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Trouble Bird Wants You to Party in Your Sweats Under a Spinning Disco Ball

The funky new cocktail lair just replaced Maxwell Park in Navy Yard

Trouble Bird opened on Tuesday, February 28.
Trouble Bird

Party at the VFW dance hall, decorated like your punk-rock grandad’s living room. That’s the ethos of Trouble Bird (1346 4th Street SE), Navy Yard’s newest shot-sized cocktail den.

The 40-seat bar, which debuted Tuesday, February 28, comes from D.C. sommelier and restaurateur Brent Kroll (who was also behind Trouble Bird’s predecessor Maxwell Park) and area bartenders and friends Justin Cara-Donna and Andrew Hurn, recent alums of D.C.’s award-winning cocktail den Silver Lyan.

Trouble Bird holds onto Maxwell’s eight-seater booths and installs a centerpiece disco ball and black and white artsy wallpaper covered with miscellaneous frames and mirrors. Statement-making entryway curtains are on their way in the next few weeks, along with custom lamp shades which will surround the interior, and eventually a structured streetery.

In looking for cocktail prowess to attach to his newest bar, Kroll sought the advice of people he trusts the most in the D.C. drink world, and says Cara-Donna and Hurn’s names kept coming up. Kroll spoke with them separately and they both raised the idea of partnering. Thus, Trouble Bird was born—a bar that’s just as much about Cara-Donna and Hurn’s friendship as it is about their passion for mixology.

The pair started working together at the now-shuttered Columbia Room within a month of one another and became instant friends. “We both ended up hanging out on my couch, talking about cocktails until the sun rose,” Cara-Donna tells Eater.

The name Trouble Bird is a reference to the type of bars Cara-Donna and Hurn love hanging out at—the kind where you look at your watch and realize it’s suddenly closing time and your tab is a lot longer than you expected; the kind of bar that spells “trouble.”

“It’s the graph of the intersection of cozy meets fun where you kind of lose track of time,” explains Cara-Donna.

The duo come from some of the most ambitious cocktail bars in the city; and although it’s clear they care about their art form deeply, it’s also clear that they also don’t take themselves too seriously. The pair have a litmus test for trying new things: “If it makes us both laugh it’s probably a good idea,” says Cara-Donna. “If it brings us joy, hopefully it can bring somebody else joy.”

Trouble Bird is framed with eclectic wallpaper and art.
Trouble Bird

The goal is to make drinks that are recognizable—but with a little extra of the unexpected: flavors like avocado and bayleaf in a daiquiri or lemongrass in a martini. “A lot of stuff that’s familiar and approachable and fun and doing some stuff that’s a little more wacka-do,” says Hurn.

In concert with those eight-person booths, Trouble Bird is serving up some large format drinks, like “Champagne Julep,” made with Maker’s Mark, saffron-strawberry, mint, and bubbles.

The bar sends out frozen drinks, too. Gin, ube, passionfruit, orgeat, falernum, and lemon come together in a purple slushie called “Neptune.” The menu is rounded out with wined by the glass and half bottle and boilermakers – Oliver Brewing Co.’s Cherry Blossom Ale is paired with an “improved” green tea shot, and Narragansett Lager is partnered with a cinnamon and mezcal “glitterschlager.”

“Everything is unique to this space; everything has those high elevated touches but without being overly complex. Everything feels familiar; everything feels comforting,” says Cara-Donna.

At night, rotating flecks of light from a disco ball are visible from the street.
Trouble Bird

“Comforting” is the adjective that sparked the bar’s inaugural seasonal cocktail theme. Cara-Donna and Hurn were thinking of what comforts them when they realized they had inadvertently put together their first themed drink menu: Breakfast for Dinner.

There’s a play on Sawada coffee shop’s famous “military latte.” A “flapjack” Old Fashioned combines bourbon and mezcal with brown butter, maple, and buckwheat bitters. Hurn and Cara-Donna are especially proud of their “Everything Bagel Sazerac,” punched up with sesame aquavit and chive gomme. “Savory requires a much more gentle hand when building that into a cocktail but we think we really nailed that one,” says Hurn.

Like Kroll’s other spots Maxwell and Pop, the food is there to support the booze—but also decadently craveable in its own right. Chef Ben Plyraharn, who comes from D.C. institutions like Toki Underground, Bresca, Maketto, and Reverie, serves up Thai-Italian bites that can be eaten sans utensils.

Squash arancini are fortified with madras curry and provolone; shishito peppers surround a nam prik aioli dipping sauce. Then, there’s the sandwich Plyraharn calls his “baby:” a carbonara panini, filled with guanciale, pecorino, and salted duck eggs. “I think we’ve got the world’s first grilled cheese that requires a napkin,” says Hurn.

Trouble Bird closes at midnight Tuesday through Thursday, 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 p.m. on Sunday.