Foggy Bottom’s Founding Farmers, along with its sister restaurant Farmers and Fishers, are already known as among the hottest spots in DC for handcrafted cocktails. The restaurants, both renowned for their farm-fresh produce, fine spirits, and homemade mixers and juices, sport an evolving drink menu designed by chief mixologist Chef Jon Arroyo.
New for spring at Founding Farmers is Arroyo’s customizable menu of juleps and cobblers. While most imbibers are familiar with juleps due to the popularity of mint juleps, the cobbler cocktail may be an unfamiliar concept for many casual drinkers.
The word cobbler conjures up visions of pastry dishes soaked with baked ripened fruits. Webster’s dictionary sports two edible definitions for cobbler.
1. A deep-dish fruit dessert with a thick top crust.
2. A tall sweetened iced drink of wine or liquor with fruit.
The original cobbler cocktail, according to Arroyo, was made with sherry. It was one of the most popular libations during the last half of the nineteenth century. Because cobblers were made with fresh fruit and sugar they were among the first cocktails to be shaken.
Early cobblers were very sweet and fancy cocktails. They were garnished beautifully with fresh berries. It became known as a ladies’ tipple, but in Arroyo’s opinion it is definitely not a ladies’ drink.
Perhaps the most exciting element of Founding Farmer’s new menu is the concept that the drinks will be customized for each customer—male or female—based on their spirits preference.
On the blistery Tuesday that I sat down with Arroyo, he asked me what type of liquor I was in the mood for. Feeling a bit chilled, I requested a bourbon drink. Off to work he went, preparing me a personalized cocktail.
All of the cobblers at Founding Farmers will start with some basic ingredients: muddled lemon, lime, orange, along with bitters and sugar. The remaining ingredients will take the direction of the spirit requested.
For the base spirit, Arroyo chose Knob Creek Bourbon. “There’s dryness to the Knob Creek which balances out the fruit,” Arroyo said. “I like it because it’s a big bourbon with a lot of spice. You’re going to know you’re drinking it.”
Arroyo’s first augmentation to my cocktail was the Angostura brand of bitters, but the flavor of bitters used in each cobbler will depend on the type of liquor. Next he added homemade ginger syrup, because he likes the spice that ginger adds to bourbon. In the spirit of tradition, he plopped in a bit of red wine Malbec, in lieu of sherry. But for me, the most curiously wonderful addition was the touch of absinthe
The finished cocktail was a taste explosion on my tongue. It had a robust fruit-forward flavor up front while the boldness of the bourbon warmed my mouth with an earthy goodness. While I was a bit hesitant about the Absinthe, it turned out to be a key ingredient. Its herbaceous quality tied the variety of fruity and spicy elements together in a delightful symphony.
While the drink was served in a pretty metal julep glass and garnished daintily with fresh berries and mint leaves, I agreed with Arroyo that it was decidedly not a ladies only drink. Its complexity and freshness provided many layers of flavor that any discerning drinker would enjoy. And yes, I could definitely taste the bourbon.
Arroyo’s spring cocktail menu debuted in February, and he assured me that all the bartenders at Founding Farmers will be well trained in making the customizable cocktails. “Depending on the spirit you choose,” he said “The bartender will choose the direction for the cocktail.”