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A ‘Porn Star Caviar Martini’ Headlines L’Ardente’s Flashy New Cocktail Makeover

D.C. mixologist Micah Wilder also takes the reins of bar programs at Unconventional Diner and the anticipated Love, Makoto

L’Ardente’s new “Porn Star Caviar Martini” upgrades the London classic.
Mike Fuentes Photography

Eater DC’s 2022 Restaurant of the Year L’Ardente just upped its game with a polished new cocktail menu complete with luxe caviar bumps, smoke shows, and clarified components.

Chef David Deshaies and restaurateur Eric Eden tapped D.C. bar vet Micah Wilder as the new beverage director at their acclaimed “glam-Italian” downtown eatery (200 Massachusetts Avenue NW) and Shaw’s all-day sibling spot Unconventional Diner. Wilder brings over two teammates from his pandemic-born cocktail consulting company Boom Daddy Hospitality: newly appointed bar managers Hunter Douglas (L’Ardente) and Ian White (Unconventional Diner). Boom Daddy most recently manned the menus at Sparrow Room and Mercy Me.

Wilder says L’Ardente’s all-new crop of cocktails aim to better encapsulate the “wow factor” of showstoppers parading out of the open kitchen since day one, from the 40-layer lasagna to sparkling dessert toppers to foie gras foam-flanked duck raviolo delivered in gold-clawed egg vessels.

D.C. bar vet Micah Wilder now leads the beverage programs at chef David Deshaies’ growing restaurant group.
Mike Fuentes Photography
L’Ardente’s new bar manager Hunter Douglas formerly led bar programs at Mercy Me, Maydan, and Hank’s Cocktail Bar.
Mike Fuentes Photography

The evocatively named Porn Star Martini, a U.K. favorite invented by a London bartender in 2002, pairs a vanilla-and-passion fruit martini next to a palate-cleansing glass of chilled Champagne. L’Ardente’s glammed-up version, with Veuve Clicquot as the bubbly of choice, comes with a caviar bump balanced on a pearly spoon.

“We want that [cocktail] to feel as epic as the lasagna,” says Wilder, who tweaks the original recipe with mezcal over vodka and the addition of limoncello. (Coincidentally, H Street’s posh new Bronze has a traditional Porn Star Martini on its opening cocktail menu from Minibar alum Al Thompson.)

L’Ardente’s new “Whet Martini” comes with vodka, gin, white vermouth, olive, and basil oil.
Mike Fuentes Photography

Next-level Negronis also speak to the big-night-out energy at L’Ardente, which counts the Obamas among its dressy, date-night clientele. The cherry smoke-infused Negroni Fumo (mezcal, vermouth, cherry sherry and red bitters) comes with an added bonus: a gelatinous, bite-sized shot placed on a citrus peel. A clarified gin Negroni Colada teases warmer days ahead with Kina, white vermouth, caramelized pineapple, coconut, and lime.

Italian ingredients shine in the “Fig Cobbler” (caramelized fig, fino sherry, grappa, lemon, and sparkling Lambrusco) and mule, which gets a fiery kick from Calabrian chili and fancy finish in the form of a passion fruit caviar garnish.

Unconventional Diner’s new bar manager Ian White hails from Mercy Me, Jack Rose Dining Saloon, The Imperial, and Hank’s Cocktail Bar.
Mike Fuentes Photography

Wilder and his team will also oversee the cocktail, wine, sake, and beer programs at Love, Makoto—the ambitious Japanese food hall from chef Makoto Okuwa, Eden, and Deshaies, set to open next door some time before spring. Wilder also owns Shaw stalwarts Chaplin’s and Zeppelin and continues to oversee its cocktail programs.

Shaw’s six-year-old standby Unconventional Diner (1207 9th Street NW) also just received a cocktail makeover to better reflect the food. A Cinnamon Toast Old Fashioned, for instance, plays off the nostalgic breakfast vibes the Bib Gourmand-designated diner is known for. The spirit-free UD Hot Cider enhances a base of honeycrisp cider with cinnamon, clove, and spice blends, with the option to spike the drink with mezcal. L’Ardente, open since fall 2021, will soon debut its own brunch service with spritzy cocktails.

Year-round frozen cocktails will join the mix at both spots starting this summer, adds Wilder, along with more zero-proof options.

The Old Fashioned gets a throwback twist with Cinnamon Toast rye, armagnac, and bitters at Unconventional Diner.
Mike Fuentes Photography
A whimsical dollop of limoncello foam tops off Unconventional Diner’s fruity new gin drink called “9th Street Clover Club.”
Mike Fuentes Photography

L'Ardente

200 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest, , DC 20001 Visit Website

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