Sunday, December 27, 2009

Capitol Lounge - Bloody Mary Anyone?

My wife and I picked up a friend at Union Station who was passing through on her way back to Chicago. She had a stopover of about 6 hours so we took her around town a bit. We stayed in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and ended up at Capitol Lounge. On Saturdays and Sundays they offer a brunch until 3pm with $5 Bloody Marys and mimosas. It was early in the day so we were in the mood for a good BM.

During brunch, Capitol Lounge's BMs are "build your own." They give you a pint glass with ice and a shot of vodka and then have a station with a pitcher of Bloody Mary mix, celery, other fixings and about 40 different hot sauces from all over America - everything from your good ol' Tabasco to novelty sauces with some of the most hilarious names and labels. I added some "Wanted, Dead or Alive" sauce that had Osama bin Laden's picture on it. I don't exactly know what hot sauce has to do with capturing bin Laden, but it definitely had some kick to it. I added a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, some celery salt and a long stalk of celery and filled it up about three-fourths the way with their sweet tomato mix. It was a perfect addition to our Sunday afternoon and I think the "build your own" Bloody Mary is one of the best ideas this town has had in a long time.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Roast Beef and Blue Cheese: A Martini's Soulmate

Went by Eastern Market today and got a half-pound of roast beef. I came home, made me a dry gin martini with three olives, gave a piece of bread a thin schmear of horseradish, a drizzle of homemade stinky blue cheese dressing left over from a dinner I prepared a few nights before and topped it with my freshly thin-cut roast beef. Seriously, this pairing should be mandatory. The pungent flavors of the blue cheese and horseradish along with the buttery roast beef just saturates the mouth and then comes Signore Martini to cut through and cleanse the palate with a kick of juniper and vermouth. I munched on an olive and then repeated.

Pour House - Puts the G in T

To try to work off a bit of our Christmas girth, my wife and I decided to take a long walk from our place in Mount Vernon Triangle to see an exhibition at the Library of Congress. Afterward we decided to get a drink and headed over to Pour House. I wasn't in the mood for anything complicated or heavy so I went with a gin & tonic. FINALLY, a place that knows how to make a G&T! To me a G&T should be gin sweetened by some tonic with the added benefit of the fizz - about 2 parts gin to 1 part tonic (or 1 to 1 if that's too much gin for you, but not any more), brightened with a good squeeze of lime. The kind lady at the bar was not skimpy with the Bombay Sapphire and gave the drink a dash of tonic. The taste of the gin was up front with the tonic and lime giving it a smoothness that let it go down easy. Thank you Pour House.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Thyme Gimlet at Bar Dupont

The aptly named Bar Dupont, located in the Hotel Dupont on (you guessed it) Dupont Circle, is about as opposite an establishment as you can get from its Irish pub predecessor Biddy Mulligans. I was a bit hesitant to go to, yet again, another one of these cliched "lounges" that have unfortunately become a dime-a-dozen in this town. You know, those lounges that look really chic, with sexy bartenders and sells top-shelf spirits, but when you order a drink it's more generic tonic than gin. Don't get me wrong, I love a good time out and there are some places that are a lot of fun and do well offering a vibe that is truly distinctive and unique. But in the end they're drinking establishments and if they can't get a simple drink right, there's something fundamentally wrong.

Bar Dupont surprised me. The interior design is contemporary yet simple. It's not trying to be anything it isn't. The bartenders seem well trained and appreciate their work. And the clientele is a good mixture of people.

While perusing the cocktail menu, Bar Dupont's Thyme Gimlet intrigued me. I love the idea of fusing sweet ingredients with items that are normally associated as savory. The match could not be more perfect. They've taken the gimlet, a mixture of gin or vodka, lime juice and sugar and paired it with grassy/lemony thyme. You immediately taste the bright flavor of thyme which actually acts as a sweetener without increasing the sugar content. The acidity of the lime juice combined with Tanqueray gin allows for clean, sharp flavor and finish. It also looks pretty cool served in a martini glass with a big sprig of thyme in it. A well-executed drink. I'll be coming back for more.

New Romantic

My wife came home one Friday and wanted a White Russian but we were out of Kahlua and regular vodka. Intent on bringing a smile to her face after a long week of work I had a look in the liquor cabinet and attempted to create the next best thing from the slim pickings we had. What I created she decided to call "New Romantic."

1 part Amaretto
1 part Vanilla Vodka
A glug or or two of half-and-half
2 maraschino cherries

In a shaker add ice, amaretto, vodka and half-and-half and give it a good vigorous shake. Pour through strainer into a tumbler glass and garnish with two maraschino cherries on a toothpick.

Happy Hour at Perrys - A Meeting with a Caipirinha

Perrys is most known for its drag queen brunch every Sunday, but it also has a pretty nice happy hour every day from 5:30-7:30. Over the summer I visited their rooftop and was amazed by their caipirinhas. I've never made it to Brazil for the real deal, but I've had a few in my day and this was so far the best I've found in DC. To me a caipirinha should have a bold flavor - something that really wakes up the palate. Perrys didn't disappoint. It was made with just the right amount of sugar giving a great balance to the sourness/bitterness of the freshly-squeezed lime juice and cachaça, but wasn't overly sweet. The cachaça, a spirit made from sugar cane, was not overpowering but was definitely the team leader. At a price of $5 during happy hour I was in heaven. They also make a caipirinha with guava juice. It added a pink hue to the color and sweetened it up a bit more but not too much. It was a nice variation against the traditional.

The rooftop is great in the summertime but can get a bit crowded. I've also enjoyed happy hour indoors at the bar and wasn't disappointed. It has an inviting, contemporary-style interior and the staff was friendly. The bar menu during happy hour has great discounted prices.

Happy Hour at Bangkok Joe's

Bangkok Joe's is a great Thai restaurant on the Georgetown Waterfront. One thing that's nice about it is that it's located far enough from M ST to avoid (or escape from) the crazed shoppers and tourists. I love coming by for its happy hour which is from 5-7pm every day of the week. Be sure to sit at the bar as it's full-price if you sit elsewhere. The deal is great: All of their specialty drinks, regular cocktails, draft beer and wine are half-price and they also offer some enticing small plates of food for $2 and $4. Over the summer I'd come by for their mojitos which are perfect for DC's dog days. There's just enough sweetness to give it a refreshing brightness but it lets the rum and mint play front stage and they add just a touch of club soda to give it a little fiz. And for about $4 each during happy hour, what more could you want?

Try their Bangkok Swing which has received some national acclaim having been featured in the "Best American Recipes Book 2005-2006: Top 10 Favorite Recipes." I'm not the biggest fan of Southern Comfort, but it plays well into the blend of Absolut Citron, and their homemade ginger-lemon tea.

Busboy and Poets - A Martini Nightmare

I went by the new Bus Boys & Poets on 5th and K. I know this isn't a place one would recommend for its cocktails (so don't get all fussy on me), but I'm an equal opportunity kinda guy and thought I'd swing by since it's close to home. The bar on the ground floor was full so I went to the upstairs lounge. After having a look at their cocktail menu which seemed to be geared more towards the sweet palate of a sorority girl, I sat at the bar and ordered a drink I'd hope anyone with a basic bartending certification could make - a Hendricks gin martini with three olives. Hendricks gin is for me one of the best mainstream/easily available gins out there.

Given BB&P is more of an easy-going neighborhood establishment I wasn't expecting a masterpiece. But as I watched the bartender, who didn't seem to be too busy, I noticed he didn't attempt to chill the glass (fine). He poured in the gin and a splash of vermouth into a shaker and gave the martini a lazy shake and poured it out. He then plopped three olives in to the martini and handed it over to me saying "sorry, we're out of toothpicks" and gave me a cocktail straw to fish them out. Try it, it's not easy. He did end up finding some toothpicks, but after five minutes the martini was room temperature. Seriously, isn't a martini in the first week of bartending school?

On the hunt for that perfect cocktail

I'm looking for the well-executed cocktail. I seek to journey through DC to try everything traditional and avant-garde. I'm an equal opportunity guy who doesn't discriminate between your ultra swanky speakeasy with a resident mixologist or your random neighborhood bar. I've lived in this city for nearly 8 years and I've experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. I seek not only places that put a great deal of thought into offering a wide menu of elixirs but also that bar that serves that one drink that is out of this world. If you've got recommendations for me, please send them in. Let the drinking begin.