the closure of Hummingbird to Mars. The three founders have other obligations that don't afford them the time to keep the project going. We apologize for the error.
First, the bad news: This weekend will be the last for the DC speakeasy Hummingbird to Mars. It’s closing after Washington Post spirits columnist Jason Wilson spilled the beans on the project in last week’s Food section. The good news is that the bartender trio behind the 1920s-inspired spot—Justin Guthrie of Central, Derek Brown of Komi, and Owen Thomson of Bourbon—have plans to start up similar ventures in the future.
In their hush-hush location, the three bartenders put together an inventive cocktail menu, with 12 creations divided among three categories: original drinks, borrowed recipes, and familiar classics. The drinks feature touches like brûlée egg whites and other cooking techniques traditionally reserved for food.
For those of you who won’t be able to experience the black-and-white film projections, lilting jazz, and vested bartenders come next week, we offer the recipe for one of our favorite drinks from the menu, the Baltimore Bengali.
When we scored a seat a couple weeks ago, we were particularly impressed with Guthrie’s twist on the old-school Baltimore Bang made with Madras-curry-infused Jim Beam. Infused liquors can be seen at bars all over town—vodkas are sweetened with pineapples and dark rums are punctuated with spicy chili peppers—but most bartenders add flavors by simply putting ingredients inside the liquor bottle. Guthrie uses the sous vide technique—in which ingredients are sealed in a plastic bag and cooked in a water bath—to infuse the bourbon with spice. Because the whiskey never reaches the boiling point, the alcohol doesn’t burn off, but the heat is strong enough to infuse it with the aromatic curry.
Sous vide isn’t exactly home-kitchen-friendly, but check out our video of Guthrie making the cocktail, from the infusion to the final maraschino cherry. If you want to whip up the drink yourself, Guthrie suggests adding two tablespoons of Madras curry to one liter of Jim Beam, letting it sit still for a week, and then straining the liquid through cheesecloth.
1½ ounces curry-infused Jim Beam Black bourbon
½ ounce apricot brandy
¼ ounce simple syrup (1 part sugar dissolved into 1 part boiling water)
¾ ounce lemon juice
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain over ice into a Collins glass.
Want to experience Hummingbird to Mars on its final weekend? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the location and secure a table.
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