Summer Refresh: New Bartender, Revamped Bar at Bourbon Steak

“My signature cocktail is the one that is going to make you happy,” says the new head bartender at Bourbon Steak, Torrence Swain, when asked about his favorites and the latest in the high-end cocktail world.

Swain isn’t the only new feature of the restaurant at Georgetown’s Four Seasons Hotel. The bar and lounge were revamped with refinished floors, sporting beautiful stone mosaic inlays, as well as new artwork throughout the space. The window booth seating is new, along with new leather bar stools that provide visitors a view of the expanded backlit spirits display. The addition of stylish couches in the front of the lounge brings the seating to 60.

“The happiest people ever are at the bar,” said Swain, who arrived at Bourbon Steak after working as head bartender for the Farm Restaurant Group at Farmers Fishers Bakers at the Washington Harbour.

Bourbon Steak was honored by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington this year and brought a Rammy back to the bar: Cocktail Program of the Year. The bar’s departing bartender is Dwayne Sylvester, whom Swain called “my mentor.”

Look for Swain’s salute to Georgetown from his new perch: his M St. Apple Old Fashioned, featuring cardamom bitters and apple brandy as well as the requisite whiskey and sugar, a concoction inspired by his grandmother’s warm baked desserts. You can order it at the bar, beginning Aug. 1.

For Swain, Washington is part of his family history. His grandfather worked at the Washington Navy Yard. He grew up in Norfolk, Va., with his grandparents. “I was used to having people around the house,” Swain said. “Hospitality is a way of life for me.”

The affable mixologist offered a few quick answers at the bar. “I like all scotch.” ” ‘Mad Men’ has pushed cocktail culture.” “That’s right: bartending is nothing like Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail.’ ” If one wants to know how a bartender plies his craft or builds a business, Swain does recommend a documentary — now on Netflex — “Hey, Bartender.” As for getting a drink in a timely fashion? Swain says, “It doesn’t have to take 15 minutes.” He says he aims for consistency and quickness.

Swain will launch his fully revamped cocktail menu in September for Bourbon Steak, chef Michael Mina’s modern American steakhouse, where President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have dined twice.


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