Spring is in the air, Cherry Blossoms are coming and going, pesky tourists return to stand on the left side of the escalator.
As the temperature goes up, the DC Theatre season is winding down. With a couple of months to go til we enter the “Summer Reruns”, the We Love DC Theater team got back together at The Passenger to look back at what we said in our earlier preview and how it all shook out.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of copying. At least somebody said that. I said it on my tumblr a while back and I didn’t think I was being original at the time, anyway. It should thus come as little surprise that there is now another bar called Passenger. What does come as a surprise is that it’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, whose hipsters are known for dismissing anything remotely unoriginal. Brooklyn’s Passenger is train-themed (obviously) although it substitutes a small upstairs space for the DC original’s narrow railcar.
The info sheet handed out at Hogo’s media preview reads, “Hogo is part of a project called Temporary Works that hopes to bring new late-night dining options to Washington, D.C. by giving talented chefs a platform to cook bar food with their own twists. Located inside Hogo, Temporary Works has a dine-in kitchen that will be helmed by a cast of rotating chefs from Washington, D.C. and other nearby cities.” If you read recent City Paper coverage you might be asking, “would they really open a bar knowing that it would have to close in a year?” Your answer is thus completely out in the open, proudly announcing itself with the name Temporary Works. Hell, that’s even the name that appeared on the ABRA notice.
This cannot in any way be an impartial report. Regular readers of this site — especially the weekend posts — might by now have the idea that the Social Chair and I spend a lot of time at the Passenger, two doors north of Hogo. It should thus come as little surprise that we’ve come to be friends with brothers Tom and Derek Brown (and in the interest of the fullest disclosure possible, we have known their landlords and partners the Rupperts for even longer than we have known the Browns). We first met Tom in the company of the Rupperts after a “garage sale” at the Warehouse Theater, in the Passenger’s early days. Presented with the horrible beach cocktail book we’d bought at the sale, he admitted that what he really wanted to open was a rum bar with tiki drinks. Several years and uncounted Tiki Tuesdays later, he has realized that dream with Hogo. Not only have we known the new bar was coming, though, we helped paint the place and move the furniture.
UPDATE: THE BOOMERANG PARTY BUS TO THE RENNFEST WITH WE LOVE DC AND THE PASSENGER IS NOW SOLD OUT! THANK YOU!
Ah, yes, it’s that time of year. The time when you begin to have strange cravings for Steak-on-a-Stick, or smoked turkey leg eaten right off the bone, gnawing away with relish like Henry VIII. Perhaps you find yourself speaking in an excruciatingly bad English accent, or inexplicably adding “e” to the ends of words like “Shop” or “Old” – well then my friend, it’s time to don thy frippery best and hie thee to the Maryland Renaissance Festival!
We’ll depart promptly at 11am from The Passenger (that’s at 1021 7th Street NW, milords and ladies) and travel to the Festival in a refurbished school bus replete with music, mayhem and dance poles (Yes, I know that’s an anachronism. But seriously, have you seen The Tudors?). After arrival at the Festival you’re free to wander the Revel Grove, slurp down some oyster shooters, indulge in fried Oreos, beer and bee stings, testing your mad skills at archery or feats of strength, buying chainmail underwear, and just giving in to the kitschy glory that is the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Then our carriage departs around 5pm to hie back to The Passenger just in time for a late, delicious brunch.
So please come along with fellow WLDC authors Don, Fedward, myself and the rest of our motley crew as we join our favorite folks from The Passenger on a trip back in time… I may even wear a corset. HUZZAH!
’01497-07Crop’ courtesy of ‘furcafe’
A long drink, a term with which you might not be familiar, is a bartender’s term for a cocktail which is longer on non-alcoholic mixer than it is on base spirit. You may already know some long drinks as highballs, a slightly younger name which refers to a long drink made with just a single base spirit and a single mixer, often with a fruit garnish. A gin and tonic is a highball, but a Tom Collins (containing not only gin and soda but sugar and lemon juice) is a long drink. The Tom Collins, by the way, gave its name to the archetypical tall glass in which these drinks are served. A highball glass is usually synonymous with a Collins glass (and vice versa).
Cocktails follow formulas, and the combination of a single base spirit and a particular mixer often lends its name to some other concoction made with the same mixer and a different base spirit. The Tom Collins, for instance, begat the Vodka Collins. You could ask a bartender for a Whiskey Collins, and while he or she might look at you funny they’d know exactly what you mean without having to stop to think. Some names have lost popularity over time (Mamie Taylor, anyone?), but others are still current and show up in all sorts of interesting combinations. The Mojito, by the way, is also a long drink; replace the rum with gin and it becomes a Southside; add lemon to that and it turns into a Major Bailey. Formulas! They’re magic! Continue reading →
I’ve already made use of the book, as you might discern from the above picture. That’s an oleo-saccharum in progress — sugar muddled with lemon peel, extracting the oil from the peel and resulting in a much more complex final product than you’d get with just lemon juice. I’ll see you tonight!
We Love Drinks authors Kirk and I were really spoiled this year. In 2010 with wine, beer and cocktails alike we saw a resurgence of the desire to enjoy and educate ourselves in the world of libation. Sure we still like a shot from a dive bar but we also love craft cocktails. It’s not a drunk town, it’s a drinks town!
In addition to the old favorites, a number of new places opened up. We found ourselves covering everything we could despite busy day jobs (it certainly improved my tolerance level. shut up, pesky liver, wine is good for you!). There was the continuation of the wine bar explosion with cosy Dickson Wine Bar, DC’s raging beer love with Biergarten Haus and the promise of DC Brau, luscious cocktail smoothies at Fruit Bat, the rough-and-tumble American Ice Co. – I know we missed a few, and I’m going to do my best to stay on top of 2011. We’ve got burning questions in the coming year – will the winter opening of Jack Rose get me to hang out in Adams Morgan again, or will the Bier Baron successfully revive the faded Brickskellar space (and reputation)?
Anything you’d like to see covered? Interested in joining our merry drinks band? Drop me a line, I’d love to know.
From 3pm-7pm this Saturday, not only can you enjoy some seriously fun cocktails like the Tea Bagger (Kilbaggan whiskey, dry vermouth, and olive juice) or the Fear Monger (Kraken rum, lime and ginger beer) with 10% of sales going charity, you also just might witness the epic endgame between Norton and Colbert, whose battle royale has been waged not only in the name of comedy but also to help educate the country on the lack of voting representation for District residents.
So can you down a Norton’s Revenge, Colbert? Let’s see you sneer at DC now, huh? Take your medicine!
Trust my favorite bar The Passenger to come up with a terrifyingly terrific way to spend the night before All Hallow’s Eve. Saturday, October 30 from 7pm to close, the bar will toy with the occult by serving up the infamous El Zombie cocktail, a concoction so potent it’s rumoured to turn the living into the undead!
Regular Zombie cocktails are deadly enough – with their origins in the 1930′s Tiki craze, the deceptive fruit content of these rum-based drinks mask the alcohol, resulting in the inbiber’s doooooooooom. From a haunted laboratory within the bar, test your fortitude against the El Zombie’s “evil combination of Mezcal, overproof rum, and infierno” resurrected from a secret recipe. Shudder. Continue reading →
Try your hand at mixing up Gina’s “Beetiful Bubbles” with, yes, beet syrup, or Alex’s “That Cucumber Drink” muddling cucumber and mint, or my personal long-term favorite, Chantal’s “Tabard Cocktail” combining sherry and tequila. Fantastic.
The best part about DC being featured in Imbibe this month? The tone is congratulatory, not condescending in that way we sometimes see other national publications yap about DC’s food/drink offerings (Grey Lady, I am looking at you). I love it when our local talent gets recognized!
Alex Bookless wins the Rickey Contest. Photo: Scott Wolfson.
The Third Annual Rickey Month Celebration was Monday night, and I’m only now getting around to recap it after being honored to participate in the final judging. That should give you a better idea of what kind of wild fun party it was than anything I could possibly write, but…
The five final contestants presented a quintet of Rickey riffs highlighting the enormous talent we have on hand here in DC mixology. None were derivative, all were inventive, and it was a very tough call. That’s the sign of an excellent field of contestants – congratulations to the DC Craft Bartenders Guild!
But there has to be a winner, and it was Alex Bookless (The Passenger) with her The Root of All Rickey, a complex mix of both event sponsors Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Hendrick’s Gin. Continue reading →
It’s a well-deserved honor for the Brown brothers, co-owners Tom and Derek, who are true gentlemen imbibers and fantastic practitioners of the cocktail craft. So head on over to give them your congratulations. This would be the perfect time to sample DC’s own Rickey!
Imagine a little room removed from the crazy world outside – an oasis of peace entered through a busy bar. Jars of spices line the walls, while chunks of the most pristine ice you’ve ever seen are gently melting in a wooden hangiri bowl, waiting to be carved up. Bottles stand neatly at the ready, watched over by a dapper gentleman sporting a perfect bowtie. This is the Columbia Room, and for a few blissful hours prepare to be transported to drinks nirvana, as Derek Brown brings you a ”cocktail club” nestled inside The Passenger. It’s like a spa for spirit lovers, evoking a true intimacy almost lost to us in these hectic times.
I’ve been eager to try out the Columbia Room since I first heard whispers of its concept, unintentionally eavesdropping on co-owners and brothers Tom and Derek Brown before The Passenger ever opened, and it’s no secret that later The Passenger quickly became one of my favorite bars. So it was with much anticipation that I finally entered this gentle yet meticulous environment on two occasions last week – once for a class and once for service – and I can’t think why I wouldn’t be back again and again.
As with The Passenger, there’s no attitude here. All you need to get in is to find a open slot on the online reservation system and hold it with a card. You’ll be called ahead of time to confirm and review any preferences. There’s a four person maximum to each reservation, and the prixe fixe menu of $49 (tax and tip inclusive) includes a welcoming glass of champagne, the nightly cocktail paired with a small plate, and a customized cocktail. There are also weekly classes by Derek Brown and Kat Bangs for $65 covering all aspects of crafting cocktails. I had a wonderful time at Kat’s recent champagne cocktail class, learning how to make my own blackberry liqueur and sugar cubes. Both service and class are well worth it.
Now that The Passenger is well embarked with Tom Brown at the helm, brother Derek Brown’s internal cocktail laboratory – the bar-within-the-bar called the Columbia Room – is set to start classes in February. Seminars will be held every other Wednesday at 7pm for $65 each. The current line up through March sounds fascinating. It’s an ambitious program that will be helpful not only for you libation geeks already making your own bitters and eager to learn more, but also for those just delving into the world of craft cocktails.
“A Primer on Orange Liqueur” kicks off February 17, covering the difference between major top-shelf makers and showing participants how to make your own version of triple sec. Derek will demonstrate proper Margarita, Sidecar and Fancy Gin cocktails and help elevate this sometimes over-abused ingredient. Continue reading →
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 barexplosion, 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 →
Let’s say you love hand-crafted cocktails, but your friend is all about Miller High Life. Up until this point, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend a place where you both would feel comfortable. Thankfully, brothers Derek and Tom Brown have created a bar where the two of you can happily cosy up in a booth together.
Last night, The Passenger opened its doors to the public. The night before, I was lucky to attend a preview of the new bar and sample the atmosphere. It’s still a work in progress, the rough-and-ready quality mimicking the surrounding neighborhood. If you were familiar with the Warehouse, the space revamps the front bar and the back area near the theater. It’s got a black diamond quality, with exposed brick, hardwood floors and a long photographic mural that’s meant to remind you of the view from a train’s windows. Booths line the walls and by this weekend the back section will be finished to resemble a mirrored dining car.
If you’re expecting an upscale exclusive club atmosphere with pinkies raised over clinkety-clink glasses, well, you’ll be disappointed. What we have here is a funky, eclectic neighborhood bar that’s set to evolve organically. And I’m not kidding, in addition to those famous made-to-taste cocktails you can also get Miller High Life and a chili half-smoke.
The long-awaited new venture of the brothers Brown is set to open this Thursday. Yes, The Passenger is ready for embarkation on 7th Street, in the old bar space of the Warehouse Theater complex. It sounds rather rock-n-roll to me, with Tom Brown (formerly of Cork) slinging up made-to-taste cocktails, including seasonal pitchers, along with what will no doubt be a phenom wine list and beer – canned or draft.
Derek Brown’s internal combustion engine, the Columbia Room, won’t open til early 2010 – this is a smaller bar-inside-a-bar modeled after tiny Japanese bars with high personal interaction between bartender and guest.
Back over the summer, purely by chance, I ended up sitting next to their concept meeting outside at Room 11 and really struggled with writing about anything I’d heard that evening. I could’ve started a whole slew of rumors about what Tom and Derek were planning, but honestly, they don’t need the buzz, already being cocktail legends with a loyal following in the city.
Bottom line? I think it’s fantastic the two brothers are finally getting to work together, highlighting their different styles in one place. You can expect a funky interior that still stays true to the surrounding historic architecture, complete with a “dining car” in the back, but nothing incredibly high-end or elaborate – there’s a dedication to building a low-key neighborhood bar feel as well. Will it become a total scene because everyone and their mother wants a hand-crafted cocktail from these guys now? Will this finally revitalize that rather raggedy stretch of street? We’ll find out.