Booze, Meat, and Music: What to Expect From Black Whiskey

The Kushi team breaks out the bourbon and turns up the volume.

By: Anna Spiegel

Walk into Black Whiskey, and it’s not hard to tell that co-owner Darren Lee Norris is from Brooklyn. The stylishly industrial space could as easily fit in around Green Point as on 14th Street. That’s also true of the concept: a mixed-use bar that combines an event venue, British-inspired carvery, and an unpretentious place to throw back a few bourbons. Here’s what to expect from the latest spot by the Kushi owners.

Indie rock, art installations, and/or a moon bounce

Not many places on 14th Street can host a kid’s birthday party one day and live music by Free Blood and Heavy Breathing the next, but that’s all part of plan for Black Whiskey’s sidewalk-level event space. With its exposed brick and wooden beams, the room makes a suitable backdrop for any number of occasions, evidenced by bar stations on wheels that can moved in, out, or around, depending on the crowd. You may walk in to find live experimental electronica, an art installation from Transformer, a moon bounce, or all of the above. (Well, not likely, but most events are open to all ages.) Norris, who ran the kitchen at Ridgewell’s Catering for four years, also hopes to cater private parties to any taste. If there’s nothing formally planned for the space—check in on the Facebook page to find out—you might linger over drinks when the main upstairs barroom is crowded.

While the bar serves a few single-malt Scotches and Johnny Walker, most of the bottles are small-batch American whiskeys.

Craft whiskey and canned beer

The second-floor bar is fully stocked, but the focus lies in American craft whiskeys, ten drafts, and canned brews. The 70-odd whiskey collection means drinkers can opt for a high-end pour such as WhistlePig rye from Vermont or Balcones Texas Single-Malt, or stick with old favorites like Wild Turkey and Jack Daniels. The specialty cocktail list is currently concise—we like the sound of the Lips Together . . ., with Wild Turkey 101, Lillet Rouge, and grapefruit—but bartenders will be happy to mix the classics too. Specialty gin and vodka drinks are part of the plan for summer.

You'll find roast beef, bacon-wrapped pork loin, suckling pig, and other meats on the carving station, served on a platter with two seasonal vegetables.

Meat and two veg

Norris was inspired by British carvery pubs when it comes to the edible offerings—spots where you grab a few pints and order whatever meat and side dishes lie on a carving station when it’s time to pad the stomach. The idea here is similarly casual and the items simple—roast beef, bacon-wrapped pork loin, buttery mashed potatoes, roasted mushrooms—but you’ll still find chef-minded sourcing and preparation. Roast chicken gets stuffed with duck sausage, while other meats are cooked sous vide and then finished in a cast iron skillet for a nice crust. Seafood specials might include seared scallops; a Gordy’s pickle plate makes a suitable snack partner for the bracing spirits. For dessert, try a whiskey-soaked cake with chocolate ganache.

Happy hour every day!

Head to happy hour six days a week (Black Whiskey is closed Monday). The typical $18 carving plates with a choice of meat or seafood and two vegetable sides are knocked down to $15 between 5 and 6, while drink discounts include a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot for $6, a dollar off drafts, and a discounted house punch. Early on may also be the best time to claim a game at the vintage pool table in back.

An outdoor deck (with sushi)

While the interior of the 120-year-old structure is finished, Norris is still working on final touches to the exterior. The team plans to build an outdoor deck from the top floor for al fresco eating and drinking. Kushi’s mobile spinoff, Kushi-Moto, will be parked underneath on certain days, and guests can head down a flight of stairs to order a variety of sushi rolls and donburi rice bowls topped with pork belly and other meats.

Black Whiskey. 1410 14th St., NW; 202-800-8130. Open Sunday through Thursday 5 to 1:45 and Friday and Saturday 5 to 2:45; closed Monday.

One of the best places to hang in the bar is by the retro claw-footed billiards table.
The top floor is the place to sip bourbon or roll up your sleeves over a carvery plate before hitting the dance floor in the event space below during a concert.