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A blue martini sitting on a bar
The Grill’s Kind of Blue martini is big on gin and Curacao.
Rey Lopez for The Grill

Ocean-Blue Cocktails Are Apparently Back in Style in D.C.

A flood of Curacao cocktails make eye-popping appearances on bar menus this spring

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The Grill’s Kind of Blue martini is big on gin and Curacao.
| Rey Lopez for The Grill

Curacao, an orange liqueur dyed blue with food coloring, is the new black. While there’s some love-hate debate about the old school liqueur — partly thanks to that Blue Motorcycle collegiate cocktail we all want to forget — D.C. bartenders are now warming up to the bright blue spirit, when paired with the right liquid ingredients.

Longtime classics that embrace Curacao include the Aviation, Mai Tai, and Blue Hawaii, while the Gun Metal Blue at Danny Meyer’s Chelsea hotspot Porchlight remains a best seller since opening in 2015. Dupont’s McClellan’s Retreat unleashed a bunch of blue drinks last summer as part of its “Cocktail Time Machine” menu, but bar manager Brian Nixon is over the Curacao trend for now (“McClellan’s did it first,” he claims).

Meanwhile, many D.C. bartenders are just starting to have fun experimenting with the Instagrammable spirit this spring. Some of their latest cocktail recipes call for just a splash of Curacao, while others go heavy on blue pours.

Here are 12 types to try around town.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Tiki On 18th

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Bar manager and vet D.C. mixologist Rico Wisner, a big believer in Curacao, says he’s on mission to “make cocktails blue again” (so says a motto on a hat he owns). At newly renovated Tiki on 18th, he works his beloved blue liqueur into three cocktails ($12). During weekday happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.), the light and refreshing Mango Cooler — a cocktail coined by Playboy bartender Thomas Mario — is just $8 (vodka, mango, orange, Curacao, lemon).

A festive tiki drink in front of tropical wallpaper
Vicious Virgin #2 — a citrusy cross between a margarita and Mai Tai — comes with blanco tequila, rum, grapefruit, lime, orgeat, and Curacao.
Tiki on 18th

The Green Zone

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Instead of straight Curacao, the Mai Tai at Adams Morgan’s Middle Eastern cocktail bar goes with a close cousin: JM Shrubb orange liqueur, a base of rhum agricole made by Martinique’s small producer J.M. “The reasoning being that if it’s used for rum cocktails, might as well use a rum-based liqueur,” says owner Chris Hassaan Francke. Its “Other Cocktails We Love” section ($14 and $12 at happy hour) also includes a Cuban-themed El Presidente with Curacao, Don Q Reserva 7-year rum, Comoz vermouth blanc, and grenadine.

Serenata/Zumo

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La Cosecha’s Latin cocktail bar sends out ready-to-pour pouches of its Best Ever Margarita 2.0, filled with with blanco tequila, a spicy pineapple-nopal reduction, lime, orange, and Curacao ($15). Curacao also makes its way into a complex Bloody Bay concoction alongside Ten to One white rum, Dolin Blanc, gentian aperitif, grated nutmeg, mint, and orange zest ($16).

Serenata’s Best Ever Margarita 2.0 can be assembled at home on ice in a rocks glass, garnished with a dehydrated lime wheel and togarashi salt.

Grillfish

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The new blue cocktail ($13) at D.C. raw bar Grillfish is made in honor of Ukraine. All proceeds from the Kyiv Mule — made with Republic Restoratives Civic Vodka, ginger beer, simple syrup, and Curacao — go towards World Central Kitchen’s humanitarian efforts in Ukraine through April. A variation of the drink is available across the entire Eatwell DC portfolio (Commissary, The Pig, Logan Tavern, and The Charles). In addition, Ivy City’s Republic Restoratives will donate $2 for each Civic Vodka bottle the restaurants go through to Ukrainian Women’s Guard.

The Sovereign

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Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Georgetown stalwart celebrates spring with a blue beertail. The Jalisco to Brussels Non-Stop features tequila, Curacao, lime, and a Kriek beer float ($13).

a blue cocktail on a wood table
The Jalisco to Brussels Non-Stop cocktail at Sovereign. 
The Sovereign

Michele’s

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Chef Matt Baker’s lobby-level restaurant in downtown’s hip Eaton hotel sends out a Just Keep Swimming cocktail featuring “blue magic,” pineapple-infused Banhez mezcal, lime, and Combier ($16). Beverage director Judy Elahi also makes a bottled offshoot for Andy’s Pizza’s colorful new cocktail program in Adams Morgan.

A blue cocktail near a booth
The Just Keep Swimming cocktail at Michele’s.
Leading DC/Michele’s

Opaline Bar and Brasserie

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The chic French restaurant inside Sofitel serves a blue Cocktail d’Eté cocktail for spring, built with vodka, Curacao, lime agave, cucumber, and mint ($18).

A blue cocktail on a glass table
Opaline’s crystal blue cocktail for spring.
Opaline

Tiki TNT & Potomac Distilling Company

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Rum maker Todd Thrasher also wants to #makecocktailsblueagain, with three tiki drinks that employ Curacao ($15). The longtime fan favorite at his waterfront Wharf bar is the “F**k F**k F**k” — named in honor of “one of those days where you just wanna scream! Sometimes you need to get away... but you have a job.” This tropical escape in a glass is filled with Thrasher’s White Rum made on-site, Calvados, Curacao, pineapple, and ginger beer. Curacao also swims into a Mai Tai and Wet Money, joined by tequila, passion fruit, vodka, and salt water.

THE GRILL

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Knead Hospitality and Design’s stylish grill on the Wharf whips up a Kind of Blue martini behind its glittering gold bar. The potent creation stars Death’s Door gin, Bluecoat elderflower gin, St. George Absinthe Verte, Lillet Blanc, Curacao, and bubbles ($16).

A blue martini on a bar
The Grill’s Kind of Blue martini is big on gin and Curacao.
Rey Lopez for The Grill

Navy Yard’s recently reopened Japanese restaurant now has a bonafide bar area, where patrons can gulp its new Ocean Water cocktail on draft (rum, vodka, Curacao, pineapple, lemon and lime) for $12. “Slightly carbonated, very refreshing, and very crushable,” says manager Brian Marvel.

A blue cocktail sitting outside
Hatoba’s Ocean Water cocktail joins its new Hawaiian-leaning menu.
Hatoba

Bammy's

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As an ode to the start of baseball season, Bammy’s plays up the Nationals’ team colors in frothy glass layered in red, white, and blue ingredients. The frozen release sports a tiered taste of a pina colada, strawberry daiquiri, and Curacao ($15).

The Curacao-topped icy cocktail at Bammy’s pays homage to the nearby Nationals’ colors.
Bammy’s

Take a break from the casino floor and head to MGM National Harbor’s Asian mainstay in the atrium for three types of fruity Curacao cocktails. The blue spirit stars in a Mai Tai, Zombie, and Blue Hawaiian. As part of a new daytime tiki deal (Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), each cocktail is just $8.88.

Ginger’s Blue Hawaiian cocktail (Curacao, light rum, pineapple juice, and coconut rum) has a tropical umbrella finish.
Ginger/MGM

Tiki On 18th

A festive tiki drink in front of tropical wallpaper
Vicious Virgin #2 — a citrusy cross between a margarita and Mai Tai — comes with blanco tequila, rum, grapefruit, lime, orgeat, and Curacao.
Tiki on 18th

Bar manager and vet D.C. mixologist Rico Wisner, a big believer in Curacao, says he’s on mission to “make cocktails blue again” (so says a motto on a hat he owns). At newly renovated Tiki on 18th, he works his beloved blue liqueur into three cocktails ($12). During weekday happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.), the light and refreshing Mango Cooler — a cocktail coined by Playboy bartender Thomas Mario — is just $8 (vodka, mango, orange, Curacao, lemon).

A festive tiki drink in front of tropical wallpaper
Vicious Virgin #2 — a citrusy cross between a margarita and Mai Tai — comes with blanco tequila, rum, grapefruit, lime, orgeat, and Curacao.
Tiki on 18th

The Green Zone

Instead of straight Curacao, the Mai Tai at Adams Morgan’s Middle Eastern cocktail bar goes with a close cousin: JM Shrubb orange liqueur, a base of rhum agricole made by Martinique’s small producer J.M. “The reasoning being that if it’s used for rum cocktails, might as well use a rum-based liqueur,” says owner Chris Hassaan Francke. Its “Other Cocktails We Love” section ($14 and $12 at happy hour) also includes a Cuban-themed El Presidente with Curacao, Don Q Reserva 7-year rum, Comoz vermouth blanc, and grenadine.

Serenata/Zumo

Serenata’s Best Ever Margarita 2.0 can be assembled at home on ice in a rocks glass, garnished with a dehydrated lime wheel and togarashi salt.

La Cosecha’s Latin cocktail bar sends out ready-to-pour pouches of its Best Ever Margarita 2.0, filled with with blanco tequila, a spicy pineapple-nopal reduction, lime, orange, and Curacao ($15). Curacao also makes its way into a complex Bloody Bay concoction alongside Ten to One white rum, Dolin Blanc, gentian aperitif, grated nutmeg, mint, and orange zest ($16).

Serenata’s Best Ever Margarita 2.0 can be assembled at home on ice in a rocks glass, garnished with a dehydrated lime wheel and togarashi salt.

Grillfish

The new blue cocktail ($13) at D.C. raw bar Grillfish is made in honor of Ukraine. All proceeds from the Kyiv Mule — made with Republic Restoratives Civic Vodka, ginger beer, simple syrup, and Curacao — go towards World Central Kitchen’s humanitarian efforts in Ukraine through April. A variation of the drink is available across the entire Eatwell DC portfolio (Commissary, The Pig, Logan Tavern, and The Charles). In addition, Ivy City’s Republic Restoratives will donate $2 for each Civic Vodka bottle the restaurants go through to Ukrainian Women’s Guard.

The Sovereign

a blue cocktail on a wood table
The Jalisco to Brussels Non-Stop cocktail at Sovereign. 
The Sovereign

Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Georgetown stalwart celebrates spring with a blue beertail. The Jalisco to Brussels Non-Stop features tequila, Curacao, lime, and a Kriek beer float ($13).

a blue cocktail on a wood table
The Jalisco to Brussels Non-Stop cocktail at Sovereign. 
The Sovereign

Michele’s

A blue cocktail near a booth
The Just Keep Swimming cocktail at Michele’s.
Leading DC/Michele’s

Chef Matt Baker’s lobby-level restaurant in downtown’s hip Eaton hotel sends out a Just Keep Swimming cocktail featuring “blue magic,” pineapple-infused Banhez mezcal, lime, and Combier ($16). Beverage director Judy Elahi also makes a bottled offshoot for Andy’s Pizza’s colorful new cocktail program in Adams Morgan.

A blue cocktail near a booth
The Just Keep Swimming cocktail at Michele’s.
Leading DC/Michele’s

Opaline Bar and Brasserie

A blue cocktail on a glass table
Opaline’s crystal blue cocktail for spring.
Opaline

The chic French restaurant inside Sofitel serves a blue Cocktail d’Eté cocktail for spring, built with vodka, Curacao, lime agave, cucumber, and mint ($18).

A blue cocktail on a glass table
Opaline’s crystal blue cocktail for spring.
Opaline

Tiki TNT & Potomac Distilling Company

Rum maker Todd Thrasher also wants to #makecocktailsblueagain, with three tiki drinks that employ Curacao ($15). The longtime fan favorite at his waterfront Wharf bar is the “F**k F**k F**k” — named in honor of “one of those days where you just wanna scream! Sometimes you need to get away... but you have a job.” This tropical escape in a glass is filled with Thrasher’s White Rum made on-site, Calvados, Curacao, pineapple, and ginger beer. Curacao also swims into a Mai Tai and Wet Money, joined by tequila, passion fruit, vodka, and salt water.

THE GRILL

A blue martini on a bar
The Grill’s Kind of Blue martini is big on gin and Curacao.
Rey Lopez for The Grill

Knead Hospitality and Design’s stylish grill on the Wharf whips up a Kind of Blue martini behind its glittering gold bar. The potent creation stars Death’s Door gin, Bluecoat elderflower gin, St. George Absinthe Verte, Lillet Blanc, Curacao, and bubbles ($16).

A blue martini on a bar
The Grill’s Kind of Blue martini is big on gin and Curacao.
Rey Lopez for The Grill

Hatoba

A blue cocktail sitting outside
Hatoba’s Ocean Water cocktail joins its new Hawaiian-leaning menu.
Hatoba

Navy Yard’s recently reopened Japanese restaurant now has a bonafide bar area, where patrons can gulp its new Ocean Water cocktail on draft (rum, vodka, Curacao, pineapple, lemon and lime) for $12. “Slightly carbonated, very refreshing, and very crushable,” says manager Brian Marvel.

A blue cocktail sitting outside
Hatoba’s Ocean Water cocktail joins its new Hawaiian-leaning menu.
Hatoba

Bammy's

The Curacao-topped icy cocktail at Bammy’s pays homage to the nearby Nationals’ colors.
Bammy’s

As an ode to the start of baseball season, Bammy’s plays up the Nationals’ team colors in frothy glass layered in red, white, and blue ingredients. The frozen release sports a tiered taste of a pina colada, strawberry daiquiri, and Curacao ($15).

The Curacao-topped icy cocktail at Bammy’s pays homage to the nearby Nationals’ colors.
Bammy’s

Ginger

Ginger’s Blue Hawaiian cocktail (Curacao, light rum, pineapple juice, and coconut rum) has a tropical umbrella finish.
Ginger/MGM

Take a break from the casino floor and head to MGM National Harbor’s Asian mainstay in the atrium for three types of fruity Curacao cocktails. The blue spirit stars in a Mai Tai, Zombie, and Blue Hawaiian. As part of a new daytime tiki deal (Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), each cocktail is just $8.88.

Ginger’s Blue Hawaiian cocktail (Curacao, light rum, pineapple juice, and coconut rum) has a tropical umbrella finish.
Ginger/MGM

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