Parker Girard's little black book doesn't have any phone numbers inside it. He's got a girlfriend — and unlike everyone else on Capitol Hill, he doesn't keep a rolodex of VIPs.
Instead, his little black book is a drinks diary. In it, he records cocktail recipes for Elixir Bar, a basement bar found inside Barrel on Capitol Hill. Really, the book is a running tab of the drinks he and other bar staff have made so far. It's a diary with only a few entries to date.
That's because Elixir Bar just started making cocktails that rotate out weekly and feature various flavor themes. Girard is working with a team of bar staff, including Kody Siegel, Ruairi de Burca and Diana Cole, to build the rotating cocktail list. They're focused on flavor pairings. Girard usually consults cookbooks for his ideas. He even has a chef in on the drink making.
During Basil Week, the sous-chef at Barrel, Jon Osewalt, put together a drink called B&B Enterprises. The drink is essentially a riff off an egg white whiskey sour, but it has the addition of basil-infused olive oil. The drink takes on a smooth, viscous body and smacks of basil freshness, a flavor profile reminiscent of an Italian kitchen.
Elixir is also having a bit of fun with the flavor menu, too. For Grape Week, Girard put together what's essentially a wine cocktail. His drink, called the Virginia Spring, comes served in a wine glass and looks like a standard white wine. But there's a sprig of rosemary floating in the drink, and there's much more to it than wine. Girard builds a drink with flavors that might pair well with the Viognier varietal. He uses peach liqueur, lemon juice, Calvados (an apple brandy) and Old Tom Gin. The drink is refreshing and sweet from the peach and apple brandy, but finishes dry with the Viognier and gin.
"The idea behind the execution is paring two very potent aromatic elements with a light, refreshing cocktail," Girard says.
Wine cocktails may not be the only surprise to the menu. This week will feature beer-flavored cocktails, followed by amaro cocktails. The easiest way to check-up on the rotating menu is by consulting Elixir's Twitter page.
Most drinks are priced at $13 each. Elixir is going for a speakeasy vibe without intentionally becoming one, Girard says. "It has that mentality, but this isn't trying to be one with rules and reservations," Girard says. "We're picking drinks that we can execute well. And we do as many drinks as we can execute in a week."
At any given point there are about 20 different cocktails at Barrel. Elixir's offering is kept smaller at two to five per week.
So far, Girard says he has about 19 weeks worth of flavors. He calls it a "rough plan" for the months ahead because the staff helps to build each individual menu.
The planning process from idea, to taste sip, to finished pour, takes about two weeks. The staff starts by working on drink concepts individually, then after several tastings, they meet on Monday to review options for the current week.
"Just like when you write something, you have to put it away for a few days," Girard says. "We put the recipe idea away in a drawer and bring it back out a few days later. Then, taste it again."