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Eat and Drink Works of Modern Art in Shaw

Cocktail haven Columbia Room is getting creative this fall

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Caffé Corretto Columbia is a new brandy- and coffee-based drink at Columbia Room inspired by the work of a high-profile artist.
Photo by Farrah Skeiky
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Award-winning cocktail bar the Columbia Room wants to immerse customers in a full-blown cultural experience this fall with an inventive new tasting menu honoring works of art.

Inspired by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s new exhibit “What Absence Is Made Of,” a menu of the same name will debut at the Shaw drinking den Tuesday, October 17 (the exhibit opens the following day across town).

Offered in three- and five-course variations, each dish and drink gets the modern art treatment — think: a cocktail brewed in a weighted coffee siphon as an ode to German artist Hans Haacke’s captivating “condensation cube” — and plays on the ideas of “absence, memory, nostalgia, and change” featured across the Hishhorn’s collection.

“The exhibition contains so many intriguing ideas and offered us a real challenge in putting together a thematic menu that had no explicit connection to ingredients or flavors. It's not as if we could make a series of drinks that tasted like nothing,” says Columbia Room beverage director JP Fetherston.

Columbia Room this summer took home the coveted title of “Best American Cocktail Bar” at the 2017 Spirited Awards during Tales of the Cocktail.

One pick off the new menu is a colorless clarity cocktail, meant to conjure images of a museum section dubbed “Close to Nothing.” The drink is composed of rum, cachaça, Capitoline white vermouth, autumn squash, maple, lemon, balsam, and milk.

Served alongside Clarity is a clear penne dish with Benton’s bacon, white corn, and tapioca from head chef Johnny Spero.
Photo by Farrah Skeiky

This year, the New York Times chronicled some top restaurants housed inside museums that consider exhibits a muse for their menus.

Columbia Room, a 10-minute drive north from the Hirshhorn, will offer its companion menu through early 2018 by reservation only.

The Hirshorn exhibit is projected to remain on display through next summer.

Columbia Room

1021 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001 202 393 0220 Visit Website