Great Bars 2011: Columbia Room

For proof of how far Washington’s craft-cocktail scene has come, reserve a spot at this ten-seat lair. The bookish Derek Brown offers a three-course cocktail tasting menu ($64; two drinks are set, one custom-designed) and a small food pairing—as well as bits of his vast mental compendium of liquor-related data. He approaches drinks as a great chef does: Ingredients change with the seasons, he’s fanatical about detail (you’ll see an assistant hand-carving ice), and recipes are based on—but not tied to—tradition.

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