The Golden Age brings the top of Dupont a grown-up cocktail bar that strives to fill a late-night dining void in the neighborhood.
The 100-seat bar opened last weekend with well-made classics like an Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Tom Collins, and Paloma.
“We’re trying to highlight the cocktail’s maturity during the Golden Age of the late 19th and early 20th Century,” says owner Jeff Coles, pointing to a mixologist-centric era when Broadway’s twinkling lights and the onset of Art Deco were in full swing.
Golden Age is part of a growing collection of D.C. bars that includes downtown’s popular underground speakeasy the Mirror and Blagden Alley’s edgy, LED-lit drinking den Never Looked Better. The Golden Age is the group’s first go at food, and the kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends (1726 Connecticut Avenue NW).
Coles hopes to cater to all sorts of neighborhood night owls, from industry employees to “jet-lagged” hotel guests, in a hospitable environment. “It’s a full dining experience for people who don’t want to settle for pizza slices or chicken wings,” he says.
Golden Age’s opening team includes Wisconsin-born brothers Mike and Ben Schwemmer, who worked at D.C.’s fine-dining fixture Table (Ben) and Philly’s gourmet Italian meats and cheese purveyor Di Bruno Brothers (Mike).
Coles calls Mike an “genius encyclopedia” of knowledge when it comes to various fat contents, notes, molds, and yeasts. “He’s incredibly good at pairing flavors that work really well together,” he says. Charcuterie, like an opening juniper-flavored salami, will rotate on a weekly basis with selections from boutique and local names.
A list of classic cocktails joins a pair of originals. That includes an opalescent “Gilded Lily” with vanilla-infused vodka, Champagne, elderflower, lemon, sugar, and sparkly “luster dust” that relies on a confectionary tool traditionally used to adorn exteriors of wedding cake.
Golden Age is deeply personal for Coles, whose longtime partner Seth McClelland passed away suddenly last fall. A plaque with McClelland’s picture hanging inside pays homage to the cocktail group’s visionary founder.
“We’re honoring his legacy by building something he would be proud of,” says Coles. “His touches are all over the place.”
McClelland was an an avid antiques collector and handpicked much of the Victorian-styled decor for the space. Light sconces salvaged from an industrial store in Baltimore, throwback bar tools, and gold-framed artwork joins an original copper tin ceiling extended across with help from a metal fabricator.
Golden Age pays extra attention to its burger, built with a prime patty, sourdough brioche, cheese, and shallots.
“Seth always said if we had food at any place, it’s essential we have a ‘crucial’ burger,” says Coles. “It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Another early hit on the menu is six-hour sous vide lamb kebabs with mint and chimichurri.
Director of operations and sommelier Jacob Flores curates a thoughtful wine program showcasing smaller producers. Laurent-Perrier Champagne by the glass has been “flying off the shelves” since opening, says Coles.
Coles envisions Golden Age to be the “more mature” sibling in its cocktail family.
“This isn’t a club or even a lounge — it’s a neighborhood cocktail bar. We want people to come in on a date, have an important conversation, and do business,” he says.
Open at 5 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday to start, with hopes of operating daily soon.