When experimental cocktail lab Nocturne opened underneath Shaw’s Sugar Shack last fall, its tasting program was a little all over the map — and not in a regionally inspired kind of way. Guests could pick three or five small drink combinations from a confusing chart of 30 elixirs, categorized by seasonal, savory, and rich flavors.
Nocturne (1932 Ninth Street NW) just scratched that entire model, cutting its cocktail count in half and giving drinkers the option to guzzle trios of full-sized cocktails influenced by four regions of the world. The new beverage director behind the wheel is Cusbah and Provision No. 14 alum Hakim Hamid, a prolific hospitality vet who’s worked at scene-y spots like Chicago’s theWit and Atlanta’s STK.
His weeks-old Nocturne creations are presented on a clear lucite board that reveals illuminated cocktail descriptions when placed atop its dramatic back-lit onyx bar. Dubbed “Atlas,” the menu features flavors and culinary inspirations from four regions around the globe: Middle East, Scandinavia, the Americas and Western Europe, with a snack plate pairing ($8) for each region.
“The direction I chose for this program is very approachable, despite it being labor intensive and very creative,” says Hamid, who joined about a month ago and came up with the cocktails inside Nocturne’s Alexandria sister speakeasy bar Captain Gregory’s.
Hamid replaces Chris Jakubowski as bar director, but chef Brandon McDermott is still on board. He pairs regions — like Western Europe’s gin, champagne, and grappa-heavy cocktails — with duck liver mousse, and the Middle Eastern section features a khajoor ki mithai accompaniment of walnuts, noir dates, and cinnamon. For the Americas, there’s chicharron.
The Scandanavian region took the most thought, says Hamid. There’s the booze-forward Norra Sidan with vermouth, chartreuse, saffron bitters, and house-made celery and fennel vodka, served atop a horizontal wooden stick.
“It’s all alcohol but dangerously deceptive. It’s easy to drink,” he says.
Another stand-out drink is the Ojos del Pina — Nocturne’s Latin American spin on an Old Fashioned, which subs in passion fruit for a sugar cube. Hamid built an indoor grill to roast pineapple with natural raw sugar cane, which is then infused with pisco.
“It has the strength of bourbon,” he says. Adding an egg white reminds drinkers they’re having primarily all Latin American ingredients in what tastes like an American cocktail.
The party could head upstairs as part of a potential “Nocturne with the sun out” program on Sundays, in which Hamid envisions serving several brunch cocktails inside its sun-lit Sugar Shack counterpart during the day. And when the bar is closed on Tuesdays, he’s also floating the idea of hosting industry bartender battles, using up liquor from the week as part of a Chopped-style playful competition.
The 15-seat bar takes its last reservations at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and until 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.