Best Of: Drinks 2010

Photo courtesy of
‘Chilling’
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

We Love Drinks authors Kirk and I were really spoiled this year. In 2010 with wine, beer and cocktails alike we saw a resurgence of the desire to enjoy and educate ourselves in the world of libation. Sure we still like a shot from a dive bar but we also love craft cocktails. It’s not a drunk town, it’s a drinks town!

In addition to the old favorites, a number of new places opened up. We found ourselves covering everything we could despite busy day jobs (it certainly improved my tolerance level. shut up, pesky liver, wine is good for you!). There was the continuation of the wine bar explosion with cosy Dickson Wine Bar, DC’s raging beer love with Biergarten Haus and the promise of DC Brau, luscious cocktail smoothies at Fruit Bat, the rough-and-tumble American Ice Co. – I know we missed a few, and I’m going to do my best to stay on top of 2011. We’ve got burning questions in the coming year – will the winter opening of Jack Rose get me to hang out in Adams Morgan again, or will the Bier Baron successfully revive the faded Brickskellar space (and reputation)?

Anything you’d like to see covered? Interested in joining our merry drinks band? Drop me a line, I’d love to know.

Now, on to my favorite Drinks moments of 2010!

Photo courtesy of
‘The Passenger 1′
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Hands down, my absolute favorite drinks experience in 2010 was the Columbia Room. This tiny room nestled inside the Passenger is an oasis of cocktail culture and my visit with We Love DC photographer Max Cook over the summer was just transcendent. Watching Derek Brown make his perfect martini was an education in itself. I returned for several classes – champagne cocktails, the makings of bitters, the history of the Rickey – and each time I left inspired to learn more. My second visit to the Columbia Room, a fellow patron requested a round of Ramos Gin Fizz, and I can still taste that exquisite, delicate concoction in my mind. The fact that you can exit that nirvana into the rock-n-rolla of the Passenger is added lagniappe.

My other stand-outs were courtesy of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild’s fantastic events, the Rickey Contest and the Repeal Day Ball. I was incredibly honored to be a judge for the final Rickey round (and learned a lot from just sitting and listening to my fellow judges!) and getting to watch the final contestants mix up their entries was a delight. The Repeal Day Ball was another truly wonderful evening where I felt so privileged to be able to sample so many brilliant drinks made by our local talented bartenders (plus a few national legends) in a gorgeous setting.

Ok, enough superlatives. Least favorite moment of 2010? Poorly balanced, overly sweetened and unimaginative cocktails at Buddha Bar. Why didn’t I write about it? Frankly the recent influx of outsider companies deigning to come to our city that they’ve maligned for so long and trying to jump on a bandwagon, whether it be cupcakes or cocktails, irritates the hell out of me. I should’ve trashed it in a review, I didn’t, I regret it, and in 2011 if I hate something you will definitely hear about it.

Photo courtesy of
‘Many Innocent Hops Died to Make This Night Possible’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

DC has some fantastic people working in the drinks trade, and in 2010 Kirk and I profiled eight of them. We learned a lot by shadowing them, asking questions, and watching what it really takes to run a bar or a beverage program or a liquor store. If you are interested in what goes on behind the scenes, they are all worth a look back: Greg Engert (Churchkey), Elli Benchimol (then at AGAINN, now at Chef Geoff’s), Ivan Iricanin (Masa 14), Chantal Tseng (Tabard Inn), Thor Cheston (Brasserie Beck), Joe Riley (Ace Beverage), Owen Thomson (Cafe Atlantico), David Fritzler (Tryst). If there’s anyone you’d like to see profiled in 2011, please let me know.

When I review all my drinks experiences in 2010, it really does seem to revolve around learning. From a relaxing afternoon delving into the mysteries of French wine, to Kirk and I trading preconceptions about wine and beer pairings, to JP Caceres explaining how to make tinctures or local sommeliers sharing their favorites, it’s been a fun year of liquid lessons. I’m thankful for everyone’s generosity in helping me understand more.

Drinks are ephemeral, gone in an instant (well, a savored instant). I could easily list all my favorite drinks of 2010 as well, but it’s really a dance between the drink and the memory, and easily fades. Anyway, I’d rather hear about yours. Please share.

A special thanks to We Love DC ace photographers Max Cook, Samer Farha and Erin McCann for the extraordinary images they shoot for We Love Drinks.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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