Two months in, Navy Yard’s 40-seat cocktail nest Trouble Bird has quickly amassed a neighborhood following for its shimmering shooters and frozen tiki drinks.
D.C. sommelier and restaurateur Brent Kroll turned to disco balls and the cocktail prowess of Silver Lyan alums Justin Cara-Donna and Andrew Hurn to transform his Maxwell Park wine bar into Trouble Bird at the tail end of February (1346 4th Street SE). The inaugural “Breakfast for Dinner” drink theme is still going strong, featuring everything from a “flapjack” bourbon-and-mezcal Old Fashioned stacked with brown butter, maple, and buckwheat bitters to a crowd-pleasing “Everything Bagel Sazerac” coupe comprised of sesame aquavit and chive gomme.
Party-starting boilermakers have also proven to be wildly popular since day one, in which patrons pair beers with a growing selection of shooters for $5 more. The “Glitterschlager” stars cinnamon, mezcal, and “razzle-dazzle,” and its unique answer to a green tea shot features Teeling Irish whiskey, peach, cider acid, and herbal Benedictine liqueur. The newest shooter in sight is a rum-forward “Pineapple Snaquiri” that caters to fans of the summery fruit.
Trouble Bird compliments cocktails through last call with a Thai-Italian menu from Maketto alum Ben Plyraharn. Recently added offerings include cheffed-up drinking snacks like laab spice-dusted Chex mix, green curry-brined olives, and peanuts roasted with togarashi. There’s also shishito peppers, prosciutto with seasonal pickled veggies, sweet corn-and-ricotta arancini balls, and a decadent carbonara panini. “I think we’ve got the world’s first grilled cheese that requires a napkin,” Hurn told Eater upon opening. Over at Kroll’s new bubbles-fueled Pop bar in Shaw, a mini food menu draws inspiration from American fast-food favorites like In-N-Out and Taco Bell.
With a tiny kitchen at Trouble Bird, it made sense to bid adieu to a few dishes like fried chicken bao and polenta fries. Large-format drinks like a “Champagne Julep” also didn’t work well in its shot-sized space, whereas wines by the half-bottle do.
Here’s a closer look at three liquid (and slushy) standouts to try at Trouble Bird right now:
Keeping the vodka, cranberry, and triple sec components of classic made famous by Sex and the City, refreshing and spiced falernum and bitters add some depth and warmth. “The modern classic goes on vacation,” says Hurn.
Two slushy cocktails churn behind the bar at a time. A pink-ish “Neptune” is a classic from the tiki lexicon, says Hurn, featuring London dry gin, passion fruit, orgeat, and a touch of ube for depth and a more earthen base. Its pearly white “Oaxaca-Chillin” counterpart pays tribute to the slushy “Penichillin” invented at Brooklyn’s Diamond Reef, the dearly missed tiki bar that closed during the pandemic. Trouble Bird’s take retains the citrusy-honey ginger goodness and swaps the whiskey for a blend of tequila and mezcal, he says.
Morning Glory Colada
Billed as a “whisky sour meets a painkiller,” piña colada base flavors of banana and coconut water pair well with classic whisky made the Scottish way. The drink wraps up with a rich foam of coconut milk, pineapple, and a dash of fresh nutmeg.
—Emily Wishingrad contributed to this report