“Mystical woodland” is how Jon Harris describes the vibe at Firefly, the twinkly restaurant inside Hotel Madera at 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, Northwest. Through September, Firefly is undergoing a renovation that will keep intact the candlelit tree at its center but add a porch swing and a new lounge, and elongate the bar itself. It will also create a more clearly demarcated bar area—it currently sort of flows right into the dining room—and add more bar seating. To oversee this new drinking attraction, managing group Kimpton Hotels tapped Harris.
You’ll remember Harris (though perhaps hazily) from evenings at the Gibson on 14th Street, where he may have served you a cocktail garnished with a smoked cinnamon stick or flavored with saffron syrup. Harris had tended bar in London and at the defunct Vegetate in Shaw before Derek Brown—who now owns Columbia Room—hired him as a server and barback at the Gibson. He eventually became general manager of the Gibson, but parted ways with the bar this January. Since then you may have seen him behind the bar at Shaw’s Tavern, at the Dunes in Columbia Heights, or working events for the Coterie dining club.
At Firefly, Harris plans to take inspiration from the ambiance and offer drinks like the Poison Apple—a concoction of fino sherry, Scotch, Midori, and lime that mimics the flavor of apple. He tends to work with floral flavors and herbs and spices, so expect drinks to incorporate orange-flower water, saffron, sandalwood, and liqueurs like Chartreuse. He also likes playing around with aromas using garnishes and aromatizers to engage the olfactories.
The new Firefly bar will be tricked out with some cool toys, including a Kold-Draft ice cube machine, shiny gold jiggers, whimsical glassware, and some “fancy smokers” (watch out, cinnamon sticks). Harris is also planning a weekday happy hour featuring $5 classic cocktails including an Old Fashioned and a Negroni. The restaurant reopens on Saturday, September 29.