Food

Frozen Drink and Canned Beer Garden Electric Cool-Aid Opens in Shaw

Piña coladas, icy Irish coffees, and food truck eats set a summery vibe at the outdoor bar.

Electric Cool-Aid, a frozen drink and canned beer garden, opens in Shaw. Photography by Jeff Elkins

Outdoor drinking venues take on a lot of different styles in DC: flashy rooftops, German biergartens, island-style oases, and wine gardens. But a psychedelic frozen drink lot? That’s a new one—and we like the sound of it. Electric Cool-Aid, Shaw’s new outdoor destination for frozen concoctions and canned everything else, opens on Monday, July 20. 

Like many no-frills, “we opened the kind of bar we want to hang at” joints, a team of industry vets is behind this one. Co-owners and partners Ben Schwartz and Angela DelBrocco met at Ivy & Coney where Schwartz worked, while his brother and co-owner Jesse Schwartz comes from Drink Company. DelBrocco’s resume includes stints at Ghibellina, Nellie’s and others. Their bar takes over the Rhode Island Avenue lot where Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish once operated, including the old school bus that late owner Fate Pittman used for the barbecue operation. The vehicle was the inspiration for Electric Cool-Aid’s name—remember the psychedelic bus in the Tom Wolfe novel, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test? But sadly, due to Covid-19, the owners decided to tow it away temporarily until they can use it as a trippy, colorful walk-up bar down the line.

“Some of the more fun things that bring more life and personality are dampened by the pandemic,” says DelBrocco. “We’re trying creative ways to pick up the atmosphere and bring in some of the camaraderie of a bar.”

To that end, ice cream fans can get their fix from a Good Humor cart that’ll have all the classics like bars and king cones. They’ve also built a dedicated food truck parking space and partnered with several mobile businesses like Timber Pizza Co., Swizzler, and Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken to serve meals on particular days.

The lineup of six frozen drinks aren’t mass concoctions. “No Wet Willie’s, grain alcohol, and corn syrup,” says DelBrocco. “We wanted stuff that could be versatile and good quality since we’ve all have a background in making nice drinks as well as dive bars.” Cocktails like a frozen Irish coffee and fresh pina colada meet happily in the middle. There’ll also be a non-alcoholic riff on an orange Julius that customers can spike with Campari or bubbles if they wish.

As for everything else, you’ll drink it from a can—friendly to the pandemic era but the plan all along. Buds and Modelos are joined by craftier cans like Devil’s Backbone beers, batched cocktails like orange crushes and bloodies, hard seltzers, and Merf, “the one and only canned wine that’s not only not-bad but actually good,” says DelBrocco.

Typically the garden’s capacity would be upward of 225, but with seated-only service and distancing it’ll be closer to 114. If all the tables are filled, there’ll be a waitlist. One thing that hasn’t changed about the surroundings is the bounty of colorful murals, including a new one by Colombian artist MasPaz, a DC local.

“We wanted a backyard feel—we live a block away,” says  DelBrocco. “We wanted this to be for our neighborhood, casual but also good.”

Electric Cool-Aid. 512 Rhode Island Ave NW. Open Monday through Thursday at 4 PM, Friday at 2 PM, and noon on Saturday and Sunday. 

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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.