All photos by the author
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.
“You could just write a short little paragraph: ‘Jeff hates vodka.’ That would sum it up perfectly.”
On a recent afternoon I sat down with Jeff Faile, until next Thursday the bar manager at Palena, and soon to be the bar manager (part of an excellent team) at Fabio Trabocchi’s return to DC, Fiola.
An army brat born in Rhode Island, he has a history degree from Clemson. Previously a manager at Tower Records in Philadelphia who moonlighted as a bartender, he moved to DC about five years ago and began bartending full-time. In November he got married, became bar manager at Palena, and was invited to join the DC Craft Bartenders Guild. And he owes at least part of his success to Twitter, of all things.
‘Cotton Candy Mojito’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’
On Tuesday I was an invited guest at Café Atlántico for the restaurant’s special Carnaval Celebration Menu. I arrived early and found myself at the bar talking to one of the bartenders about the restaurant’s cocktails, and this seemed to set the tone for the night (surprised?). I could happily have sat at the bar all night, sipping excellent cocktails and talking to the bartenders about various spirits (want to out yourself as a cocktail nerd? Ask them about that bottle of Falernum and how it compares to the one you have at home, not to mention the house-made stuff at PX).
This being a dinner and all, the Social Chair and I were eventually escorted to a table with Lisa Shapiro of Dining in DC and Rachel Tepper of The Feast, along with their guests. We ordered another round of drinks and made our selections from the special menu. Continue reading
“Here is another of my gin y tonic”
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.
Photo by the author.
The drinks team decided that this concept from the Flickr blog would be a fun way to get to know some local bartenders. So we stole it. We’re passionate about spotlighting D.C.’s finest behind the bar. Our first round is with Katie Nelson from the Columbia Room.
1. Introduce yourself. What’s your current position and how’d you get where you are today?
Katie Nelson, Service Manager and Bartender at the Columbia Room, a 10-seat private bar within the Passenger.
In a literal sense, I got my current job because I had been a regular at the Gibson, which was my neighborhood bar and, of course, where my boss, Derek Brown, worked for over a year. I was in the right place at the right time when he asked me to take a job working for him, and I’m a lucky lady. Beyond that, though, I come from a family that relishes food and unique experiences. I grew up mostly in North Carolina, but I’d also lived overseas in Saudi Arabia and traveled from a young age, which I reckon helped me to develop a wider palate. After college, I took on a bartending position in a restaurant where I’d worked as a server, and I loved taking care of the customers and making drinks, but I was under the impression at the time that the job wasn’t meant to be a permanent position. I moved to D.C., worked a few different jobs and moved around a bit more before coming back finally to the beverage/hospitality industry. I’d noticed that all of the things I’d liked about all of my previous jobs had in some way to do with aspects of this field, and considered culinary school, but realized that the immediacy of working in a bar — crafting drinks in addition to being able to personally serve and talk to the customers — made bartending a more ideal position for me. My Southern-ness comes out — I really enjoy making people feel happy, so it’s a natural fit. My particular role at the Columbia Room brings my joys to the forefront: constantly experimenting with flavor, learning from the cocktail greats of the past and present, educating my palate and passing on information to others when I can, and helping to create a hospitable experience for our guests.
2. What’s the first drink you remember learning to make (or the first drink you remember drinking)?
courtesy of ‘bionicteaching’
I consider Jeff Faile, bar manager at Palena, a friend. This Modern Luxury article on the expanded restaurant is great on the food, but does some injustice to one of Jeff’s brilliant cocktails (vodka?!). And since he has shared the recipe with me, I can now both correct the record and share it with you.
Prepared Jars by Don Feduardo
All photos courtesy of the author
We Love Drinks embarks on a series where we attempt to make our favorite cocktails and essential drinks ingredients from around town. If there’s something you’d like us to feature, please let us know!
The proper garnish is a critical part of some cocktails. DC has no shortage of bars where you can get a craft cocktail, and if you watch the bartenders at work at one of these establishments (and I have) you can see (and taste) how the garnish really can finish a drink, either emphasizing or complementing certain flavors in the liquid ingredients.
My first craft cocktail experience in the area came at PX, where the craft most definitely extends to the garnish. One of the cocktails I had on my first visit was listed on the menu as not just a Manhattan, but “My Wife’s Manhattan.” How could I pass that up? So I was very pleased when the Washington Post ran the recipe for Todd Thrasher’s preserved cherries. I made my first batch of them as soon as I could round up a cherry pitter and some cherries, based on the vagaries of supply and demand at Giant. And they were good, but they were salty. I had done something wrong.
It didn’t matter that they were too salty, though, because the Social Chair and I polished them off with some dispatch. We had three problems, really: 1) that first batch was too salty; 2) supply is unpredictable and the cherry season is short; 3) the recipe says they’ll last for two weeks in the fridge, nowhere near as long as our own Manhattan season. So I decided the next batch would solve all three of those problems. Continue reading
courtesy of ‘erin m’
Wednesday night I was graciously invited by Erik Holzherr (owner of one of We Love DC’s favorite bars, Wisdom) to a preview of his new bar, Fruit Bat. Located on H Street NE between 12th and 13th, in the spot formerly occupied by the H Street Martini Lounge, my first impression is that it will quickly become a favorite of Atlas District locals, and certainly is worth the trip for those of us in other parts of the city. Tonight is the official opening; here’s a taste of what you can expect.
Erik is part Colombian, and he wanted to give Fruit Bat a relaxed Latin American feel. The most striking feature of the long narrow room lined with simple tables and a bar is the “living wall” that will develop organically as time goes by. Hung on the exposed brick wall are staghorn ferns mounted on wooden boards with grow lights. They’re just babies now but I can imagine how amazingly lush they will make the space as they grow. Fresh herbs are also grown behind the bar and fruit is everywhere. The scent of fried plaintains drove me mad. It all adds to the tropical feel – I think Hemingway and his daiquiri would’ve been right at home.
Speaking of drinks, as you would expect from the owner of Wisdom the craft cocktail menu at Fruit Bat is thoughtfully delicious. Continue reading
courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’
In the calm before the storm (what? there’s another blizzard coming?), we were able to take a breather and have a little fun out of the house on a day when the brown/green grass was just starting to show itself again.
Good times were had last night at Wisdom Cocktail Parlour in SE DC. Guests who arrived with an ingrained hatred for the taste of gin were quick and surprising converts to the smooth and simple pairing of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.
Cocktails in hand, the near-sellout crowd was buzzing with the talk of juices and liquors — with occasional pleas for another educational happy hour mixed-in. It was a moment of true concentration on and excitement for the subject at hand, with no fear or discussion of impending snow. Continue reading
Looking to take your understanding of drinks to the next level? Experience the handcrafted cocktail revolution firsthand at Wisdom Cocktail Parlour on February 23 from 6-8 p.m. with the WeLoveDC Crew.
Wisdom’s Erik Holzherr will be dishing on the art of the cocktail, suggesting what you might enjoy in one, and offering up some amazing libations poured especially for you.
Tickets, which include your first craft cocktail, are $15 ahead of time or $20 at the door (space permitting). Food and happy hour specials will also be available.
To sweeten the deal: