Friday Happy Hour: The Garden

Photo courtesy of Jenn Larsen
“The Garden” cocktail
courtesy of Jenn Larsen

After almost two weeks of struggling with being sick and exhausted, my disco nap this past Wednesday night was in danger of becoming an early bedtime. Then the tweet came through from Fedward with the magical phrase, “There is a bottle of Gran Classico behind the bar and a drink including it on the menu. Somebody’s holding out.”

I bolted out of bed and dashed over to American Ice Company. Yes, it was a race of mad cliches. That’s what “bitter love” does to the granddaughter of a Torinese during an aperitivo shortage.

Spirits in Black happens roughly every month at American Ice and has quickly become my favorite recurring event in the city. Patrick Owens just plain rocks as he mixes drinks inspired by heavy metal while head-banging and air-guitaring with abandon, and I’m always impressed by Ashley May’s ability to keep everyone happy and in line. Joined by a guest bartender and a metal DJ, it’s a night that brings out the best in the DC drinks and music scenes – people are talkative, friendly, and enjoying themselves.

And then there are the drinks. Puns are standard for the cleverly named cocktails. Nothing is taken too seriously and the drinks themselves are always fun and innovative (often including pyrotechnics like the beloved Rye on Fire). This past Wednesday featured Jeff Faile from Fiola as guest bartender along with Patrick and sommelier Andy Myers as the metal-spinning DJ, with that bottle of the currently elusive** Gran Classico to beckon me in.

All the drinks I tried were fascinating (squid ink in a cocktail? a coconut water punch that actually tastes good? oh yes more please), but of course if you haven’t already guessed, this week’s Friday Happy Hour highlights the one with that aforementioned Italian bitter. My first sip of The Garden happened before I’d even read the ingredients. “Wait, is that carrot juice?” It was. With Illegal Mezcal, Gran Classico, carrot, black pepper, agave, celery bitters and a big ol’ basil leaf garnish, this really was a garden in a glass. Smoke from the mezcal and the vegetal funk of the celery bitters and Gran Classico offset what the carrot juice might have made too sweet, while the complementary colors of orange and green made for a lovely look.

Plus, I felt healthy drinking it. Healthy while head-banging to metal, instead of sick while banging my head against a desk? Brilliant.

**UPDATE: Then this happened. And there was much rejoicing.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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