Bartender brothers Tom and Derek Brown, who grew up in Olney, are behind two of the year’s most exciting drinking spots. In January, Tom opened the Deco-cool Left Door in the 14th Street corridor. A month later, Derek revived the bar that was once DC’s most serious cocktail destination—Columbia Room—in a leather-and-gilt Shaw space three times the size of the original. We talked with them about mind erasers, hangover cures, and a whole lot in between.
Education: Sherwood High School. “I showed up for the first three days.”
Now lives in: Brookland.
First bartending job: Phineas Prime Rib in Rockville.
Career stops: Corduroy, Cork Wine Bar, Hogo, and the Passenger.
Other projects: Working on reopening the Passenger in Shaw later this year.
Drink he’s best known for: Manhattan.
First drink he learned to make: Singapore sling.
Favorite spirit: Whiskey.
Post-shift drink of choice: A shot and a beer.
Drink he secretly loves: Champagne.
Favorite local spirit: Catoctin Creek brandies.
Feelings about vodka: “My problem is I never count it on my drink tally, so I always end up wasted. I try to avoid it.”
Favorite drink trend: “Armagnac, a rustic French brandy.”
Least favorite drink trend: “Multi-nationals buying up liquor companies and becoming larger and larger.”
Secret weapon behind the bar: Fiji Rum.
Most overrated bar accessory: Televisions.
Best holiday to celebrate at a bar: New Year’s Eve.
Worst holiday to celebrate at a bar: Cinco de Mayo.
Favorite band to play at his bar: AC/DC.
He’d never play: Tom Waits.
Favorite local dive: Ivy & Coney in Shaw.
Best drinking city outside Washington: Savannah.
Favorite drunk food: Jumbo Slice—“in the alley, standing there with all the drunk girls.”
Hangover cure: A red eye.
Education: Sherwood High School, George Mason University.
Now lives in: Capitol Hill East.
First bartending job: Rocky’s Cafe in Adams Morgan.
Career stops: Palena, Citronelle, Komi, the Gibson, and Columbia Room.
Other projects: Co-owns Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, and Southern Efficiency, all in Shaw.
Drink he’s best known for: Dry martini.
First drink he learned to make: “Drinks with names like vodka soda and rum and Coke.”
Favorite spirit: “I drink more bourbon than I drink anything next to apple juice, which is what I drink the most of.”
Post-shift drink of choice: Bourbon, Champagne, a dry martini, or sherry.
Drink he secretly loves: Mind eraser.
Favorite local spirit: Green Hat gin and Catoctin Creek rye.
Feelings about vodka: “It’s boring. But it has a time and place, like with a seafood tower or caviar. And when in Moscow.”
Favorite drink trend: “The death of mustachioed, suspenders-wearing bartenders.”
Least favorite drink trend: “Smoke is starting to jump the shark.”
Secret weapon behind the bar: Salt tincture.
Most overrated bar accessory: Muddlers.
Best holiday to celebrate at a bar: Christmas.
Worst holiday to celebrate at a bar: St. Patrick’s Day.
Favorite band to play at his bar: The Clash.
He’d never play: 311.
Favorite local dive: Showtime in Bloomingdale.
Best drinking city outside Washington: Richmond.
Favorite drunk food: Chinese at New Big Wong in Chinatown.
Hangover cure: Orange Gatorade, two Advils, and a salty soup.
This article appears in our April 2016 issue of Washingtonian.