I was asked recently what I consider my guilty pleasure drink. I didn’t know what to say. Most of the time I’m drinking rather straightforward drinks. I like to get a little extravagant sometimes and experiment a bit, but I wouldn’t consider that a guilty pleasure. That I reserve for marshmallow vodka or whiskey from a plastic jug. I thought about it and decided that the closest thing I have to a guilty pleasure is day drinking. Even when I had a more traditional 9 to 5 style job I had a tendency to mix up a sherry cocktail before I made my way into work. It was how I got my morning OJ.
Before brunch cocktails became a weekend staple, I had such a hard time cajoling my friends to commit to serious day drinking. Bottomless Bloodies, Mimosas and Bellinis are some of the greatest things to happen to recent cocktail culture. Now it’s suddenly trendy and it’s not just me and Hemmingway drinking Daiquiris at ten in the morning. And thankfully cocktails for brunch are such a big thing in DC. Working as much as I do, I’d never get a chance to go out for a nice cocktail if it wasn’t for brunch. Which is exactly why I hoofed it across town to Tryst on a Sunday morning, to get my day drinking on (the food was good too).
Dates. Those awkward, exciting, beautiful things we all go on at some point. I am by no means an expert in this field- quite far from it- and I don’t have a magical solution for how to make your next date the best you ever had, so unfortunately you won’t be finding the next We Love DC dating service here (sigh). The inspiration for this post really came from a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He asked me where he should take a girl out, wanting to strike the right balance between serious young professional, trendy and casual. I realized many of us have gone through this mental exercise before. The exhausting over-planning and over- analyzing we do: choosing the right spot for that first interaction (or second or third), focusing on every detail from time, to dress code, to the big goodbye, mulling over tiny logistics as a method of defense to shift our thoughts away from the weirdness that could ensue. But enough of that.
I think a shared meal is the perfect way to break the ice, a way to bond over something simple that brings anyone, no matter what level of culinary expertise you may have, together. We all share stories around a dinner table, have memories of a favorite meal, and can reveal oneself through a dish. So for me, sharing a meal is a perfect way of getting to know someone, whether it be a sit down dinner or a casual picnic. I decided to write some recommendations for where you can break bread and the ice along the way, in case you need to outsource thinking on the next time your big date is lined up. I polled some of the We Love DC crew for their suggestions as well, as not all of us are food focused daters.
Adams Morgan sure has it good with Tryst. I’m always in envy of my friends who live in close proximity to this classic coffeehouse – as they lounge around, using it as their office so often they get sandwiches named after them. It’s hard to believe Tryst’s been in operation since 1998, one of the pioneers of the cafe/bar/lounge hybrids that have become so deservedly popular. When you can hang around pounding down well-poured Counter Culture coffee morning til afternoon and then switch over to happy hour and sip well-crafted cocktails, all the while randomly meeting up with friends and catching up spontaneously, that’s a true “third place.” I love it.
Tryst’s beverage director, David Fritzler, not only knows his coffee but can mix up a daring Blue Blazer, as we learned in a Drinks profile last year. He’s also started up Tiki Tuesdays with ten new cocktails and a fiery Volcano Bowl (wait, trend alert! Tiki must be in, as Tryst is following in the footsteps of The Passenger’s popular Tiki Tuesdays. It’s only a matter of time before we’re all Tiki bar-hopping in hulu skirts!). Plus as it’s Rickey Month here in DC, you can try his version of DC’s official cocktail – the Summer Lovin’ Rickey.
Just as in love with Tryst is Scoutmob, newly launched in DC last week offering deals that are exclusively from locally-owned restaurants and boutique shops. As we’re all about local here at We Love DC, we’re happy to partner with Scoutmob as they showcase what’s unique about our city. Today they’re offering a 50% off discount to Tryst, which would certainly help a cappuccino obsession like mine. It’s free, like all Scoutmob’s deals. But in addition they’ve got a special giveaway for our readers – a $365 Tryst giftcard! You’ve got a week to enter for a chance to win, just by joining the mob and signing up for their email alerts. Seriously, $365 of Counter Culture coffee drinks, housemade sodas, craft cocktails, not to mention all-day brunch and the Ben sandwich and… ok, I’m heading over now. Meet you there.
Elephant(s) in the Room. 20"x24" acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Dana Ellyn.
Jose lays the check directly between us. He couldn’t have have centered it more accurately if he’d held a ruler. The Pilot and I glance at the pleather billfold like it’s the elephant in the room it’s about to become.
- from Rachel Machacek’s The Science of Single
Earlier this week Katie interviewed one of her favorite writers Rachel Machacek on her new book, The Science of Single. Tonight one of my favorite artists, Dana Ellyn, unveils several paintings inspired by the book at a happy hour at Tryst from 7-9pm. It’s a fun coincidence bringing all our worlds together. Coyly titled “The Art of Dating,” Dana’s work is directly inspired by quotes from Rachel’s book, as well as her own ongoing investigations into the challenging aspects of being a woman and the conflicting expectations modern society places on us (and those we place on ourselves).
“Rachel attended my painting classes a few years back while she was in the midst of researching/writing/editing her book,” Dana explains. After randomly seeing Rachel’s Facebook status about her book being completed this past September, Dana sent her a congratulatory note, to which Rachel responded with an offer of a preview copy - “The only caveat is that you have to tell lots of people :)”
Of course Dana went one better. “Would you be interested in me doing a series of paintings and/or drawings inspired by your book and we could do a joint event with art and book launch sort of thing?” she asked. And Rachel’s response? “I. Love. Your. Idea. LOVE IT.” In a way that kind of literary inspiration mirrored Dana’s banned books series. After brainstorming sessions and the involvement of Danielle Lanteigne from Tryst, the exhibit was born.
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.
David Fritzler pours up a Blue Blazer cocktail at Tryst. Photo credit: Samer Farha.
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.
I first met David Fritzler back in January when fellow WLDC author Samer and I watched him pour up an impressive flaming Blue Blazer at Tryst. You might think such pyrotechnics indicate a showy brash personality, but that’s far from the case. As I saw this summer when he served up his Rickey Contest entry, he’s a thoughtful crafter of cocktails. It was that Smokin’ Joe Rickey, somehow reminiscent of Lapsang Souchang tea, that made me want to learn more.
“The drink is never more important than the people enjoying it,” David says, “It’s not all about the cappuccino or the cocktail. It’s about the moment and memories that the drink facilitates.”
David was kind to sit down with me at Tryst this past weekend and let me sample a few of their new warming cocktails while discussing his drinks philosophy. Tryst has been an Adams Morgan neighborhood favorite since it opened in 1998, and it’s still going strong, recently winning Best Local Coffeehouse of 2010 in Express Night Out. For many of my friends it’s their “third place” – office, studyhall, living room – and it inspires a great deal of local love. David’s been there almost since the beginning, ten years of dedication.
As beverage director, it’s not all flash – at the end of our chat he was off to Open City to take apart the espresso machine. Continue reading →
David Fritzler burns up a Blue Blazer. Photo credit: Samer Farha.
For many people I know, Tryst is “The Office.” Well, now they can drink on the job in style!
Last week the Adams Morgan coffeehouse pioneer rolled out a new cocktail menu, and fellow WLDC author Samer and I were treated to some fine libation as they branch away from the bean. And as we all await the impending snowflakes of doom, it’s nice to note that Tryst will be open throughout the storm!
In operation since 1998, Tryst has always aimed to be a neighborhood gathering place true to its fun motto, “No Corporate Coffee, No Matching Silverware.” Of course they opened the year after I’d already left Adams Morgan for Logan Circle, so I’ve never been one to hang out there – but several friends really do treat it as their office, setting up with laptops and getting social over the screens, fueled by lots and lots of coffee. Just as the java isn’t corporate, when it came time to debut a new cocktail menu, Tryst wanted to do the same for drinks. With David Fritzler at the helm, Tryst’s beverage director for the past ten years, and two new bartenders – J.P. Cacares and Lana Labermeier – the new menu is billed as “quality cafe cocktails” ranging in price from $6-10.
As David told us, “I want to bring pre-Prohibition cocktail knowledge, quality liquors and fresh ingredients out of the speakeasy and expensive hotel bars and to the general public.” As a member of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild, he’s already dedicated to a high standard of cocktail culture. We parked ourselves at the bar and knocked back a few to see whether the drinks would succeed.
A few years back, a loveably zany Irish friend of mine lugged tea bags with her from her Drogheda cupboards to the communal hostel kitchens of Buenos Aires, Rio, La Paz and Cusco. I’ll admit that I didn’t really get it. (“If only I had brown bread right now too,” she’d sigh dreamily, nearby mate drinkers looking on curiously as she downed cup after cup of her smuggled vice.) To say that Edel is a tea enthusiast is an understatement.
I didn’t understand her tea passion…that is, until I moved east to windswept Scotland, where a steaming cuppa is sometimes the only sure way to chase the chill from one’s bones. There I also learned to appreciate the soothing and intimate ritual of gathering with friends over a shared refreshment that requires time—time to steep, to cool, to sip, to savor, to merely pause and take it all in.
Coffee culture seems the more visible beverage addiction in most US cities (DC included), while the army of tea devotees tend to fly under the radar. But I suspect they’re out there. So where can a tea lover get a fix here? The options include spots pretentious and proper, casual and cozy, and those somewhere in between.
"espresso at m.e. swing coffee roasters" by tvol, on Flickr
For many of us, it’s coffee, not liquor, that’s our “water of life.” I’m quite certain I could survive without alcohol. But I know I could never live without caffeine. I’ve tried really really hard to give it up, especially when I was diagnosed with a heart murmur and began to notice every jitter and flutter. I fell off that wagon so many times I have a permanent head bump. Inevitably I’ve given up giving up, rationalizing that I’m just a much better person on caffeine.
But DC has a bit of a coffee culture problem. It’s hard for little independent cafes to survive (witness the deaths of Sparky’s, 14U, Mocha Hut, Mayorga, Murky Coffee…). Sometimes it seems we’ve given over to the Great Dairy Mermaid and her bitter rival the Loose Moose (wait, it’s the mermaid’s grinds that are really bitter, but I digress) that populate every corner plying milky sugary bastardized versions of the classics.
I know, I know, you can’t give up your vanilla syrup. It’s ok. I’m not going to repeat my last rant about the decline of the perfect cappuccino. I’m not going to wax poetical about espresso in Venice or cafe au lait in Paris. Everybody has their particular coffee fixation – drip, press, etc. The uniting point is that there are some fine places to get your fix, ah, enjoy your coffee, here in DC, beyond the glut of mass market methadone. And with the news that Murky’s being reinvented in Chinatown, and a new coffeehouse called Mid-City Cafe will hit 14th Street, things could be looking up. So here’s a sampling of java joints to get your joy jitters on – and please leave your favorites in the comments.