Food

The Columbia Room Wins “Best American Cocktail Bar”

The Shaw bar took home the win at the Spirited Awards
Bartender Alex Levy at the Columbia Room. Photograph by Scott Suchman

The Columbia Room has gathered consistent national praise since reopening in Shaw last year, including “best” nods from Esquire and Bon Appetit. Drink Company partners Derek BrownAngie Fetherston, and JP Fetherston collected the biggest accolade yet over the weekend at annual bartender gathering Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, where the team took home the trophy for “Best American Cocktail Bar.”

IS THIS REAL LIFE?! @columbiaroom BEST AMERICAN COCKTAIL BAR *airhorn*. LOVE YOU EVERYONE!!!! #talesofthecocktail

A post shared by Angie Salame (@angieforsenate) on

The Columbia Room was up against three cocktail powerhouses in the finals: Trick Dog in San Francisco, Attaboy in New York, and Anvil Bar and Refuge, both in Houston.

“They deserve it as much as we do,” says Brown in Facebook post. “They’re incredible bars. But I also know how hard our staff has worked, how creative and unique a bar they’ve made, and all the love and passion that goes into every day.”

Since its early incarnation as a 10-seat tasting room inside the Passenger, the Columbia Room has been a leader in DC’s cocktail scene. When it first opened in 2010, Brown and his team were mixing and shaking in a way that was new to Washington, highlighting then-obscure ingredients like sherry and amaro, and carving ice. Today, the three-tier bar in Blagden Alley still offers a unique way to imbibe: a casual outdoor punch garden; a “spirits library” where guests can sample anything from a textbook-perfect martini to rare Napoleon Cognac or vintage rums; and the tasting room, where seasonal prix-fixe menus of three or five “courses” include ambitious libations matched with snacks from chef Johnny Spero. As noted by the award, it’s an outstanding place to imbibe–not only in Washington, but in the country.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.