The Gibson, one of the pioneering bars along the 14th Street corridor that began mixing drinks before the neighborhood’s ongoing boom, is now being helmed by Espita Mezcaleria alum Ed Lainez and other drink pros intent on cementing its place in the local hospitality scene.
“This is a place with a lot of history and we want to get this name back out there and the program relevant again. It got lost through cracks with so many cocktails bars coming into the city,” Lainez tells Eater.
He took over late last year and has cobbled together a team of D.C. bar vets including Jose Cox, Paul Gonzalez (of cocktail club 1 Ounce or 2), and Sam Ward (most recently at Iron Gate). “We’ve got the right crew of guys to get this place back out there,” says Lainez.
Lainez is no stranger to the decade-old Gibson, having worked for sister bar Marvin (located right next door) and neighboring U Street Music Hall. He most recently helped Shaw newcomer Espita get up and running in 2016. As for the rest of the crew, Lainez crossed paths with many of them over time. He worked with Gonzalez last summer at Drink Company’s Game of Thrones pop-up. While Cox, a friend of his and alum of Oyamel and Barmini, simply walked into the Gibson one night asking if a position was open.
“We’ve been in the industry for so long, I trust their creative process,” Lainez says of the collaborative process now going on at the bar. More local spirits are now in the mix, including liquor made by local producers such as Jos. A. Magnus & Co., Republic Restoratives, and Cotton and Reed. The once dense drink list has been shortened to a dozen offerings designed to pay homage to the surrounding area.
See the updated list below:
“I definitely wanted to showcase the history behind this block,” says Lainez, who says he grew up on 14th Street NW. The Cool “Disco” Dan, a nod to the late graffiti artist, comes with Copper Kings Unaged Brandy, while the rum-heavy Jungle Inn refers to an old jazz club on U Street.
Inside, management gave the sleek black space a new paint job and made some other improvements since taking over the space. This month, its back patio will reopen with a pared down selection of ciders, wine, champagne, and a rotating cocktail. Other changes include now being closed on Mondays. And they nixed the idea of requiring reservations to allow more after-dinner patrons easy access. One thing that hasn’t changed: the air of mystery surrounding the self-styled speakeasy (there’s still no signage out front).