Food

Columbia Room Is Opening an Outdoor Spritz Garden for Warm Weather Sipping

Get ready for frozen spritzes in the sunshine.

Columbia Room serves up delicious frozen Aperol spritzes. Photography by Maya Oren/Mojalvo.

Columbia Room owner Derek Brown doesn’t shy away from showing affection for somewhat maligned cocktails. After all, he’s become a vocal proponent of the often-dismissed Cosmo, and more recently, zero-proof drinks. So he didn’t think twice about devoting a warm-weather drinking garden in Shaw’s Blagden Alley to spritzes, particularly the Aperol spritz—which the New York Times once called “not a good drink” despite being beloved by the day drinking masses (and us).

“I adore the Aperol spritz.  I never thought it was a bad drink,” says Brown. “It’s super quaffable, and sure, it’s guilty of being simple and delicious. But it’s the perfect the-sun-is-shining outdoor drink.” 

The Spritz Garden will open on Wednesday, April 7 in an al fresco area outside the Columbia Room. (Reservations will be available via Tock Wednesday through Saturday going forward.) Four tables with bright umbrellas will channel an Italian sidewalk cafe, complemented by new greenery and a mural from local artist Kathrine Campagna that’s spritz-inspired. Guests can nibble on olives, cheese, or meatballs for snacks, or order sandwiches from the Columbia Room’s pandemic-born pop-up, Your Only Friend.

A frozen Aperol spritz with clarified strawberry and cider. Photograph by Maya Oren/Mojalvo.

In addition to a classic Aperol spritz, Columbia Room partner Paul Taylor’s menu features several styles of bubbly drinks at various levels of potency. For very light drinkers there’s a Cynar spritz (2.8% ABV) where the Italian artichoke liqueur is mixed with salted grapefruit soda. Next level up: a watermelon Americano (4.7% ABV) with Campari, Dolin Blanc vermouth, and house watermelon soda. You’ll also find boozy Negronis and frozen Aperol spritzes—given a little Columbia Room twist with “a touch of clarified strawberry and Normandy cider to make it shine,” says Taylor. “It emboldens the classic spritz flavors to make it the most crush-able of all the frozen spritzes.”

The Spritz Garden is designed as an outdoor complement to the rooftop patio Punch Garden above—the only place where patrons can currently imbibe at the popular cocktail bar, whose indoor bar and tasting room have remained closed in the pandemic. Brown says they’re eyeing a cautious phase three reopening, but for now, “opening for one or two tables for doesn’t seem worth the risk for us.”

If you’re excited about the idea of sunny spritzes, Brown is hosting a virtual aperitivo cocktail class this Saturday, March 27 at 2:30 PM with veteran barman Duane Sylvestre, formerly head bartender at Bourbon Steak and now a Campari Group Ambassador. Tickets are $75 and include a kit of goodies and cocktail makings for the class. 

Reservations for the Spritz Garden and virtual aperitivo class are available via Tock

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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.