Cocktails, Go-Go, and History in a Glass: DC Toasts Celebrates First Annual Event (Photos)

A Howard Theatre party honors our unique bartending history.

Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman said it was an honor to be associated with trailblazer Tom Bullock. She’s flanked here by Colin Asare-Appiah and Bullock’s grand-nephew, Darryl. All photographs by Jeff Elkins

Friday night’s DC Toasts event—part of the global imbibing bacchanalia known as World Cocktail Week—celebrated Washington’s historical African-American bartenders with an extraordinary evening of killer cocktails and great music. 

Bartenders, including Frankie Jones (the Gibson), Patrick Sudler (Renaissance), Todd Thrasher (PX), Jon Harris (Firefly), and Adam Bernbach (Proof, Estadio, 2 Birds, 1 Stone), poured cocktails for about 300 guests at the Howard Theatre—gathered there to honor the black mixologists who mixed drinks at Washington bars of yore.

“Cocktail king” Dale DeGroff addresses the crowd. 
The refreshing Cherry Blossom from PX.
Buffalo & Bergen’s Rachel Sergi and Chris Martino represent their Union Market employer with the Coopertown: Hayden’s Old Tom Gin, Dolin sweet vermouth, orange juice, and mint.

The team behind DC Toasts—Esquire cocktail historian David Wondrich, Bourbon Steak’s Duane Sylvestre, Bacardi training manager Colin Asare-Appiah, author Garrett Peck, and Columbia Room/the Passenger owner Derek Brown—hopes it will become an annual event. Part of the proceeds went to the Museum of the American Cocktail, represented by bartending legend Dale DeGroff. He reported that the museum (hitherto housed in the far end of a New Orleans shopping mall) would likely open its permanent location in fall 2013. An award for service and leadership went to Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman. Sponsored by D’Usse cognac and named for Tom Bullock—the first black author of a cocktail book—the award was presented by Darryl Bullock, Tom’s grand-nephew.

Co-planners Sylvestre and Derek Brown celebrate a successful event.
Cocktail historian David Wondrich (pictured left) has done in-depth research on the history of African-American bartenders in Washington and beyond. 

Wondrich and Jones teamed up on the Bulleit bourbon-based Dick Francis Special, honoring the freed slave who sent his son to medical school on the money he made behind the bar in Washington. Thrasher served up a refreshing Cherry Blossom, with Beefeater gin, egg whites, and raspberry syrup. This being a local event, the rickey was represented—Brown and Sudler collaborated on a sparkler with a Plymouth gin base. Fueled by these concoctions, partygoers mingled and engaged in some call-and-response with the amazing Chuck Brown Band—there’s no doubt go-go found some new fans in the cocktail enthusiasts who descended upon DC for the party.