All photos by the author
We here at We Love DC are unabashed, unequivocal fans of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild and their annual Repeal Day Ball. So much so that, within about 48 hours of the announcement that tickets were on sale (by which I mean within about twelve hours, really), Jenn, Brittany, and I (and the Social Chair, naturally) had all bought our tickets for this year’s ball. It’s the biggest party of the year, it’s focused on craft cocktails, and it’s thrown by bartenders themselves. This idea intrigues me and I would like to subscribe to its newsletter.
The ball (8pm Saturday at Halcyon House) is sold out now, but those of you who are going for the first time are in for a treat. A continual supply of treats, to be honest. I won’t go over all the names (you can do that yourself) and I can’t predict what the drinks will be, but I can provide the voice of experience to get you to the end of the night with your dignity intact and your clothes unstained. Join me, won’t you?
First off, you’ll want to dress for the occasion. If you’re like me, your trusty tuxedo will do. Yes, I have a trusty tuxedo (I was a music major in college and this is actually my fourth trusty tuxedo. It came from eBay). Renting is a fool’s game; a one-time investment pays off in fit and convenience, and makes it possible for you to do things like be somebody’s last minute date for a formal event where people bring you drinks and food. But if you can’t bring yourself to buy a tuxedo, a well-pressed suit will do. I can’t speak about women’s fashion except in examples, so: if you’re like Brittany, you’ve probably got some awesome vintage dress with a story attached, and lots of fancy accessories. If you’re like Jenn, you’ll end up with something slinky like this:
Voice of experience: last year’s event was on a particularly cold night, and the line for the coat check was long. If you can see your way to leaving your coat at home, you can skip the coat check and head straight inside. And forget about being fashionably late. You’ve paid for that time with those bartenders making those drinks. Don’t waste it!
Once you’re inside, do two things: take a moment to identify the bartenders you want to meet and the cocktails you want most to try, and locate water. It is critical to pace yourself. Drink too much too fast and you’re not getting the full benefit of your experience; sip too slowly and you’ll leave feeling like you’ve missed something special. Also, the moment you see food, eat some of it. It will run out early.
Voice of experience: it’s OK not to finish a drink that isn’t wowing you. Last year the Social Chair and I took turns with the drinks from various stations, and we lived to talk about it.
Know what you can skip, but be open minded. Last year’s event featured a Cosmopolitan made by King Cocktail himself, Dale DeGroff. Under most circumstances I’ll skip vodka-based drinks in order to make room for something not made with a spirit defined as flavorless, but Dale’s Cosmo (each served with a flamed orange peel) was one of the highlights of the night.
Move around. Mingle. Compliment people on their outfits and body art. Drink water. Keep notes of what you’ve liked, because people will keep asking all night long. If you repeatedly hear the same answers to that question, waste no time in trying for yourself. While there has been an ample supply of booze remaining at the end of the night at both of the balls I’ve attended, individual cocktails did run out, some of them quite early. Some surely will this year.
Most of all: have fun! If I told you to drink responsibly at a party run by bartenders you’d laugh in my face (and rightly so), but remember to make travel arrangements that don’t require driving, remember to hang up those fancy clothes when you get home, and drink a couple glasses of water before going to bed. The next morning when you’re wondering what hit you (hint: the last martini) you’ll be glad you had at least some sense the night before.