Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: How to Make a Knockout Punch

I’m going to let you guys in on a big secret about cocktail bars: we love batching. Got a delicious drink recipe that calls for half a dozen esoteric spirits and liqueurs? Great! Do I want to run up and down my bar trying to find them when I’m getting crushed during Saturday dinner service? About as much as you want to wait ten minutes for that drink. So we batch ahead of time. Like everyone else in the industry, I’ve got mixed feelings about batching. But sometimes it’s not just necessary, it’s preferred. And by that I’m talking about punches.

Punches are a host’s best friend. Easy to serve, better prepared ahead of time, and taste great; proper punch will earn you some serious colonial-era cocktail cred (maybe not that important to everyone… but check out Benjamin Franklin’s punch recipe). Try a punch at your next party and you will forever sing the praises of batching.

My recipes always follow the same format: 750 ml spirits, 375 fortified wine, 1000 ml tea, 250 ml citrus juice, 250 ml sugar, and 250 ml water. That’s roughly equal to one bottle of hooch, half a bottle of fortified wine, a pot of tea, a cup of citrus, a cup of sugar, and a cup of water. As far as actual ingredients goes, I’m a stickler for tradition (when it suits me) so I like to use colonial-era ingredients like applejack and maderia, two of the most consumed alcoholic beverages during foundation of our nation. Other than that, it’s dealer’s choice. Similar to boozy nogs, punches can take a mixture of multiple spirits; bourbon, rye, rum, brandy, genever, it will all blend in the end. You can even do a vodka-based punch. The ladies of LUPEC served one up at the Repeal Day Ball and it was so delicious, I was ready to cry witchcraft. Generally though, I avoid using vodka in my punches because we can’t all have skills like its creator, The Passenger‘s Alex Bookless. The exception being zubrowka; bison grass-infused vodka, that is. Mixed with apple cider, manzanilla sherry, and chamomile tea, a zubrowka punch is a beautiful thing. But that’s another post.

Final punch pro tips: don’t get fancy with the spirits, go fancy with the other ingredients. Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: WLDC 2012-2013 Theater Review


Spring is in the air, Cherry Blossoms are coming and going, pesky tourists return to stand on the left side of the escalator.

As the temperature goes up, the DC Theatre season is winding down. With a couple of months to go til we enter the “Summer Reruns”, the We Love DC Theater team got back together at The Passenger to look back at what we said in our earlier preview and how it all shook out.

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Food and Drink, We Love Drinks, WTF?!

Brooklyn Is the New Black

They say imitation is the sincerest form of copying. At least somebody said that. I said it on my tumblr a while back and I didn’t think I was being original at the time, anyway. It should thus come as little surprise that there is now another bar called Passenger. What does come as a surprise is that it’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, whose hipsters are known for dismissing anything remotely unoriginal. Brooklyn’s Passenger is train-themed (obviously) although it substitutes a small upstairs space for the DC original’s narrow railcar.

The Brown brothers reacted on Twitter, with Derek tweeting, merely, “Ahem” and Tom asking, “Have you ever heard of this thing called ‘Google’?” Tom added the #FakePassenger hashtag, which I think sums the whole thing up rather well.

Hey, Brooklyn? We knew the Passenger before it was cool.

Food and Drink, The District, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Hogo Preview

The info sheet handed out at Hogo’s media preview reads, “Hogo is part of a project called Temporary Works that hopes to bring new late-night dining options to Washington, D.C. by giving talented chefs a platform to cook bar food with their own twists. Located inside Hogo, Temporary Works has a dine-in kitchen that will be helmed by a cast of rotating chefs from Washington, D.C. and other nearby cities.” If you read recent City Paper coverage you might be asking, “would they really open a bar knowing that it would have to close in a year?” Your answer is thus completely out in the open, proudly announcing itself with the name Temporary Works. Hell, that’s even the name that appeared on the ABRA notice.

This cannot in any way be an impartial report. Regular readers of this site — especially the weekend posts — might by now have the idea that the Social Chair and I spend a lot of time at the Passenger, two doors north of Hogo. It should thus come as little surprise that we’ve come to be friends with brothers Tom and Derek Brown (and in the interest of the fullest disclosure possible, we have known their landlords and partners the Rupperts for even longer than we have known the Browns). We first met Tom in the company of the Rupperts after a “garage sale” at the Warehouse Theater, in the Passenger’s early days. Presented with the horrible beach cocktail book we’d bought at the sale, he admitted that what he really wanted to open was a rum bar with tiki drinks. Several years and uncounted Tiki Tuesdays later, he has realized that dream with Hogo. Not only have we known the new bar was coming, though, we helped paint the place and move the furniture.

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Adventures, Entertainment, Food and Drink, Fun & Games, Special Events, The Features

Join Us at the Renaissance Festival!

Photo courtesy of
‘Exhorting the Gentlefolk’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’


Ah, yes, it’s that time of year. The time when you begin to have strange cravings for Steak-on-a-Stick, or smoked turkey leg eaten right off the bone, gnawing away with relish like Henry VIII. Perhaps you find yourself speaking in an excruciatingly bad English accent, or inexplicably adding “e” to the ends of words like “Shop” or “Old” – well then my friend, it’s time to don thy frippery best and hie thee to the Maryland Renaissance Festival!

RennFest is always a blast, and this year we’ve decided to really let our inhibitions run wild with some good olde-fashioned goofy fun. Lots of it. And we want you to come along! We Love DC has partnered with The Passenger and the Boomerang Party Bus to bring you to the Maryland Renaissance Festival this Sunday, October 16th! Tickets are $25 and include both your bus ride to and fro ye old faire and your entry admission! Snap them up on the magickal PayPal.

We’ll depart promptly at 11am from The Passenger (that’s at 1021 7th Street NW, milords and ladies) and travel to the Festival in a refurbished school bus replete with music, mayhem and dance poles (Yes, I know that’s an anachronism. But seriously, have you seen The Tudors?). After arrival at the Festival you’re free to wander the Revel Grove, slurp down some oyster shooters, indulge in fried Oreos, beer and bee stings, testing your mad skills at archery or feats of strength, buying chainmail underwear, and just giving in to the kitschy glory that is the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Then our carriage departs around 5pm to hie back to The Passenger just in time for a late, delicious brunch.

So please come along with fellow WLDC authors Don, Fedward, myself and the rest of our motley crew as we join our favorite folks from The Passenger on a trip back in time… I may even wear a corset. HUZZAH!

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Long Drinks for a Long Weekend

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘furcafe’
A long drink, a term with which you might not be familiar, is a bartender’s term for a cocktail which is longer on non-alcoholic mixer than it is on base spirit. You may already know some long drinks as highballs, a slightly younger name which refers to a long drink made with just a single base spirit and a single mixer, often with a fruit garnish. A gin and tonic is a highball, but a Tom Collins (containing not only gin and soda but sugar and lemon juice) is a long drink. The Tom Collins, by the way, gave its name to the archetypical tall glass in which these drinks are served. A highball glass is usually synonymous with a Collins glass (and vice versa).

Cocktails follow formulas, and the combination of a single base spirit and a particular mixer often lends its name to some other concoction made with the same mixer and a different base spirit. The Tom Collins, for instance, begat the Vodka Collins. You could ask a bartender for a Whiskey Collins, and while he or she might look at you funny they’d know exactly what you mean without having to stop to think. Some names have lost popularity over time (Mamie Taylor, anyone?), but others are still current and show up in all sorts of interesting combinations. The Mojito, by the way, is also a long drink; replace the rum with gin and it becomes a Southside; add lemon to that and it turns into a Major Bailey. Formulas! They’re magic!
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Food and Drink, Night Life, The Features, We Love Drinks

The Week in Drinks in Pictures

Tiki Tuesday 7
All photos by the author

If you follow me on Twitter, you might be aware that this has been an eventful week. Literally. Friday the Social Chair and I hosted her birthday party, Sunday we hit our usual brunch, Monday I had a tasting, and Tuesday saw the launch party for Dan Searing’s new book, The Punch Bowl. Plus Tuesday was, as always, Tiki Tuesday at the Passenger. So I was busy.

Instead of picking just one of those, I thought this week would be a perfect opportunity for a photo feature. So here goes.

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Food and Drink, Night Life, Special Events, The Daily Feed

The Punch Bowl: Book Launch Tonight


Remember how I said I reached out to Dan Searing about a launch event for his book? I found out earlier today that launch event is tonight, at 6pm in the Warehouse Theater behind the Passenger.

I’ve already made use of the book, as you might discern from the above picture. That’s an oleo-saccharum in progress — sugar muddled with lemon peel, extracting the oil from the peel and resulting in a much more complex final product than you’d get with just lemon juice. I’ll see you tonight!

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 Daily Feed

Drinks Smackdown! Norton vs. Colbert

Word on the Truthiness Beat is that Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has challenged Stephen Colbert to down a shot of the lethal Norton’s Revenge, to be served to those truly courageous enough to knock back its brutal liquid force at The Passenger’s official happy hour event for the March to Keep Fear Alive.

From 3pm-7pm this Saturday, not only can you enjoy some seriously fun cocktails like the Tea Bagger (Kilbaggan whiskey, dry vermouth, and olive juice) or the Fear Monger (Kraken rum, lime and ginger beer) with 10% of sales going charity, you also just might witness the epic endgame between Norton and Colbert, whose battle royale has been waged not only in the name of comedy but also to help educate the country on the lack of voting representation for District residents.

So can you down a Norton’s Revenge, Colbert? Let’s see you sneer at DC now, huh? Take your medicine!

Entertainment, Food and Drink, Special Events, The Daily Feed

“Tiki. Tacos. Terror.”

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘spiggycat’

Trust my favorite bar The Passenger to come up with a terrifyingly terrific way to spend the night before All Hallow’s Eve. Saturday, October 30 from 7pm to close, the bar will toy with the occult by serving up the infamous El Zombie cocktail, a concoction so potent it’s rumoured to turn the living into the undead!

Regular Zombie cocktails are deadly enough – with their origins in the 1930’s Tiki craze, the deceptive fruit content of these rum-based drinks mask the alcohol, resulting in the inbiber’s doooooooooom. From a haunted laboratory within the bar, test your fortitude against the El Zombie’s “evil combination of Mezcal, overproof rum, and infierno” resurrected from a secret recipe. Shudder. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, We Love Drinks

Imbibe Loves DC Too

Photo courtesy of
‘The Tabard Cocktail’
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

The September/October 2010 edition of Imbibe magazine is out and features a sampling of the DC cocktail and beer scenes. With cocktail recipes from Gina Chersevani of PS7, Alex Bookless of The Passenger (recent winner of the Rickey Contest), and Chantal Tseng of Tabard Inn, the ladies represent!

Try your hand at mixing up Gina’s “Beetiful Bubbles” with, yes, beet syrup, or Alex’s “That Cucumber Drink” muddling cucumber and mint, or my personal long-term favorite, Chantal’s “Tabard Cocktail” combining sherry and tequila. Fantastic.

The current issue also breaks down 20 beer spots both inside and outside the city highlighting both the usual suspects like Greg Engert’s program at Birch & Barley/Churchkey and a few surprises.

The best part about DC being featured in Imbibe this month? The tone is congratulatory, not condescending in that way we sometimes see other national publications yap about DC’s food/drink offerings (Grey Lady, I am looking at you). I love it when our local talent gets recognized!

Entertainment, Food and Drink, Special Events, The Daily Feed, We Love Drinks

Wrapping Up the Rickey

Alex Bookless wins the Rickey Contest. Photo: Scott Wolfson.

The Third Annual Rickey Month Celebration was Monday night, and I’m only now getting around to recap it after being honored to participate in the final judging. That should give you a better idea of what kind of wild fun party it was than anything I could possibly write, but…

The five final contestants presented a quintet of Rickey riffs highlighting the enormous talent we have on hand here in DC mixology. None were derivative, all were inventive, and it was a very tough call. That’s the sign of an excellent field of contestants – congratulations to the DC Craft Bartenders Guild!

But there has to be a winner, and it was Alex Bookless (The Passenger) with her The Root of All Rickey, a complex mix of both event sponsors Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Hendrick’s Gin. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Congratulations to The Passenger!

Photo courtesy of
‘The Passenger 7’
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Bon Appetit magazine has named local favorite The Passenger as one of the top ten best new cocktail bars in the country in their August edition, with a nod to its internal cocktail club the Columbia Room as well. That should come as no surprise for a bar that has continued to excel since its November opening.

It’s a well-deserved honor for the Brown brothers, co-owners Tom and Derek, who are true gentlemen imbibers and fantastic practitioners of the cocktail craft. So head on over to give them your congratulations. This would be the perfect time to sample DC’s own Rickey!

Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Columbia Room

The Columbia Room. Photo credit: Max Cook.

Imagine a little room removed from the crazy world outside – an oasis of peace entered through a busy bar. Jars of spices line the walls, while chunks of the most pristine ice you’ve ever seen are gently melting in a wooden hangiri bowl, waiting to be carved up. Bottles stand neatly at the ready, watched over by a dapper gentleman sporting a perfect bowtie. This is the Columbia Room, and for a few blissful hours prepare to be transported to drinks nirvana, as Derek Brown brings you a “cocktail club” nestled inside The Passenger. It’s like a spa for spirit lovers, evoking a true intimacy almost lost to us in these hectic times.

I’ve been eager to try out the Columbia Room since I first heard whispers of its concept, unintentionally eavesdropping on co-owners and brothers Tom and Derek Brown before The Passenger ever opened, and it’s no secret that later The Passenger quickly became one of my favorite bars. So it was with much anticipation that I finally entered this gentle yet meticulous environment on two occasions last week – once for a class and once for service – and I can’t think why I wouldn’t be back again and again.

As with The Passenger, there’s no attitude here. All you need to get in is to find a open slot on the online reservation system and hold it with a card. You’ll be called ahead of time to confirm and review any preferences. There’s a four person maximum to each reservation, and the prixe fixe menu of $49 (tax and tip inclusive) includes a welcoming glass of champagne, the nightly cocktail paired with a small plate, and a customized cocktail. There are also weekly classes by Derek Brown and Kat Bangs for $65 covering all aspects of crafting cocktails. I had a wonderful time at Kat’s recent champagne cocktail class, learning how to make my own blackberry liqueur and sugar cubes. Both service and class are well worth it.

So, let’s decompress into cocktail transcendence…

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Food and Drink, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Cocktail Class at The Columbia Room

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘furcafe’

Now that The Passenger is well embarked with Tom Brown at the helm, brother Derek Brown’s internal cocktail laboratory – the bar-within-the-bar called the Columbia Room – is set to start classes in February. Seminars will be held every other Wednesday at 7pm for $65 each. The current line up through March sounds fascinating. It’s an ambitious program that will be helpful not only for you libation geeks already making your own bitters and eager to learn more, but also for those just delving into the world of craft cocktails.

“A Primer on Orange Liqueur” kicks off February 17, covering the difference between major top-shelf makers and showing participants how to make your own version of triple sec. Derek will demonstrate proper Margarita, Sidecar and Fancy Gin cocktails and help elevate this sometimes over-abused ingredient. Continue reading

The Features, We Love Drinks

2009, A Glass Half Full

Glass Half Full

"Glass Half Full" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr

When I inaugurated the We Love Drinks feature back in September 2008, I really didn’t give it much thought to start with, honestly. We founding writers were tossing around feature ideas, and I said, “hey, what about drinks? I go out a fair amount.” That simple. It began mostly with bar reviews, with some coffee and tea thrown in for good measure.

But that slowly started to change when I realized there were people passionate about drinks culture in the city – not just nightlife and where to go to get wasted (not that I was writing about that! those days are over, darlings, good-bye jello shots!). It was a humbling experience to discover what a neophyte I was – when I got caught in the crossfire of a discussion on how to make your own bitters, for example, or the first time someone asked me whether I preferred green or yellow Chartreuse. Certainly the vast world of wine was still a mystery despite the wine bar explosion, and don’t even get me started about my beer ineptitude.

So why I am admitting this to you? Because these days I’m all about humility. I may be opinionated, but I’m still eager to learn and am constantly excited about the many different possibilities in our city of drinks. Respect for the taste and the balance of a proper cocktail, diving into the vast world of wine and beer, and most importantly understanding your own tolerance – that’s been my experience in 2009. Here are a few key moments that helped me on this continuing journey. Continue reading

Food and Drink, Night Life, People, The Features, We Love Drinks

Drinks Preview: The Passenger

Photo courtesy of
‘The Passenger 7’
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Let’s say you love hand-crafted cocktails, but your friend is all about Miller High Life. Up until this point, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend a place where you both would feel comfortable. Thankfully, brothers Derek and Tom Brown have created a bar where the two of you can happily cosy up in a booth together.

Last night, The Passenger opened its doors to the public. The night before, I was lucky to attend a preview of the new bar and sample the atmosphere. It’s still a work in progress, the rough-and-ready quality mimicking the surrounding neighborhood. If you were familiar with the Warehouse, the space revamps the front bar and the back area near the theater. It’s got a black diamond quality, with exposed brick, hardwood floors and a long photographic mural that’s meant to remind you of the view from a train’s windows. Booths line the walls and by this weekend the back section will be finished to resemble a mirrored dining car.

If you’re expecting an upscale exclusive club atmosphere with pinkies raised over clinkety-clink glasses, well, you’ll be disappointed. What we have here is a funky, eclectic neighborhood bar that’s set to evolve organically. And I’m not kidding, in addition to those famous made-to-taste cocktails you can also get Miller High Life and a chili half-smoke.

This is a bar where both mods and rockers are easily at home. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

The Passenger Embarks

Photo courtesy of
‘Peychaud Rinse’
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

The long-awaited new venture of the brothers Brown is set to open this Thursday. Yes, The Passenger is ready for embarkation on 7th Street, in the old bar space of the Warehouse Theater complex. It sounds rather rock-n-roll to me, with Tom Brown (formerly of Cork) slinging up made-to-taste cocktails, including seasonal pitchers, along with what will no doubt be a phenom wine list and beer – canned or draft.

Derek Brown’s internal combustion engine, the Columbia Room, won’t open til early 2010 – this is a smaller bar-inside-a-bar modeled after tiny Japanese bars with high personal interaction between bartender and guest.

Back over the summer, purely by chance, I ended up sitting next to their concept meeting outside at Room 11 and really struggled with writing about anything I’d heard that evening. I could’ve started a whole slew of rumors about what Tom and Derek were planning, but honestly, they don’t need the buzz, already being cocktail legends with a loyal following in the city.

Bottom line? I think it’s fantastic the two brothers are finally getting to work together, highlighting their different styles in one place.  You can expect a funky interior that still stays true to the surrounding historic architecture, complete with a “dining car” in the back, but nothing incredibly high-end or elaborate – there’s a dedication to building a low-key neighborhood bar feel as well. Will it become a total scene because everyone and their mother wants a hand-crafted cocktail from these guys now? Will this finally revitalize that rather raggedy stretch of street? We’ll find out.