When Dos Mamis, their bar with a backyard “wine garden,” opens Friday, customers will be able to get $9 glasses of wine at happy hour or splurge on a $300 bottle of Champagne. The list of 10 cheeses will reflect Steiner’s taste — in her words the “funkiest, stankiest, creamiest, Frenchiest” stuff — and Bran-Leis’s palate, which leans toward milder options like cana de cabra and aged cheddar. They’ll have two desserts on the menu: a Pedro Ximénez sherry flavored soft serve from Steiner and tres leches doughnut holes that Bran-Leis describes as “like a cream puff, like a pate a choux situation.”
Already neighbors and friends, the partners wanted Dos Mamis to represent their varied tastes and experiences. Bran-Leis has a college-aged daughter and enjoys splitting bottles of Champagne when she goes out with friends. Steiner likes to drink Cava, drives a scooter, and shows up at the bar one day complaining of a sore shoulder because she lost an arm wrestling match the previous night at a lesbian bar. The name of the new place comes from days where they’d see each other going to work on Upshur Street and would call out, “Hey mami!”
“We felt that between the two of us, there’s something for everyone,” Bran-Leis says.
Steiner says the venue, which slides into the former Hank’s Cocktail Bar space at 819 Upshur Street NW, will be part neighborhood hangout and part cocktail lab but will reject conventions of both.
They wanted to remove the pomp and pretension from wine and cocktails, which is why they refer to their outdoor space as a “wine garden,” just like a beer garden. As they’re explaining this, they’re each wearing custom Miami Heat jerseys in the Miami Vice color patterns that say Dos Mamis on the back.
“Why are you so OK buying beer from a guy in a snapback, but if somebody were to try and talk wine to you, you’d want them to wear a suit?” Steiner says. “That makes no sense to me.”
Inclusivity is the primary goal at Dos Mamis. Steiner, who also leads the beverage program at Himitsu across the street, wants to run a tight list of cocktails that keeps people from being overwhelmed.
She’s also adamant about serving low-proof and no-proof drinks for people who want to take it easy or choose not to drink alcohol at all. On the low-proof side, she’s created a “Kiss, Sherry, Kill” cocktail that blends Fino Sherry with lemon soda and coconut water. A zero-proof “Nahhhgroni” mimics the bitter-sweet flavors of a Negroni with a non-alcoholic Campari substitute, non-alcoholic vermouth, Seedlip Spice, and some other tricks — Steiner notes that hibiscus plays a big role. A “Haley,” a cocktail named for Bran-Leis’s daughter, mixes St-Germain, reposado tequila, cold-pressed ginger syrup, and a soda water topper.
Instead of the dark ambiance befitting a dive or a speakeasy, the partners wanted Dos Mamis to be as bright as possible, so they ripped out the booths in the building — an old church — that reminded Bran-Leis of confessionals and enlisted designer Natalie Park to make the sun-filled front room feel like Miami.
The motto at Dos Mamis is buenas ondas — good vibes — and bringing in a flood of light is supposed to help reinforce that. But that choice is a practical one, too.
“It’s a safety movement,” Steiner says. “I know who’s touching my butt now. I can see who needs to get kicked out.”
“Lot’s of murky things can happen in the dark,” Bran-Leis adds. Both women say their drinks have been drugged during nights out.
The partners say they’re in a position to create a particularly welcoming space because they boast a wealth of diversity: they’re women owners, Bran-Leis is Guatemalan, and Steiner is a proud lesbian.
“There is a perspective that we can bring that will bring a safe, fostering, but fun as hell environment that I think is very special because it’s us doing it,” Steiner says.
Dos Mamis, 819 Upshur Street NW; Open daily from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Happy hour Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
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