Over time, some famous people have become almost as known for their drinking ways — and cocktail choices — as their skill. Think Ernest Hemingway, or the fictional James Bond. But what about a few notable Washingtonians, those at the helm of beloved D.C. institutions and businesses? Eater queried a few of them to get the skinny on their cocktail preferences — and go-to bars to procure these boozy favorites.
The Sazerac, a New Orleans staple often referred to as America's oldest cocktail, was an answer that came up often. Washington Post columnist and MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein said that he didn't want to get "too gushy" but that he's always been partial to Sazeracs, especially those made at absinthe specialty bar Libertine in Adams Morgan. "I'm a whiskey drinker normally, and I really like absinthe, so it's a perfect drink for me," the Wonkblog editor said.
Sazeracs also topped the spirits list of musician Sam McCormally, who fronts the D.C.-based indie rock band Ugly Purple Sweater. Normally the singer and composer doesn't get too fancy with cocktails. However, the sazerac at Founding Farmers is where he says the treat is fashioned best (unless someone wants to buy him one elsewhere, he joked.).
Sarah DeLucas, one of the founders of DC Bocce, calls herself an old-school gal when it comes to alcoholic beverages, so drinks should be "neat, simple and full of booze flavor," she said. That means a classic gin martini up hits the spot, and it's a must-order at the The Round Robin & Scotch Bar in The Willard Intercontinental Hotel in downtown D.C. "There's no finer pairing on the planet than gin and olives," she said.
PoPville scribe and founder Dan Silverman finds it taxing to nominate a number one cocktail as a lover of gin, bourbon, whiskey rum and "pretty much everything except tequila." When going to a bar like Room 11 that's known for elaborate concoctions, he said he likes to ask the bartender to mix up a drink of his or her choosing. Since sampling a straight-up Manhattan his wife was drinking last year, he said he's been hooked on Manhattans. Chez Billy "pours it perfect every time," and his secret joint for a stellar Manhattan is Adams Morgan's cozy underground Little Fountain Cafe. "What I think I like most about the Manhattan is that when poured right you get the sweetness of the bourbon followed by an incredible smoothness," he said. "It doesn't kick you in the teeth afterwards. And it's not too sweet like sometimes an Old Fashioned can be."
The classic concoction is also recommended by another blog big-timer, Brandon Wetherbee, the managing editor of Brightest Young Things and host of the "You, Me, Them, Everybody" podcast and live show. Wetherbee likes to go to Jack Rose and for the bourbon in the Manhattan to be of the bartender's choosing. "If I'm drinking, it's usually just bourbon at home with my wife. This is the best way to drink. Since that isn't always possible, I prefer to be in a windowless underground cavern, surrounded by fine bourbons I don't have at home," he said. "The selection at Jack Rose is second to none in D.C. I think of it as the classier, older brother to Chicago punk rock/whiskey mecca Delilah's. Classy older brothers seem like they should drink Manhattans."
Brian Johnson, the force behind HungryLobbist.com, appreciates the care it takes to create a Ramos Gin Fizz — an involved New Orleans drink made with gin, lemon juice, egg white, sugar, cream, orange flower water and soda water. The best renditions Johnson has found in D.C. are at Room 11 and Hank's Oyster Bar on Capitol Hill. "It must be shaken in a tumbler for 10-15 minutes, by hand, in order to reach the proper froth level and consistency," he said. "I love this drink because it's smooth, and must be individually crafted by hand. Yet the ingredients are not rare as to only be available at one or two high end places."
When Black Cat manager Matt Brown goes out, 90 percent of the time he's content to sip on something bubbly and take a shot of Fernet Branca. Lately, his go-to, though, is Bar Pilar enjoying Matt Cabral's creations during cocktail specialty night "Tool Man Mondays." "Rather than shake his featured cocktail for five odd minutes for the ideal foam, he (Cabral) 'shakes' it with a reciprocating saw in a matter of seconds," Brown said. "Not only is it cool to watch, but you get your drink a lot faster. Oh, and they happen to taste awesome." This past week was The Great Warrior Poet, made with rye whiskey, egg white, a splash of half and half, lemon and lime juice, simple syrup and topped with ginger.
Musician Matt Dowling, part of touring indie band Deleted Scenes, turns to another D.C. musician for cocktail inspiration. The Man Jam was dreamed up by Jimmy Rhodes, the drummer of the band Black Clouds, when he was bartending at the Rock & Roll Hotel rooftop. The drink blends Jeremiah Weed sweet tea, vodka, sprite and lemonade and is still available exclusively at the Rock & Roll Hotel. "Perfect for drinking while keeping your energy up, either during a Sunday Funday or a late night hangout," Dowling said. "It's kind of like a Four Loko that actually tastes good and won't kill you."
It's probably no surprise that the owner of The Bar Method D.C., the pilates-ballet hybrid workout, would be health-conscious even when knocking back a few. Kate Arnold said she's a fan of the Rosalita Skinny Margarita from Rosa Mexicano because it's delicious, refreshing, not overly sweet and, of course, of low calorie. "It's a healthier alternative to other margaritas, but tastes fresh and natural," she said.
Other known Washingtonians confessed to imbibing simpler fare then complex cocktails. Prosecco is what Capital Fringe executive director Julianne Brienza always orders. If it's available on tap, like at The Passenger and Graffiato, even better. And rising comedic talent Sara Armour favors a shot of Jameson at Wonderland Ballroom poured by her favorite bartender Dario. "Oh and why a shot? Let's not waste all of our stomach space on beverage. I'd rather be drunk and eat a pizza," she said.
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