A high-end cocktail and dessert garden blanketed in buds opens at the foot of a fancy Wharf condo building this fall.
Zooz comes from the family behind Urban Roast DC, Penn Quarter’s popular cafe and sangria bar. For their showy sophomore project (636 Maine Avenue SW), situated at the base of the newly completed Amaris, a 4,000-square-foot shell space will be transformed into a glamorous, late-night bar that takes extravagant design tips from Vanderpump Cocktail Garden in Caesars Palace Las Vegas.
A selection of cocktails, all presented tableside on roaming bar carts, will come with a single-serving dessert pairing like tiramisu or creme brulee. Zooz customers can take their pick of cocktail accoutrements like pickled olives for their dirty martini, cherries for a Manhattan, and chocolate-covered beans for espresso martinis. Bartenders will then shake, stir, and pour each customized cocktail in front of the guest. The upscale affair also calls for elegant glassware, edible flowers, and eye-catching elements like flaming Grand Marnier liqueur. Co-owner Joseph Azzouz references the Netflix mixologist series Drink Masters, where every dazzling drink comes with deconstructed ingredients and a little plate on the side.
“It will be a whole cocktail show and experience,” says Azzouz, who owns Urban Roast and Zooz with his two brothers Kamal and Anthony.
Zooz partnered with respected cocktail company Pratt Standard to create a branded line of bottled syrups and juices to go into the drinks. QR codes will show customers how to make the cocktails at home.
The lavish look draws inspiration from restaurateur and Bravo star Lisa Vanderpump’s dreamy cocktail haven off the Vegas strip, with banquettes wrapped around trees, neon and fluorescent uplighting, and velvet upholstery.
Floor-to-ceiling folding glass windows will be joined by marble flooring and a big 30-seat bar, where patrons can order from a separate cocktail list free of tableside theatrics and dessert pairings. The buildout also calls for turning existing cement columns into faux tree structures, adding marbled flooring throughout, and covering the exposed industrial ceiling with a canopy of roses. The hope is to open in September or October.
Zooz, which won’t have a kitchen, strives to be a “before or after-dinner” destination; there’s no point in competing with the sea of existing and incoming restaurants at the Wharf, he says. Hours are expected to go from 2 p.m. until 2 a.m.
The other half of the ground floor will welcome Press Club Cocktail Bar, the anticipated new project from the team behind Michelin-rated Bresca and Jônt. Zooz’s original plan was to serve savory snacks like charcuterie, but “when they told us who’s [going] next to us we were like, ‘we don’t need any food’—just very fun and fancy desserts,” says Azzouz. Wharf retail broker John Asadoorian approached the Azzouz brothers about the available corner space, and the lease was inked last week. The same condo building will also house a sprawling, waterfront-facing restaurant from NYC’s famed Chinese chef Philippe Chow.
“This is our baby—it’s going to be the big one,” he says. “We are bringing a Vegas and Miami vibe here.”
Unlike Urban Roast, which is known for its over-the-top decor that changes with the seasons and holidays, Zooz will keep its aesthetic year-round.
“It’s going to look like a real decked-out garden with roses everywhere. You’re going to come in here thinking you’re in paradise,” he says.
A huge tropical fish tank filled with coral from Bali and Indonesia will relocate from its current home in Urban Roast’s upstairs events space. Showcasing the tank near the water instead makes obvious sense. “It needs to be seen,” he says.