Drinks Preview: Mockingbird Hill

Derek Brown was describing the concept behind Mockingbird Hill one lazy, sherry-soaked afternoon. The name came from a line in Spanish Bombs, by The Clash (“The Only Band That Matters”) and the motif was inspired by the casual wine bars of Spain. It would feature some 54 sherries selected by his wife (and famous sherry proponent) Chantal Tseng, who was leaving Tabard Inn to work with him running the bar.

“So basically,” I said, “it’s a love letter to your wife.”

Opening tonight, their new bar is a love letter to a lot of things. To sherry and time spent in Spain. To family and friends. To both self-professed “sherry addicts” and to those who don’t know anything about sherry but are happy to learn. Located on 7th Street NW in a section of Shaw that’s primed to become one of the most exciting areas in the city, Mockingbird Hill feels like a new chapter in bar life for DC. It’s a casual spot to sip and learn, eat ham, listen to punk rock, and talk. It’s, dare I say, adult, in a very sexy way. I’m sure it’ll be packed for a bit, as new places always are in our city starved for more density, but eventually it’ll settle into that perfect third space bar.

It’s simple, really, a long room of white-washed brick walls with a stainless steel bar running its length, ending in a ham carving station where you can watch as a leg of ham gleaming with fat gets sliced up. There’s a smaller bar and a communal table in the rustic wood-walled back room.

Sherry is the focus. If you don’t know anything about it, never fear, the staff of incredible sommeliers are dedicated to helping you explore this spirit that’s more than its sweet reputation. I tried a dry fino on the preview night that would kill anyone’s idea of sherry as dessert only, plus the gorgeous classic cocktail Bamboo, made with fino, vermouth, orange bitters and lemon that is so delicate and aromatically perfect you may want it as perfume. American cured ham is highlighted, most of it local as with DC’s own Red Apron, and the menu will be mainly the snacks you’d expect with sherry: olives, walnuts, manchego, and anchovies.

Besides the sherry, and four sherry-based cocktails, there’s a Green Hat gin and tonic on tap, created by Brown and JP Fetherston, and two taps dedicated to DC Brau and 3 Stars Brewing Co. The rest of the drinks menu will be a small selection of wine and liquor.

Think of Mockingbird Hill as a curated bar, run by passionate people who want to share their love with you. They want you to eat more ham and drink more sherry. I’m happy to oblige.

Mockingbird Hill is located at 1843 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. Closest Metro stop: Shaw/Howard University (Green/Yellow lines).

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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