For this week’s edition of Friday Happy Hour, a road trip is necessary. Given how many excellent bartenders we are lucky to have here in our city, you might object, but this is for one of our own. The lovely Katie Nelson, formerly of the Columbia Room, is currently at Rappahannock Restaurant in Richmond, VA helping to establish their bar program. Having been an ardent fan of Katie’s craft in the past, I simply had to travel down south to see what she’s up to – plus she’s a wonderful friend.
You can enjoy Rappahannock’s oysters right here in DC at Union Market with a very fine drink program helmed by the talented J.P. Fetherston, also a Columbia Room alum. But if you have the time, take the train for an easy trip to see Katie at Rappahannock’s restaurant in downtown RVA. The space is industrial warehouse chic, dominated by a concrete bar, and the food is top-notch (especially a cured salmon dish which frankly I would’ve ordered twice in a row that same night).
The cocktail menu features highballs in a variety of styles – classic, Southern, Spanish (gorgeously garnished with a twiggy licorice root), and Japanese – and cocktails crafted with Katie’s mixture of botanical whimsy. The Almost Home is made with Yamazaki 12-year-old Japanese whiskey, La Gitana Manzanilla sherry, lavender honey, and grapefruit zest.
To my mind, a great cocktail invokes memory, and enjoying one is the essence of sensuality. Sipping Almost Home, I was reminded of a sunny day touring the rooftop garden of The Passenger, among the honeybees. Of all sunny summer days, relaxing on a blanket in the park with a good book. It’s a beautiful drink. The combination of the Japanese whiskey and the Manzanilla sherry is a tricky one to describe, it’s so very light – nut, floral, apple – and they are both delicately balanced against the lavender honey, which slowly mellows as you finish.
It’s worth a lazy train ride.