Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: How to Make a Knockout Punch

I’m going to let you guys in on a big secret about cocktail bars: we love batching. Got a delicious drink recipe that calls for half a dozen esoteric spirits and liqueurs? Great! Do I want to run up and down my bar trying to find them when I’m getting crushed during Saturday dinner service? About as much as you want to wait ten minutes for that drink. So we batch ahead of time. Like everyone else in the industry, I’ve got mixed feelings about batching. But sometimes it’s not just necessary, it’s preferred. And by that I’m talking about punches.

Punches are a host’s best friend. Easy to serve, better prepared ahead of time, and taste great; proper punch will earn you some serious colonial-era cocktail cred (maybe not that important to everyone… but check out Benjamin Franklin’s punch recipe). Try a punch at your next party and you will forever sing the praises of batching.

My recipes always follow the same format: 750 ml spirits, 375 fortified wine, 1000 ml tea, 250 ml citrus juice, 250 ml sugar, and 250 ml water. That’s roughly equal to one bottle of hooch, half a bottle of fortified wine, a pot of tea, a cup of citrus, a cup of sugar, and a cup of water. As far as actual ingredients goes, I’m a stickler for tradition (when it suits me) so I like to use colonial-era ingredients like applejack and maderia, two of the most consumed alcoholic beverages during foundation of our nation. Other than that, it’s dealer’s choice. Similar to boozy nogs, punches can take a mixture of multiple spirits; bourbon, rye, rum, brandy, genever, it will all blend in the end. You can even do a vodka-based punch. The ladies of LUPEC served one up at the Repeal Day Ball and it was so delicious, I was ready to cry witchcraft. Generally though, I avoid using vodka in my punches because we can’t all have skills like its creator, The Passenger‘s Alex Bookless. The exception being zubrowka; bison grass-infused vodka, that is. Mixed with apple cider, manzanilla sherry, and chamomile tea, a zubrowka punch is a beautiful thing. But that’s another post.

Final punch pro tips: don’t get fancy with the spirits, go fancy with the other ingredients. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, We Love Drinks

Gin and Tonic Throwdown?

Here is another of my gin y tonic..... on Twitpic
“Here is another of my gin y tonic”
via @chefjoseandres

Who doesn’t love a little smack talk?

After Adam Bernbach’s recipe got a little love from the Post (and, for what it’s worth, from Katie Nelson in these pages) Chef José Andrés Took matters into his own hands, or at least his own twitter account, posting “thats a great drink, agree! and i love estadio but aint a gin and tonic! let me post my gin&tonic(love controversy)”.

Now Derek Brown has offered to host such a showdown at the Columbia Room. I said it to him on twitter, and now I’ll say it here: Jenn and I will be happy to assist with any judging. Just make sure that Todd Thrasher is included too, since Adam said his gin and tonic was the inspiration.

Food and Drink, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Hot Drinks Cure All Blues

Flaming cafe brulot. Photo by author.

If you’re like me (and half the city, it seems) you may be struggling with a hacking cough caught just in time for the winter blues. It almost prevented me from attending the Hot Drinks event last night at Tabard Inn, but I rallied to see what Chantal Tseng and Adam Bernbach came up with to showcase warming cocktails. Three rounds of soothing hot liquid later and I felt much, much better. My camera, on the other hand, has met its maker, so forgive the foggy photos! But it was just the night to lift my battered spirits and I definitely recommend future events.

In the beautiful private room upstairs at Tabard with its preppily colored walls of pink and green, guests enjoyed two courses by chef Paul Pelt including perfectly prepared duck breast, ending the evening with pastry chef Huw Griffiths’ famous doughnuts. Though the food was delicious, it was the drinks that I needed! So, fellow sufferers of the winter cold blues, I give you Adam and Chantal’s remedies. I guarantee they will cure you (at least temporarily). Let’s start with Adam’s Genever Punch, whose amazing ginger and lemon scent led me up the stairs. Continue reading

Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Tabard Warms You Up

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

There are warm winter drinks, and then there are hot drinks. As in flaming hot! Next Tuesday’s tasting at Tabard Inn will feature one I recently tried in New Orleans, Cafe Brulot, a combination of coffee, brandy and spices. Chantal Tseng will demonstrate how to prepare it in the classic style, as the brandy is set on fire while cascading down a long spiraling orange peel (“Wish me luck!” she says). Though the pyrotechnics are a lot of fun, they aren’t just for show – the flaming preparation gives the drink a spicy hot citrus taste. There’s a distinct thick richness that comes from the alchemy as the flaming liquid is poured down the orange peel repeatedly. I loved it in New Orleans and can’t wait to warm up with it again.

There’s lots more to the evening, with Adam Bernbach of Proof and Estadio joining Chantal to focus on other hot drinks branching out from the classics. Talented Tabard chef Paul Pelt will provide pairings for the winter warmers with three tasting-size courses, ending with dessert by Huw Griffiths. All for $50 inclusive, from 7pm-9pm on January 25. To RSVP, email

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Fool’s Warmth

"Fool's Warmth" cocktail, Proof

Yay, we’re resuscitating our Friday Happy Hour, highlighting a drink we’ve recently enjoyed, every Friday at 4pm! Please share your favorites as well.

Is it really just a week since New Year’s Eve? Sigh. 2011 is upon us and most of DC is back at work hard. It’s cold and snow may be on the way. Does this mean no more bubbly? Hell, no!

I’ve got a mania for champagne cocktails, and over at Proof you can try a very wintery combination by Adam Bernbach, poetically named Fool’s Warmth. Though you might think it’s a hot toddy, both from the title and some of the ingredients – honey syrup and lemon juice – it’s actually a cold sparkler with a base of Champagne and Calvados apple brandy, plus the classic champagne cocktail component of Angostura bitters. Just the right balance of mellow sweet and tart, it was perfect on a chilly winter’s night (especially after having my system shocked by seeing Black Swan).

A golden, fizzy apple love. That warms me up.

The Features, We Love Drinks

2009, A Glass Half Full

Glass Half Full

"Glass Half Full" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr

When I inaugurated the We Love Drinks feature back in September 2008, I really didn’t give it much thought to start with, honestly. We founding writers were tossing around feature ideas, and I said, “hey, what about drinks? I go out a fair amount.” That simple. It began mostly with bar reviews, with some coffee and tea thrown in for good measure.

But that slowly started to change when I realized there were people passionate about drinks culture in the city – not just nightlife and where to go to get wasted (not that I was writing about that! those days are over, darlings, good-bye jello shots!). It was a humbling experience to discover what a neophyte I was – when I got caught in the crossfire of a discussion on how to make your own bitters, for example, or the first time someone asked me whether I preferred green or yellow Chartreuse. Certainly the vast world of wine was still a mystery despite the wine bar explosion, and don’t even get me started about my beer ineptitude.

So why I am admitting this to you? Because these days I’m all about humility. I may be opinionated, but I’m still eager to learn and am constantly excited about the many different possibilities in our city of drinks. Respect for the taste and the balance of a proper cocktail, diving into the vast world of wine and beer, and most importantly understanding your own tolerance – that’s been my experience in 2009. Here are a few key moments that helped me on this continuing journey. Continue reading

Food and Drink, Night Life, The Daily Feed

Tuesday Night Escape

Cocktail at Bar Pilar

"Cocktail at Bar Pilar" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

Starting tonight, you only have three more Tuesday nights to enjoy Cocktail Sessions with mixologist Adam Bernbach at Bar Pilar, before he leaves the 14th Street digs on May 19th (GOG has the full scoop on his future plans).

I really love Pilar, love Adam’s cocktails, especially anything featuring cardamon syrup… but I can’t make it tonight. So my loss is your gain, there’ll be an extra seat, get over there!