We Love Drinks continues our series where we look behind the bar, profiling the many people – from mixologists to bartenders, sommeliers to publicans – who make your drinks experience happen.
So far in our profile series we’ve focused on the people bringing your drinks to you – from bartenders crafting cocktails to sommeliers creating a wine list. But who brings the drinks to them? Those ingredients don’t just magically appear, do they? One name kept coming up over and over again – Joe Riley, fine spirits manager at Ace Beverage. I ventured up to leafy Wesley Heights (near AU) to meet him at the small but packed shop in Foxhall Square. We talked about his experiences as a fine spirits manager, and I also canvassed DC craft bartenders Owen Thompson and Derek Brown, along with cocktail enthusiast Marshall Fawley, to find out what it is about Joe that has loyal customers so buzzed.
Joe’s reputation is that he can find anyone anything. Within a few minutes of talking to him, I’d mentioned my nostalgic love for a rose liqueur I tasted one evening in Paris, topping a glass of champagne (the waiter exploded the bottle over me, but that’s another drinks story). “Not rose water, rose liqueur,” I sighed, “but no one has ever been able to – ” Joe’s head had cocked to one side during my reverie, eyes sparkling, and I trailed off as I realized he was about to make magic. “Crispin’s Rose Liqueur, Greenway Distillers. Hand distilled from apples, infused with rose petals. Crispin Cain’s been perfecting the recipe for years. We should be able to get that soon.”
Quest ended. Just like that. I then spent about an hour in the shop listening to him weave tales of liquor lore. Not only can he find anyone anything, he seems to know about everything – a fine spirits encyclopedia, a libation historian, filled with tales of Prohibition and the Washington of old. Continue reading