Hank’s Cocktail Bar re-opens tonight, expanding the ambitions of the mixology lab formerly housed in an old church in Petworth with new digs in Dupont Circle.
Chef and restaurateur Jamie Leeds moved the bar in part to optimize the second-story space above the original Hank’s Oyster Bar and in part to give bar program manager Hunter Douglas a bigger stage.
“He wasn’t getting the exposure that I felt like he deserved,” says Leeds, whose restaurant group brought Douglas over from the Alex speakeasy at the Graham hotel last year.
For Douglas, the most enticing part of the move is the opportunity to root around in the kitchen downstairs. Now that he works above Hank’s Oyster Bar, Douglas can search for ways to reduce food waste and incorporate more savory flavors. The cocktail bar will also serve a small menu of raw bar items and snacks including Old Bay fries, Eastern Shore crab dip, and a kosher hot dog with onion rings.
The expansive drink menu that Douglas oversees includes a “Market Fresh” section that incorporates celery shrub into a Hayman’s Old Tom gin and tonic and pairs jalapeno shrub with Talisker scotch.
The “Food Production” part of the menu features a “She Who Lives in a Shell” cocktail that passes vermouth through a washed oyster shell and adds nori along with Plymouth gin and Sombra mezcal. The “To the Dome” combines Irish whiskey and wasabi pickle brine.
Sustainability will play a big part at the new Hank’s. Douglas proves that with a “Revisionist History” that uses a historic milk clarification technique — a recipe has been uncovered from Benjamin Franklin — that cleans up stale flavors from old coffee, lemons, and tea. Hot milk is added to the cocktail mix, which then separates into curds that adhere to astringent compounds before being strained out.
“We shake it with a Guatemalan rum, and it’s kind of like a fluffy play on a daiquiri,” Douglas says.
Hank's Cocktail Bar Menu by on Scribd
The drink menu is huge, but Douglas wants to foster an environment where customers aren’t limited by it. He likes “geeking out” with guests and will invite them to ask him what he’s workshopping. In Petworth, that meant previewing a fat-washed peanut butter bourbon.
Douglas, who grew up in Colorado Springs and has a degree in political science, knew he’d build a career in the service industry when he was working for a non-profit in D.C. but held onto three or four bartending shifts per week. He previously worked at Boxcar Tavern and Park Tavern on Barracks Row, Urban Butcher, the Partisan, and Drink Company’s series of pop-up bars.
Leeds says the creative energy he’s brought to the new cocktail bar has crept into Hank’s Oyster Bar downstairs.
“What I really love is how the staff is so excited about it,” Leeds says. “People are beaming.”
Hank’s Cocktail Bar is located above Hank’s Oyster Bar at 1624 Q Street NW. It closes on Mondays, operates from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sundays and from Tuesday through Thursday, and stays open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Happy Hour (Tuesday through Friday) is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Inside Hank’s Cocktail Bar, Dupont’s New Second-Story Mixology Lab [EDC]
- The Science of Fat-Washing Cocktails [Serious Eats]
- The Key to Crystal-Clear Cocktails? Milk. (Really.) [Cooks Illustrated]