Read our interview with Jamie MacBain after the jump and get the recipe for the Coffee Cocktail.
Considering that it’s in a neighborhood where not long ago you could get a cheap haircut while drinking a beer and where soon enough you’ll be able to sip on sangria while playing minigolf, the idea of serving cocktails and wine at a coffee shop hardly sounds strange. Still, the concept behind Sova, an espresso-and-wine bar on H Street, Northeast, is not without its uniqueness.
“The focus behind our cocktail program is grape-based spirits,” says bar manager Jamie MacBain. “The vast majority of our cocktails has at least one grape-based ingredient, whether it’s brandy, Cognac, pisco, or grappa.”
Owner Frank Hankins opened Sova in November 2007 and started offering wine by the glass a few months later. A year after that, Hankins was looking to overhaul the bar’s wine selection and integrate some spirits into the drink menu. Beverage consultant Derek Brown, whom Hankins had hired to oversee the drink-menu changes, suggested the concept of grape-based cocktails.
A menu of eight cocktails—featuring classics such as the Sazerac and the Coffee Cocktail as well as some spanking-new drinks—was put together by Brown, with prices ranging from $8 to $12. Brown brought along MacBain, a recent transplant from Portland, Oregon, to manage the bar.
The two had met in September of last year at a Hummingbird to Mars event. At the time, MacBain and his girlfriend were in town scouting places to live.
“I sent out an e-mail to the Hummingbird to Mars group,” says MacBain. “I mentioned I was a founding member of the Oregon Bartenders Guild in the hopes of getting an in with them. It worked. I met Derek, and we stayed in touch.”
Sova started serving cocktails early last month, with MacBain overseeing the cocktail menu. He plans on rotating drinks seasonally and will soon be integrating new cocktails into the menu. The Bay Area Philosopher (pisco, pineapple-sage syrup, ginger liqueur, and lemon juice) and the Arequipa Sunset (pisco, muddled yellow peppers, mint, and cranberry and orange juices)—two drinks made specially for the happy hour the wine bar hosted during World Cocktail Week—are now on the regular cocktail list.
Also in the works are wine flights, weekly specials on wine, and perhaps a happy-hour deal.
“We’ve only been serving cocktails for a month, so we’re still training staff and working on specials,” MacBain says. “There’s much to do but also much to play with, so I’m really excited.”
Sova’s bar is open Monday through Thursday 5 PM to midnight, and Friday and Saturday 5 PM to 2 AM. You can find MacBain behind the bar every night.
Make sure to check out our video with MacBain demonstrating the Coffee Cocktail, and get the recipe below.
Jaime MacBain, Sova
1½ ounces ruby port
1½ ounces Cognac
½ ounce simple syrup
1 small egg, preferably organic
Pour port, Cognac, simple syrup, and whole egg (yes, it’s raw!) into a dry shaker. Shake to integrate the egg with the sugar and spirits. Add ice and shake again. Strain into glass. Garnish with a dash of nutmeg.