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DC Drinks


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#1 stickyii

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 12:30 PM

A last minute trip to DC is in the works, and I'm really hoping to hit up some of the cooler cocktail establishments downtown. I fear I won't be able to find a stellar tiki locale, as would please my blog greatly (www.kaiserpenguin.com), but I'm definitely up for suggestions. More traditional and modern bars would be welcome too.

I see there is an intense thread on good eats in DC as well, so I'll check that out. Apologies if this topic has been brought up fifty times before. Any last minute help would be more than appreciated! Drink, food, music, anything.

Thanks!
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#2 hannnah

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 01:43 PM

A last minute trip to DC is in the works, and I'm really hoping to hit up some of the cooler cocktail establishments downtown.  I fear I won't be able to find a stellar tiki locale, as would please my blog greatly (www.kaiserpenguin.com), but I'm definitely up for suggestions.  More traditional and modern bars would be welcome too.

I see there is an intense thread on good eats in DC as well, so I'll check that out.  Apologies if this topic has been brought up fifty times before.  Any last minute help would be more than appreciated!  Drink, food, music, anything.

Thanks!

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Cork and Bar Pilar are both doing interesting things at the moment, and are conveniently located more or less across the street from one another in the vicinity of 14th and R/S Streets NW. Cork's bar tends to get incredibly crowded with non-cocktail drinkers, so it's worth going either early or late. Pilar's extra-special cocktail night is Tuesday, but you're in good hands there any night of the week.

Along Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House, you've got the choice of either the uber-traditional Round Robin bar in the Willard Hotel (Penn Ave @ 13th St NW), or the modern twists on classics approach of Central Michel Richard (Penn Ave @ 11th St NW). Proof is also trying the twists-on-classics approach; I don't think they've been quite as successful at it as Central, but others have had better luck than I have.

There are another couple of uber-traditional bars in the vicinity of the White House that come highly recommended - the Town and Country bar in the Mayflower Hotel, and Off the Record in the Hay-Adams Hotel, although I can't personally vouch for either.

Nearer Dupont Circle, the bar at the Tabard Inn is an oasis of calm and civility. They're increasing their focus on classic cocktails, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday nights, although there are at least a couple featured every night, including an excellent Sazerac.

If you're willing to venture into Virginia, Todd Thrasher is doing great things at Restaurant Eve (King St at S. Pitt) and PX (King St. at Columbus). PX is the DC area's entry in the modern speakeasy stakes, and has a dress code - reservations are recommended.

Fortunately, you'll find that the food at most of these is equally as good as the drinks, so you really can't go too far wrong.
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#3 stickyii

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 03:35 PM

We are going to be staying at the Crowne Royal on 14TH AND K STREETS, NW. Are there any must visit places near there?

No problem taxiing about the city, though, if others have ideas.

If we were to pick just one restaurant (not that we won't pick several) that is totally required, which would it be? What are some that are considered to be the best?

Bar Pilar's food sounds phenomenal... I couldn't find a cocktail menu for it though.

Central Michel Richard also looks great. Thanks Hannah.
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#4 hannnah

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 06:22 PM

We are going to be staying at the Crowne Royal on 14TH AND K STREETS, NW.  Are there any must visit places near there?

There are quite a few velvet-rope type clubs right around there, but they're not really known for their cocktails. You're reasonable walking distance (4-5 blocks up/4-5 blocks over) from pretty much everywhere I listed except for Restaurant Eve, though - downtown DC really isn't that big.

If we were to pick just one restaurant (not that we won't pick several) that is totally required, which would it be?  What are some that are considered to be the best?

You'll get a reasonable amount of argument on this, but I vote for Citronelle, which is Michel Richard's fine dining restaurant. It's tough to get a last-minute reservation, but fortunately they serve a selection of the menu in the lounge, along with the original versions of some of the dishes you'll see on Central's menu. Restaurant Eve in Alexandria is another star - again, tough to get a last minute reservation, but the lounge is an option. You might also have a look at Vidalia - they're doing really interesting things at the moment. I don't think the menu on the web site is completely up to date, but it'll give you an idea.

Bar Pilar's food sounds phenomenal... I couldn't find a cocktail menu for it though.

I really, really like the food at Pilar. A lot. Even more than the cocktails, and I like those quite a bit as well. :laugh: Most of their cocktail menu is not online - the Tuesday specials are generally handwritten. There'll be a couple of specials on the regular menu, or if you're sitting at the bar, you can chat with them and see what's percolating ingredient-wise. There are a few cocktails on the online brunch menu, but they're not really representative of the high standard (except for the bacon bloody mary).

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#5 stickyii

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 06:36 PM

Was able to make a reservation at Citronelle for tomorrow night! I love Michel Richard's cookbook, so I jumped on it right away.
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#6 Busboy

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 08:00 PM

Was able to make a reservation at Citronelle for tomorrow night!  I love Michel Richard's cookbook, so I jumped on it right away.

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You probably know this already, but if you're not, you should be aware that Citronelle (thread here) has almost nothing to do with Michel Richard's cookbook. That stuff's much more likely to be found at Central.
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#7 Chris Amirault

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 06:40 PM

Bumpity-bump.

Any updates?
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#8 weinoo

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Posted 29 October 2009 - 05:38 AM

We've recently had well made drinks at Bourbon, in Adams Morgan. Good booze selection and knowledgeable peeps behind the operation.

We've also been to Tabard Inn...had a decent cocktail and some good bar food. Haven't been yet on a Wednesday or Thursday night, when it's alleged that the best Sazerac to be found in DC might be at Tabard.

Bar Pilar and a few others are on the radar once I start spending some more time down south.
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#9 Steve R.

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 08:18 PM

"We've recently had well made drinks at Bourbon, in Adams Morgan. Good booze selection and knowledgeable peeps behind the operation".

Ginny and I stayed at the Savoy on Wisconsin, a couple of blocks up from Bourbon, this past week & wound up there for drinks and small bites. We agree... nice place, good drinks, good music. The bar next door at Blue Ridge Restaurant was also good, although way more limited. Dinner there was okay as well, although certainly not a destination place. The bar at Dino (on Conn. in Cleveland Park) is also worth going to, even if not staying for dinner (which I really suggest). Scott makes very nice cocktails and the wine list is reasonable and wide ranging.

#10 Busboy

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 12:44 PM

The Gibson (the lady in the picture makes a mean "Harvard on the Pike") is one of those neo-speakeasies run by cocktail fanatics. I enjoy it quite a bit. It limits its guests but offers reservations. I find if you head for it early or late you can usually get a seat just by dropping by (though weekends are tough). I'm pretty sure we also got seated one night because we were non-assholes (hard to believe, I know)to the harried doorman, who didn't think anything was open "but let me check."

The moving force behind the Bar Pilar cocktail Renaissance has moved on to Proof, where he is now bar manager. I don't know if his passion remains at Pilar or has infused the bartenders Proof, but suspect he was hired to infuse them and that it is worth the gamble. Drop the name "Adam." Proof, which is closer to the Convention Center than Pilar, also boasts storied Winemaster Sebastian Zutant who is more than just another pretty haircut and has 30 wines by the glass and excellent food and and, now that I think of it, should have been mentioned on the "where to eat near the convention center" thread

Gina at PS 7 (who hangs at The Gibson) makes a daring cocktail, and is known for her non-alcoholic bar menu as well, should you be accompanied by Baptists. Tom at Cork, on 14th Street works at a wine bar but has the heart and family of a Mixologist (his brother runs The Gibson and Sister in Law --who may have been on her honeymoon when Weinoo had his mediocre experience there -- is at the Tabard). Pretty good food, too. Won the Beard "Best New Restaurant" for DC. Tom's there every night but Thursday.

Finally, if you get into town on Sunday, it may be worth cabbing or metroing (Columbia Heights) up to Room 11 and The Punch Club. This will also, btw, get you out of the Tourist Zone and into where locals like to go. Hit it on the way back from the only Salvadoran/woodburning pizza restaurant on Earth, Moroni Brothers (accessible by Green Line from the Convention Center, Petworth).
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#11 Busboy

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 08:31 AM

No sooner had I posted the above when word breaks that the Brown Brothers are collaborating of a new cocktail place, named after an Iggy Pop song, Passages. Mid-November opening. The Gibson, which is a larger effort than just Derek will undoubtedly continue, but the future of fine cocktailing at Proof is in doubt.

It appears that Gina at PS 7 has moved on, as well, though their focus on unique adult beverages will continue. Her new home, the H Street Country Club is far from the Convention Center in the midst of the new hipster (I mean that in a good way)nightlife district, which is worth a night out in itself. Granville Moore's is where you'd go for food, Rock and Roll Hotel or Palace of Wonders for fun.
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#12 Busboy

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 01:37 PM

Don't know if Chris has made it to DC yet but the Hot New Bar of the Moment, Passenger, is open as of 5PM today and spitting distance from the Convention Center. Unclear from the blog post linked whether Derek's cocktail dreams will be fully realized right from the start, but it's almost certainly worth taking a chance. If he's in the house, fine libations are to be had. Brother Tom -- as noted above -- is no slouch, either (he has a gift for gin) but claims to be more of a beer-and-a-shot guy, at least for purposes of this operation.

Edited by Busboy, 18 November 2009 - 01:38 PM.

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#13 Chris Amirault

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 04:03 PM

I'm hitting Passenger tonight around 9p, in fact. It's down the street from where I'm staying. Eager to give it a go!
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#14 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 07:28 AM

Had a few drinks with friends at Passenger, which is immediately managing to feel very neighborhoody out of the box. Heck, a friend I hadn't seen for a while walked up to me and slapped me on the back, a surprise that rarely happens when I'm going to conventions....

It was my understanding that Derek wasn't there but Tom made me a tasty Perfect Martini with Hayman's Old Tom, Dolin blanc, Carpano Antica Formula, and Peychaud's, and then later a tasty concoction with scotch (didn't get the bottle), Plymouth sloe gin, lemon, and apricot eau de vie. A friend asked for something "sweet and rich," and she had a cocktail combining amaretto, creme de violette, and rum: sweet and rich indeed.

I'm staying with friends right around the corner, and when I visit them, I'm visiting here. Thanks, Charles.
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#15 Chris Amirault

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 04:20 AM

Spent some time at Proof last night and really enjoyed it. Ashley was behind the bar making our drinks, and we had excellent Aviations, Bairns, Millionaire Cocktails, & Rough & Tumbles. The product available is outstanding: lots of Haus Alpenz stuff including Smith & Cross Rum, Plymouth Sloe Gin, Macallan cask strength. In a perfect world, such an excellent cocktail program (by Adam Bernbach, who was also there) would have the ice to match it....

Edited by Chris Amirault, 01 February 2010 - 05:10 AM.
Correct error -- CA

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#16 weinoo

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 06:01 AM

Spent some time at Proof last night and really enjoyed it. Ashley was behind the bar making our drinks, and we had excellent Aviations, Bairns, Millionaire Cocktails, & Rough & Tumbles. The product available is outstanding: lots of Haus Alpenz stuff including Smith & Cross Rum, Plymouth Sloe Gin, Macallan cask strength. In a perfect world, such an excellent cocktail program (by Adam Bernbach, who was also there) would have the ice to match it....

Do any bars in DC have the ice to match? A big question, since the water ain't so good.

I've taken to making ice in our new apartment with bottled spring water, or at least the Brita filtered water that we use for drinking and for brewing coffee.
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#17 Chris Amirault

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 06:08 AM

Beats me -- but I'm hoping we can find a way to solve this ubiquitous problem, bc it ain't just Proof's....
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#18 Miami Danny

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Posted 15 April 2010 - 08:37 AM

The Passenger is a calm place on an early Saturday evening, and I have had Tom Brown's cocktails when I'm winding down my week. I've seen brother Derek carve ice into a diamond at the bar, but he seems to be mostly hosting events in the private Columbia Room in the back, as opposed to bartending. Great beers in cans, and of course the kimchee hot dog, which I haven't tried. Not a big fan of the $8 hot dog. But the shredded duck thing is pretty good for $13.

#19 kathryn

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Posted 11 September 2010 - 10:07 PM

Husband and I are headed down for a few days to see family. Between family commitments, I am thinking that we'll hit up the Columbia Room/Passenger and the Gibson. Are these the two must hit cocktail lounges in the city? We probably won't have the opportunity this time to head out to PX.
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#20 weinoo

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 07:45 AM

I don't know that I'd call any "must-hit," but any of the above-named places will suffice. For some excellent food along with your booze, Proof is great.

I'm partial to Bourbon, Adams Morgan, only because there's zero pretense, but caveat emptor. They've had some bartender movement recently and that's always an issue; if Caleb is behind the stick, you'll do well.

Churchkey has an amazing selection of beer, properly cared for.
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#21 kathryn

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 08:36 AM

Thanks, Mitch! Made a reservation for Proof, we'll see how it goes.
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#22 kathryn

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Posted 20 September 2010 - 09:48 PM

We started our DC cocktailing at the Gibson in the patio on a Wednesday evening just after 6pm. Two gelato based drinks were enjoyed. I had the The Virgil: Cruzan Black Strap, Dolin Rouge, Kubler Absinthe, Mint, Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters, Angostura, Vanilla Gelato. My husband had the Odd Duck: Hayman's, mango gomme, Basalm Fir tincture, Fever tree lemon soda. Both were good. Not the best but I had never had but I appreciated the creativity, wonderful service, and sitting in the backyard.

After the bugs began to feast on me, we moved into to the bar where I enjoyed a drink whose name escapes me, but contained mezcal, lime, agave, and absinthe. Well balanced and very enjoyable. My husband had something with both a peaty scotch and a bit of gin if I recall correctly -- not the safest combination but the drink was enjoyable. We also had an old fashioned made with their signature Hellfire bitters, that paired well with their maddeningly addictive chickpea fries. It was decent until the copious amounts of ice began to melt, making it quite watery. A problem we encountered at a lot of DC bars. Too many drinks being made with crappy, small ice in this town! The drinks served up at the Gibson were fine, though.

Two days later we made it to Proof for dinner. Overall, the menu of cocktails didn't excite me. The drinks here we tried were not good. We only had two and I have no idea who was behind the stick, but I basically left most of mine untouched. I had the Yarmouth: cachaca and manzanilla sherry with elderflower liqueur, grapefruit bitters and Hitachino Nest's herbal spirit (hops, coriander and citrus). The ingredients never really came together in the way I'd hoped and it was too herbal and unbalanced for me. My husband's Post colonial was a little better (rum, dubonnet rouge, Chartreuse, Peychaud's) but nothing special and I think maybe the Chartreuse proportion was out of whack. Disappointing. Additionally, a lot of the housemade drinks seemed to contain honey syrup, which we both find cloying sometimes in cocktails. Again, since we sat at the table, we had limited interaction with the bartender, and had no idea who was behind the stick that Friday night. Maybe we just chose the two that were weakest. The food however, was really good.

Hoping to grab better drinks elsewhere, we decamped to the Passenger while waiting for our reservation at the Columbia Room in back. Tried a Rhum Ti punch which was fine (maybe needed more lime) but had far too many ice cubes so it got watery fast. My gin, lemon, absinthe drink was not good at all and I didn't finish it as it was too heavy on the absinthe, so the taste of the gin was lost over time. My husband also ordered a mescal, sherry, lime drink, also served on the rocks, that was mostly sherry with a bit of mescal to finish. It was a good idea but I think might need some refinement or work. It also had far too many small ice cubes and turned to water very quickly. Since my husband got the drinks, I didn't see the bartenders work but I suspect they were freepouring.

The Columbia Room, however, was fantastic. Started something unnamed. I believe the base spirit was cognac served with Lapsang Souchong Tea (a smoky Chinese tea with Fujian province), Benedictine, prosecco, orange twist, in a champagne glass. Delicious, not too sweet, not too boozy, not too dry. Next was the Knickerbocker a la señor: dry sherry, fig and orange granita, vanilla, crushed ice. Paired with orange fig blue cheese and raddichio salad with caramel caviar. Delicious and the cocktail and food played very well together, especially the fresh fig against the sherry, fig, and vanilla elements in the cocktail. My husband then asked for their version of the Mai Tai which they serve with Appleton Reserve, housemade orgeat, orange, and perhaps another element or two. It was also excellent -- far too many Mai Tais are just booze delivery devices or fruitier than jello. This was a quirky but balanced Mai Tai. Great service. Good ice. Great technique. Great bartenders who were entertaining. Guests all enjoying fabulous drinks. I'd be here all the time if I lived in DC (and be much much poorer I'm sure). Thank you, Derek!

After dinner the next night, we popped into PS7's where I'd heard a lot about their cocktail list. Gina, their mixologist, wasn't behind the bar that night. And the drinks we had weren't good either. I watched as the bartender sometimes freepoured, sometimes used a jigger, shook drinks in a shaker for 3-4 seconds tops, do a poor job of stirring, and didn't bother to taste any of the drinks going out. My husband's Happy Together (mezcal, chocolate bitters, orange) was fine but served in a short glass with too many ice cubes. Watery, again, in just a few minutes. I liked my Rickey Ricardo but it was a bit watery as well -- couldn't tell if it was the recipe or the bartender's doing but it didn't look like there was a lot of gin to begin with in the drink (I watched him freepour into the glass). My Sun and Sand was far too sweet, especially with the root beer crust, the vanilla was overpowering (I think it needed some acid component), and I just couldn't finish it. Minus points too for the TV set to The Apprentice (ugh) and the bar being right by the bright, frosted glass, sliding kitchen doors (ugh) and the tub of popcorn left without the lid on all night (no wonder it was stale).

Of all of them I'd definitely the Columbia Room again, the Gibson is a strong maybe, and I'd do Proof for food & wine.
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#23 weinoo

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 11:57 AM

I still find Bourbon, in Adams Morgan, to be my favorite place - the least pretentious and $7 cocktails at happy hour. Also, the selection of, wait for it, bourbon, is super. That's not to say you're always going to get a great drink. Once it starts getting crowded, all bets are off.

We had a very good experience at The Gibson, and PS7's was okay (Gina wasn't there the night we were, either). Lots of hill staffers - so it's a bit "stuffy." I usually stick with the tried and true at these places - Manhattans with rye you don't see often in NYC, Martinis, negronis, etc. That way I'm usually not disappointed. And you really have to sit at the bar.

If Adam B. is making your drinks at Proof or Estadio, you're in good hands - unfortunately, he usually isn't.

Tabard Inn, when Chantal Brown is working, is great; but good luck getting a seat at the 8 - person bar.

If you're a beer freak, then Churchkey, upstairs from my favorite DC restaurant (and Best New Chef nominee) Birch & Barley. The food at Churchkey is from that kitchen. Good stuff, and perhaps one of the finest bread baskets I've had.

A new place will be opening "soon" on 18th Street - scotch centric, multiple bars, barbecue - I'm interested to see how it plays out.
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#24 Hassouni

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 05:45 PM

Hello DCers, fairly new here and glad to join in the discussions!

I agree with what most people have said here, but have a few points to add:

Bourbon is great, but their original location in Glover Park is nicer for a fewreasons: firstly, it has a large patio allowing outdoor seating much of the year, secondly, it avoids the Adams Morgan crush (I lived there for two years and it's unbearable on weekends), and thirdly it's not as dingy as the one in Adams.

Speaking of Adams Morgan though, seemingly overlooked by many is Tryst, one of AdMo's grandes dames. Their bar is very well-stocked, and their bartenders know what they're doing. They also do pretty good original cocktails, priced well. $7 for a well-made Sazerac? Yes please!

Also, I like to think of Gibson and Passenger as kindred bars for some reason, but the drinks at the Passenger are way cheaper ($9 for rather complex drinks the last time I went, vs over $15 at Gibson), and without any of Gibson's snottiness. That being said, Passenger has its own even snottier version of Gibson in the back of the bar, the Columbia Room, but the staff there are really nasty.

Around the corner from Gibson and owned by the same people is Patty Boom Boom, a Jamaican patty snack bar and reggae venue. If you're at all into rum and rum cocktails, this is the place to go.

And if you want really good agave-based cocktails, the bars at El Centro DF (best rooftop bar in DC by my reckoning) do a good range of original tequila and mezcal cocktails. I particularly like the Lavanda, which is tequila, lavender, and St Germain (I think), and the Red & Smokey: mezcal, agua de jamaica (hibiscus), and chile-ginger syrup.