A year after cutting ties with Jack Rose Dining Saloon to follow his personal muse, drinks guru turned bar owner Trevor Frye is peeling back the curtain on a music-fueled bar that eschews garnishes, embraces collaboration and draws inspiration from renowned performance space, the 9:30 Club.
Five to One, Frye’s ode to the iconic D.C. concert hall, is already mixing drinks at 903 U Street NW but is working towards a full-scale roll out on Friday, June 2. Every night the drinks change to honor the bands taking the stage across the way, with the bartenders literally listening to the same music and crafting drinks based on the impressions each playlist stirs up.
The former co-founder of speakeasy Dram & Grain said he has banned garnishes from his new bar in order to promote consistency — a hard lesson learned from experience. (He noted, for example, that one lemon might have more zest than another, and warned that using a peeler can be hazardous.) Instead, Frye said he plans to cap off drinks with aromatics-filled atomizers.
The name of the bar is inspired by Frye’s favorite band of all time, The Doors, and its song from 1968 — which is also the same year as the devastating riots that engulfed U Street NW and other parts of the nation’s capital. Jim Morrison’s mug is naturally present (there’s a big poster of him), while pieces of concert memorabilia are plastered over other sections of the 1,700-square-foot space Frye helped assemble (he said he wanted customers to “feel comfortable”). While the bar itself is not a music venue, it’s designed to mimic one: The third floor acts as a “balcony” for those interested in observing the bartending action taking place below. There’s even a VIP aspect to it: More than half of the spaces at the 12-seat bar require reservations, with the rest are set aside for walk-ins.
In addition to celebrating those appearing up the street, a cocktail menu scheduled to rotate quarterly includes eight “songs” (original concoctions) and four “covers” (drink recipes contributed by bartender friends from New York to Charleston). Even the mentality of ordering drinks at a concert was considered; since it can take so long to squeeze through concert-goers for another round, “boilermakers” — familiar shot-and-beer combos — are built into the beverage program for the sake of expediency.
Frye, a D.C. native, said he has been going to shows at 9:30 Club for 25 years now, and appreciates the wide range of bands that cycle through. That means his cocktail lists will also have a lot to work with; Friday’s list, for instance, will pay homage to rapper Lupe Fiasco.
Those looking to experience Frye’s taste in music can do so from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. from Monday through Thursday (another nod to the name), and from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Cocktails at his upcoming Marble Alley, set to arrive later this year or early 2018, will also be inspired by the arts. The basement gallery space will house local artists’ work, and the house cocktails will reflect those creations.
Status: Opening at 5 p.m. Grand opening on Friday, June 2. 903 U Street NW; website.