Friday Happy Hour: Roofer’s Union

Welcome to the rest of your spring and summer, people. You’re going to be spending it with me, going out in Adams Morgan. I was skeptical, just like everyone else, when I heard 18th Street was undergoing a bit of revival, but then I went to Roofer’s Union and I finally saw the light.

Good food, good drinks, friendly staff, great concept, you know the deal. The team from Ripple isn’t messing around. The drinks menu reads like my wish list–sour beers, Gansetts (Rhody pride!), amari, quinquinas–and the food is certainly a step above Jumbo Slice. Though one thing they have in common is I’m certainly going to start craving that andouille at three AM.

But what sealed the deal for me was when “Too Afraid To Love You” came on the radio. I was relaxing at the bar with beer before work and realized this would be my new go to spot if I lived around the block. Which is exactly what Adams Morgan had been missing for so long, a low key spot to hang out.

I’ve spent too many nights drinking too many whiskies at Jack Rose, followed by pints next door at Blaguard, and a bleary-eyed brunch at Cashion’s. But that was all that could get me up to Adams Morgan for a long time. Now there’s Smoke & Barrel for even more whiskey and even more pints, Dram & Grain for fancy cocktails, and mainstays of the neighborhood like Bourbon and Tryst. Slowly Adams Morgan is changing from a destination neighborhood to a more central hub, like 14th Street or Shaw.

And Roofer’s Union is going to play a big part in changing Adams Morgan’s image. I really digged everything I had there, the food, the drinks, the vibe, but what stood out to me was the downstairs bar. All the drinks are the same–beer, wine, cocktails–but there’s no food. That means less of a wait during weekend dinner rush and less of a crowd during happy hour. Which is great news for those of us just interested in the drinks and not the crazy Adams Morgan crowd.

Most people will file into the downstairs bar and have a few drinks while waiting for a table to open up upstairs. But if you’re really there for the drinks, downstairs is where you want to camp out all night. That’s where the guys behind the bar will roll out the newest drinks and experiment with off menu concoctions. And going by the current menu, the bar staff really know what they’re doing.

I immediately went for the zingy China Girl, partly because I can’t resist a David Bowie reference and partly because I can’t resist St. George Terroir gin. It’s an earthy gin with strong mineral notes. I almost never see it behind a bar, let alone on a menu. Unlike any other gin on the market, it mixes incredibly well with Zirbenz, a pine-flavored alpine liqueur, bubbly, and mandarin syrup.

The short cocktail list even has my favorite brand of genever, Diep 9, mixed with Dolin Blanc and basil peppercorn syrup in the Alligator Wine. Everything about that cocktail makes me extremely professionally jealous; I wish I came up with it myself. I think they’re the only bar in town that makes a proper Old Fashioned with gomme syrup. I mean, that’s how Jerry Thomas did it, folks. They’re even already gearing up for summer with the Red House, a mix of Maker’s Mark, berry shrub, and mint.

By far the menu all star is the Red House. It’s got a highproof rye, Zucca, Byrrh, and a blood orange shrub. Punchy, spicy, bitter, slightly sweet, citrusy. So good, so complex, it’s the one drink that you can be sure will stand up to Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s kick ass food menu. Playing the Black Keys on the radio may have made me order another round, but this drink will make me come back for a second visit (and a third, and a fourth).

And I promise you, once the rooftop bar opens and you can sip on a Red House or half a dozen Gansetts and take in one of the best views in Adams Morgan, you’ll be back for a third and a fourth visit too. If you’re anywhere near as excited as I was about the drinks and the vibe, you’ll probably be spending the entirety of your spring and summer bouncing around Adams Morgan, starting with Roofer’s Union.

Paul Allen

While having only recently relocated to DC, Paul has been a long time fan of DC’s cocktail culture. In his short career he has tended bar for GQ, Bombay Sapphire, Campari, and Nikka Whisky in London. Currently you can find him behind the stick at Firefly. When not working, he’s likely vociferously advocating for the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild or trying to brew the perfect cup of tea. Though he misses his native Rhode Island’s beaches and beautiful fall weather, Paul is proud to live, work, and–most importantly–drink in DC.


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