Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

Best Of: Drinks 2010

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

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.

Now, on to my favorite Drinks moments of 2010!

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Entertainment, Food and Drink, People, Special Events, The Features, We Love Drinks

Thankful (for Drinks)

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘flipperman75’

Two weeks til Thanksgiving. Maybe you are staying put in DC and hosting your own dinner. Or you’re heading elsewhere and are faced with the inevitable stress of traveling. In either case, chances are you’re going to need liquid courage. Don’t panic, We Love Drinks is here to help.

Some personal disclosure – my parents are teetotalers. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? For my brother and I, no holiday visit to the parental compound is complete without a trip to the local liquor store, loading up on a whole cart of wine and spirits. He has expensive tastes. Somehow I end up paying. But it’s worth it.

Of course I’m not advocating getting bombed for Thanksgiving! Enjoy the holiday by indulging in some civilized drinks in moderation. I canvassed three local sommeliers for their recommendations of what goes best with the traditional feast, and as with the end of summer wines list culled previously, they’ve responded with some stand-out sips.

Let’s start with Elli Benchimol from Chef Geoff’s, who speaks for most of us when she says, “My Thanksgiving lasts all day, and most of the night, there are usually children running around, as well as adults, and it is an absolute necessity to have lots of wine, not only to keep you sane, but to keep you going.” Continue reading

Food and Drink, Interviews, People, The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Elli Benchimol

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘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.

Elli Benchimol is never without a wine key, maybe two. Sometimes three. This can cause problems with airport security. Or, it can save the day! Either way, she laughs it off. It’s a chilly afternoon, and she thoughtfully pours me some hot tea as we sit down to talk about her background and learn about the beverage program she manages at AGAINN, downtown’s new “British Isles Bistro.”

Fellow author and photographer Samer has come along and can’t stop salivating at the wall of scotch. But we’ll get to that soon! I had previously stumbled onto AGAINN one night not having a clue that they had a brilliant cocktail program, and was instantly smitten. The bar is beautifully lined with fresh ingredients, garnishes and brown bottles, a selection of bitters, exotic tinctures of vanilla rooibos.

“Some people have added the syrups to their fish and chips by accident,” Elli smiles.
But I’m sure they would never be made to feel intimidated about such a mistake here. It’s a friendly environment, with the affectionate camaraderie between Elli and her staff immediately obvious.

Maybe that’s part of the West Coast style. Elli is a transplant from the laid-back land, someone who (like our first profile Josh Volz) was profoundly influenced by the San Francisco cocktail and wine scene. She’s part of a tradition of culinary professionals who believe that bar and kitchen should go hand in hand, and that quality is worth the wait.

“In San Francisco I learned that waiting for ten minutes for a cocktail is the true test,” Elli says, getting ready to line up some of her favorites. Samer and I lean forward like eager students.

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