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Cocktail of the Month

The Mermaid Cocktail

Anyone who has seen the newly released “Sex and the City 2” will tell you that there’s nothing quite like vacation with your BFFs. Fans of the original series will also confirm that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha enjoy a good cocktail. On a recent girlfriends getaway, my posse and I decided to make a themed cocktail to match the mermaid theme of our vacation. The main characters were myself, Miss Pixie Windsor, a Washington antique storeowner and avid collector of Mermaid memorabilia, and Jamye Wood, an upstate New York Web designer who has written a novel about a young girl who becomes a mermaid. The three of us traveled to Florida’s Gulf coast to visit Weeki Wachee Springs, the town of living mermaids. Weeki Wachee is one of Florida’s oldest and most unique roadside attractions. It is now a state park, where live mermaids (that is, women dressed in fancy mermaid costumes) perform graceful underwater ballet in an aquarium-like setting on the Weeki Wachee River. The mermaids perform to music, using air hoses to stay under water throughout the entire show. Many celebrities, including Elvis, have attended the mermaid shows. Our group decided to base ourselves in Siesta Key, FL to clock in some beach time. When perusing through a wide choice of beach houses to rent, we were all in agreement on a little cottage dubbed “The Sand Dollar,” mainly because of the heated saltwater pool with a tikki bar in the backyard. The house itself was secondary. Our visit to Weeki Wachee did not disappoint. We enjoyed a day of retro fun, watching live synchronized mermaid shows that included a replay of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and a patriotic number with mermaids performing underwater flips with Old Glory. While we were unable to find a cocktail bar inside the park, one of the snack bars served drinks in mermaid-shaped souvenir cups that we took back to our beach house for later use. Our first criteria in building our cocktail was that it had to be bubbly — sort of like the upbeat mermaids blowing bubbles underwater. We therefore decided to use sparkling wine as one ingredient. Next, although the mermaids’ costumes at Weeki Wachee included bright red and gold attire, we decided that our drink should be the traditional green color. I determined the bright emerald hue of melon liqueur would fit the bill. Jayme insisted that we include local ingredients, so we purchased fresh oranges at a nearby farmers’ market for juice. She even scouted out a starfruit to make celestial-shaped garnishes. In order to highlight the orange flavor, Pixie purchased Stoli Orange vodka for an added citrus boost. Our finished cocktail turned out to be deceptively light and refreshing. The bright and sunny flavor from the fresh juice and sparkling wine masked the taste of the vodka. The melon liquor added a perfect hint of sweetness while giving our drinks a cool green glow. Not bad for improvising on vacation! The Mermaid Cocktail 1.5 ounces Stoli Orange vodka 1.5 ounces orange juice 1 ounce melon liqueur Sparkling wine Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a long glass over ice and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with sliced starfruit. Ingredients to make the Mermaid Cocktail may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.

The Josephine Baker

Cuba is many things to many people. For vacationers from Canada and Europe, it is a tropical Caribbean getaway. For cigar aficionados the island is renowned for its celebrated stogies. For music lovers, Cuba is a jazz hotbed that spawned legendary performers like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and the Buena Vista Social Club. It is a place to step back in time and wander the narrow streets of Old Havana and watch the antique cars cruise along the oceanfront Malecon roadway. For drinkers, not only is Cuba the rum-soaked first home of Bacardi, it also holds an important spot in cocktail history. The daiquiri and mojito are two noteworthy drinks that trace their earliest roots to Cuba. The Museum of the American Cocktail hosted a seminar at Georgetown’s Mie N Yu restaurant in June celebrating the rich cocktail history of Cuba. Phil Green, a founding member of the museum, and Charlotte Voisey, an internationally renowned mixologist, emceed the event. Attendees were treated to a range of drinks, including the historical El Presidente cocktail and the Moveable Feast, a Hemingway-inspired punch that Charlotte created for a Cuban-themed lounge in New York. Charlotte and Phil discussed the history of Cuba, as a Spanish colony, during independence and post-Castro. Much of the evening was focused on Cuba’s role as a drinking destination during Prohibition. When alcohol became illegal in the states, Havana became the unofficial U.S. saloon. It was easy for Americans to travel there. Airlines offered non-stop flights and steamer ships transported merrymakers from Florida. Popular bars such as the Floridita (Hemingway’s favorite), the U.S. Bar and La Bodega del Medio catered to American travelers. During this time, a myriad of talented bartenders fled the U.S. in order to work in their professions. Phil described Cuba, along with England, France, Italy and others, as being one of the “carriers of the torch,” keeping the craft of the cocktail alive. In an effort to appeal to tourists, many cocktails were named after celebrities like the E. Hemingway Special, the Mary Pickford and my favorite cocktail of the evening, the Josephine Baker. Famous for her risqué costumes and no-holds-barred dance routines, Baker, an American expatriate, became the talk of Paris during the Prohibition era. Her namesake tipple lives up to the hype of this notable entertainer. The concoction is forged from a mixture of cognac, Port wine and apricot brandy, combined with an egg yolk for a frothy texture. The cocoa-colored cocktail has a sophisticated taste and a thick, smooth consistency. Its multi-layered flavor is subtly fruity and not overly sweet. A dusting of cinnamon adds a spicy kick. While it may not be possible for U.S. passport holders legally travel to Cuba on a cocktail pilgrimage, the Josephine Baker is an easy drink to whip up at home. Josephine Baker: 1 1/2 ounces Cognac 1 1/2 ounces tawny Port wine 1 ounce apricot brandy 1/4 ounce simple syrup 1 egg yolk Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel and dust with cinnamon. If you are concerned about consuming raw egg yolks, use pasteurized eggs. Ingredients to make the Josephine Baker are available at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown. For more information about the Museum of the American Cocktail, check out their Web site at www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org. [gallery ids="99158,102944" nav="thumbs"]

Stirred, Not Shaken

The steak and martini is a classic food and cocktail pairing. It’s something your grandfather would have ordered at an old boy’s club steakhouse, and it’s something you would feel comfortable ordering today with a cut of Japanese wagyu beef. So it was no surprise that the martini and its various incarnations were highlighted during a recent mixology seminar at Georgetown’s Bourbon Steak restaurant. Bourbon Steak’s bartender Duane Sylvestre taught the class, in which guests received a primer on basic bar techniques, an overview of various spirits and the history behind many cocktails. The martini, according to Sylvestre, is one of the most misunderstood cocktails. The classic martini consists of gin and dry vermouth, stirred and served with either olives or a lemon twist. But over the years, the drink has transformed into different things. The vodka martini, in particular, has evolved from its original form. While a traditional vodka martini should be made with vermouth, Sylvestre says that most vodka drinkers prefer theirs without. However, many people mistakenly order an extra dry vodka martini, believing that the term means “no vermouth,” when it actually means the opposite. A “dry” martini refers to the addition of dry vermouth. This term came into play years ago as a way to distinguish the martini from its forerunner, the Martinez, which was a gin and sweet vermouth mixture. Therefore, the term “dry” came to mean dry vermouth and extra dry came to signify extra vermouth. Even though James Bond has dictated the martinis should be shaken, not stirred, Sylvestre is a stickler for stirring. His rule is that any cocktails containing only alcoholic ingredients, such as gin and vermouth, should always be stirred, while drinks that include non-alcoholic mixers should be shaken. However, he makes an exception with vodka martinis. “Most vodka drinkers want their vodka cold and served straight up,” he says so he lets the market dictate how the drink is prepared. After making a vodka martini for the crowd, Duane mixed a classic gin martini with a twist using Plymouth gin, which he calls a mild and agreeable gin. “It’s going to add complexity, depth and character,” he said, “without the gin taking over the cocktail.” The choice of garnish — either an olive or lemon twist — is a simple matter of taste, unless you are ordering a dirty martini, which includes olive juice. Duane taught the class how to make a lemon garnish by using a vegetable peeler. After cutting the peel from the fruit, he stretched the skin around the rim of the glass in order to extract the citrus oils before dropping it into the martini. When I got a chance to sample the finished tipple I could see the citrus oils floating in the drink. The added hint of lemon provided a refreshing twang combined with the gin and vermouth. The timeless classic was an ideal balance of bitter, citrus, dry and sweet. Gin Martini 2 ounces Plymouth gin 1 ounce dry vermouth Stir well. Serve in a martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel or olives. Readers may sample the martini at Bourbon Steak restaurant, located in the Four Seasons Hotel at 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. Ingredients to make the martini may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, 3429 M St.

The Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail

The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC), along with Mr-Booze.com and Giramondo Wines Adventures, recently sponsored a “Cocktail Class for Beginners” at the Embassy Hilton in Washington. The event, hosted by MOTAC founding member Phil Greene, started off with a lecture about the history of cocktails. According to MOTAC, the word cocktail was first defined in 1806 in the Balance and Columbian Repository, a newspaper in upstate New York. The word cocktail was used in reference to an article about a recent election. At that time, politicians on the campaign trail would spend lots of money on alcohol, essentially buying votes by having a really good party. The newspaper published a tongue-in-cheek article about how much a particular candidate spent, even though he lost. This was the first recorded use of the word “cocktail,” and after this article was published, the editor felt compelled to define the word as “A stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters, it is vulgarly called a bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout at the same time fuddles the head. It is said also to be of great use to a democratic candidate because a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.” For decades later, a cocktail was just that — a spirit and bitters diluted with water and sugar to take the edge off. This simple recipe may sound familiar to anyone who has enjoyed the cocktail known as the Old Fashioned. Originally, the name “Old Fashioned” referred to any old–fashioned style cocktail such as a martini or Manhattan. Some people believe that Colonel James E. Pepper, a bourbon distiller and bartender at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY, created the Old Fashioned cocktail. What is more likely, according to Greene, was that the term “Old Fashioned” was applied to the drink known as a “Whiskey Cocktail.” Next, Greene demonstrated the ease of making this primitive cocktail, which follows the same definition published in 1806 — liquor, sugar, water and Angostura bitters. While Phil used a muddler to ensure the sugar was fully dissolved, he also suggested substituting simple syrup. For an added flavor boost, Phil squeezed a lemon peel over the mixed drink, releasing its essential oils, before dropping it in as a garnish. He also noted that nowadays bartenders will sometimes muddle an orange slice or other fruit into the mixture. While many modern drinkers may see this potable as downright “old-fashioned,” perhaps this granddaddy of cocktails deserves a second look. Its rudimentary formula has served as a building block for numerous contemporary drinks. The Old Fashioned’s straightforward composition and uncomplicated taste make it a refreshing alternative to many of the overly sweet and convoluted concoctions we see on so many restaurant menus today. --- The Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail 1 sugar cube (1 teaspoon) 1 teaspoon water 2 dashes Angostura bitters 2 ounces rye (or bourbon) whiskey Muddle sugar, water and bitters together until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Fill glass with ice, then add whiskey. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. For more information about upcoming seminars go to www.museumoftheamericancocktail.com or www.mr-booze.com. Ingredients to make the Old Fashioned cocktail may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.

The Laurel Park

As we slug through one of the hottest summers in memory, Washingtonians have been seeking creative ways to have fun and cool down. A clever and inventive antidote can be found at Art and Soul on Capital Hill, where the latest rage is their uplifting and invigorating Sno-Cone cocktails. Your childhood favorite is back, but with a decidedly adult twist. Art and Soul, a welcoming lounge located in the Liaison Hotel, offers a menu of four icy cocktails designed by general manager Jay Poblador. These treats feature crushed ice layered with seasonal fruits and vegetables, mixed with liquor and served in cone-shaped glasses. The resulting tipples are light, stimulating and absolutely refreshing. Jay, who recently moved to DC from New York, is experiencing his first Capital summer. “I didn’t realize it was so hot and humid here,” he said. “I designed these cocktails to be refreshing and appeal to your childlike primal urges.” Bartender Heejin Shubbuck mixed up four frosty selections – the Laurel Park, the Rehoboth, the Savannah and the Washington Bite. ? Perhaps the most visually appealing is the Laurel Park, which arrives looking like a beautiful rainbow of ice and fruit including the pinkish hue of strawberries and cool green cucumbers. The layers are doused with gin and Saint Germaine elderflower liqueur before being topped off with rose sparkling wine. Jay designed the Laurel Park to showcase a wide range of flavors including fruitiness, sweetness and bitterness. “All around it’s a nice flavor profile,” he said. “The flavor of St Germaine is so nuanced, and gin provides a perfect pairing .” As I sipped my cocktail and the ice melted I noted how the flavor changed and evolved. When I reached the bottom of my glass, I enjoyed spearing the now frozen (and alcohol infused) fruits. The Rehoboth Sno-Cone proved to be equally as complex. This treat is built from pineapple soaked with cachaca, a Brazilian sugar cane rum. It’s garnished with fresh spearmint for a rejuvenating effect. Jay rims the glass with a smoked sea salt rim, which enhances the subtle smoky flavor of the cachaca. The Savannah, forged from fresh peaches, is the sweetest of the bunch. It starts with a full and luscious flavor, but finishes light and spicy thanks to vodka infused with African black nectar tea. “The tea imparts a bit of bitterness and nice tannins on the back of your tongue,” Jay says. The final frozen concoction highlights the exotic flavor of Yuzu, a Japanese juice that tastes like a concentrated mixture of lemon, lime and orange. It imparts a tart flavor with no lingering aftertaste. It is rimmed with a cinnamon, sugar and cayenne for a sweet and spicy essence. ? These delightful coolers are a seasonal offering at Art and Soul, so hurry before the temperature drops. Sno-Cone cocktails are half price during happy hour- Monday –Thursday, 4-7 pm. The Laurel Park 1.5 oz Hendricks Gin .5 oz St Germaine .25 oz Simple Syrup Splash Sparkling Brut Rose 1 oz diced Strawberries 1 oz diced cucumbers Shaved or Crushed Ice Assemble a martini glass with layers of ice, cucumber, and strawberries, placing layers of ice in between the fruit for color contrast. Shake Gin, St Germaine and Simple Syrup. Pour over ice and fruit. Top off with sparkling rose. Ingredients to make the Laurel Park may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown. Readers may sample this cocktail at Art and Soul at 415 New Jersey Ave.

The Stone Fence

What would you think if a man named Mr. Booze lived next door to you? Would you be concerned or curious? Or delighted, like the residents of Jerry Lenoir’s neighborhood? Jerry, along with his business partner Bill Flannery, is the man behind the super fun and retro-hip Mr-Booze Web site. Jerry’s home has turned into the local gathering spot. “I love making cocktails and entertaining guests” he gleamed, “I know all my neighbors .” The Mr-Booze Web site is a pleasant trip back in time when home bars were the norm and fashionable people enjoyed classic cocktails as soothing lounge music floated in the background. It pays tribute a time when martinis were martinis and drinks had names like the Old Fashioned and Singapore Sling. Jerry has become quite an expert on entertaining over the years. “I fell in love with home bars when he was 8-years-old, watching “Bewitched.” Darren would come home and Samantha would make an ice-cold pitcher of martinis.” His passion for cocktails continued throughout adulthood. “ In college while everyone else was drinking Natty Boh I was whipping up gin martinis,“ he recollected. “I found an apple crate and created a bar. Girls would come over. It was neat.” The trend continued until he and his wife bought their current home. “I was getting depressed looking at houses, until I walked into the basement of one home and saw the built-in bar. I knew this was our house!” Mr-Booze.com, along with the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC), recently hosted a seminar at the Occidental Grill on how to set up a home bar. While Phil Greene, a founding member of MOTAC, covered the basics such as proper barware, liquors and mixers, Jerry focused how to make your personal watering hole into an enjoyable place to relax and socialize. “Your home bar should be an oasis for you,” Jerry says, “a place where time stands still.” The Mr-Booze Web site is dedicated to teaching people how to create that classic cocktail vibe through décor, music, and lighting. It features information about where to find bar accessories. Jerry recommends scouring eBay, antique shops, thrift stores and estate sales for items. His basement refuge is brimming with kitschy decorations, stemware, celebrity photos, cocktail menus and books. “Good cocktails lead to good conversation, Jerry says, “and good talk can often erupt from the bric-a-brac, souvenirs and what-nots that you have around your set-up.” And because a drink enjoyed with a beautiful tune simply tastes better, Jerry’s Web site features reviews and recommendations for stimulating cocktail melodies. Most obviously, Mr-Booze.com is overflowing recipes, from cocktail classics to updates on old favorites. During the seminar, Jerry fixed one of his favorite tipples, the Stone Fence — a fruity mixture of apple brandy, cider and angostura bitters. Jerry discovered the drink in a 1912 recipe book and says it’s spiced apple flavor makes it a perfect elixir an for upcoming fall day. Mix one for yourself or make a large batch and invite your neighbors. The Stone Fence 3 oz Lairds Applejack 3-4 dashes Angostura bitters Apple Cider Fill tall glass or mug with ice, add Applejack and bitters and stir. Fill glass with cider. Dust with nutmeg and serve with a swizzle stick. For more information visit www.mr-booze.com or www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org. Ingredients to make the Stone Fence may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M St.) in Georgetown.

The Nica Libre

Rum and Coke may conjure up memories of college fraternity parties or youthful nights sneaking drinks in your parents’ home. It was probably one of the first mixed drinks you tried, back in the day when Natty Boh and Milwaukee’s Best were your choice of beers. But if you head 90 miles south of Florida, the rum and Coke has a more romantic vibe. On Castro’s island, it’s called the Cuba Libre and includes the addition of lime juice. In Cuba, the rum and Coke can trace its earliest beginnings. While the exact circumstances of its birth are unclear, Wayne Curtis, author of “And a Bottle of Rum,” offers a plausible explanation involving Americans soldiers in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. A group of Americans and Cubans were gathered in a bar where the soldiers mixed rum and Coke and called out “Por Cuba libre!” – “To a free Cuba!” The drink migrated north. During Prohibition, Coke was an easy mixer used to mask the taste of bathtub alcohol, and during World War II, when rum was plentiful and whiskey scarce, its popularity increased further. But it was a popular song that blasted the drink into the apex of pop culture. In 1945 the Andrews Sisters’ song "Rum and Coca Cola” entered the charts, where it remained in the number one spot for 10 weeks. The song, which was based on a Calypso song from Trinidad, sold 7 million copies and made rum and Coke an iconic drink for years to come. Its prevalence endured throughout the generic 50’s into the age of Wonder Bread and canned foods. The drink was simple to mix and required no exotic ingredients. Going back to its origins, a proper Cuba Libre, made with fresh squeezed lime, can be a refreshing elixir, especially in the muggy hot Cuban climate. However, while rum flows freely in Cuba, Coca Cola, thanks to the trade embargo, is not readily available everywhere. When your order a Cuba Libre, most bars will mix it with Fiesta Cola, a soft drink packaged in a red can with a white logo that looks suspiciously similar to Coke’s trademark script. A true Cuba Libre should be mixed with Cuban Rum, which is illegal in the states. Luckily, I found a pleasant alternative during a holiday in Nicaragua. While many Americans associate rum with the Caribbean islands, Flor De Cana rum is as ubiquitous in Nicaragua as Bacardi is now in Puerto Rico. Whether you are sitting at an open-air restaurant along the Pacific in San Juan del Sur, a colonial courtyard in Grenada, or at a reggae club on Corn Island, the liquor of choice across the country is Flor de Cana. Any bartender will mix you a “Nica Libre” with Flor de Cana, fresh lime and Latin Coca-Cola. In Latin America, Coke tastes slightly different than what is produced in the states; it’s made with real sugar instead of corn syrup. But there’s no real need to travel afar. This classic highball can be easily mixed at home. However, if you prefer going out (way, way out), I recommend seeking out Isaiah at the Best View Hotel on Big Corn Island. The Nica Libre 2 oz Flor de Cana rum Juice of ½ lime Coca Cola Lime wedge Add first two ingredients in a tall glass. Fill with ice and coke and stir. Garnish with lime wedge. Ingredients to make the Nica Libre may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.

Cocktail of the Week

The Suffering Bastard is a curious name for a drink that I’ve seen on numerous menus in Tiki bars and Chinese restaurants. Aside from the humorous moniker, I never really gave this drink much thought. But like many popular cocktails, there’s a story behind this concoction, which belongs to a man named Joe Scialom, who was perhaps one of the world’s most famous bartenders. The Museum of the American Cocktail and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the author of five books on vintage Tiki drinks and cuisine, recently hosted a lecture, “The Suffering Bastard: Joe Scialom, International Barman of Mystery,” at the Occidental Grill. Berry’s research began after reading Scialom’s obituary in the New York Times, in 2004. He tracked down Scialom’s daughter Collette and recorded his fascinating story. Scialom, who was educated as a pharmacist, was born in Egypt in 1910. While working as a chemist for Lever Brothers in the Sudan, he began applying chemistry principals to mixing drinks to entertain his colleagues. Here he found his calling and set out to become a bartender. His career began at the opulent Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, which was one of the most celebrated hotels in the world. Shepheard’s welcomed royalty, heads of state, and famous celebrities. Scialom, who spoke eight languages, dazzled the elite guests from near and far. He counted Winston Churchill, Charlton Heston, Charles de Gaulle, Conrad Hilton, and Egyptian King Farouk among his many guests. During World War II, the hotel served as an unofficial officer’s club for the British and became an informal press club for war correspondents. When there was little news from the war, the media wrote about Scialom’s amusing antics. Due to wartime supply shortages, drinks were being mixed with poor quality alcohol, and guests began complaining of headaches. In response, Scialom created the “Suffering Bastard” as a hangover cure. According to Berry, the original recipe for the Suffering Bastard consisted of “Black market gin from South Africa, stolen British army-issue brandy, a homemade lime cordial, bitters brewed by a druggist across the street, and ginger ale from a Greek merchant of dubious character.” The hotel bar, which was now referred to as “Joe’s Bar,” even featured a chart prescribing the number of Suffering Bastards needed to relieve a hangover based on its severity. Another amusing anecdote that Berry shared involved Scialom making gallons of the Suffering Bastard for a hungover British army that fought the battle at El Alamein. When the British won, the ever-present foreign correspondents reported Scialom’s hand in the victory. Following these reports, the Suffering Bastard became internationally known. Trader Vic’s was the first to copy it. Then it began showing up at Tiki bars everywhere, even though the recipe was nowhere near Scialom’s original. According to Berry, Trader Vic’s version was very similar to a Mai Tai. Scialom was the consummate host at Shepheard’s. When the hotel was destroyed, during the course of the civil unrest of the Egyptian revolution of 1952, Scialom continued to serve drinks and was one of the last to leave. But Scialom’s popularity did not go unnoticed by the Egyptian authorities. They were suspicious because he mingled consistently with so many important people. He was imprisoned as a spy and then later expelled from Egypt by President Gamal Abdel Nasser. While Scialom’s illustrious bartending career continued in Puerto Rico, Havana, and New York, it was his time at Sheapherd’s Hotel that cemented his place in cocktail history. The Suffering Baststard Courtesy of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry 1 ounce gin 1 ounce brandy 1/2 ounce Rose’s lime juice cordial 2 dashes Angostura bitters Ginger beer Add gin, brandy, Rose’s, and bitters to an ice-filled glass. Fill with ginger beer. Stir. Garnish with orange slice and mint sprig. Ingredients to make the Suffering Bastard may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown. Scialom’s story will be published in Berry’s upcoming book, “Potions of the Caribbean: Lost Cocktails from America’s Playground”. For information visit www.BeachBumberry.com or www.MuseumOfTheAmericancocktail.com. [gallery ids="99208,99209" nav="thumbs"]

Cocktail of the WeekNovember 16, 2011

As far as acclaimed drinking establishments in Washington D.C., one place stands the test of time over all others ? the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Hotel. Perhaps it?s the long and storied history, the impressive roster of influential guests, or its long-standing reputation as a gathering place for high society This uniquely Washington landmark, steps from the White House, transports visitors back in time, to an era of grand and luxurious hotels. Jim Hewes has been entertaining the well-to-do and mixing classic cocktails at the Round Robin since 1986. Conversing with Hewes reminds you of a golden age when hotel bars hired top-notch bartenders who were as skilled in the art of conversation as they were at mixing libations. Whether you are a celebrity, a tourist, a politician or a local, Hewes will make you feel at home and, if you like, provide you with a witty and enjoyable history lesson. The Round Robin is well known for its mint julep. The recipe hasn?t changed since Kentucky Congressman Henry Clay introduced the Southern-style drink to Washington in the 1800?s. The julep aside, the Willard is revered by those seeking a quality cocktail in a stately environment. Hewes can shake up a first-rate martini with pizzazz and mix an impressive repertoire of classic drinks. One of those concoctions is the hotel?s namesake cocktail, the Willard. This tipple was invented to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Willard in 1947. Hewes uncovered the recipe years ago in a James Beard article on hotel bars and cocktails in the New York Times. Like many classic cocktails, the Willard starts out with a gin base. Hewes recommends a dry gin such as Plymouth or Beefeater, in lieu of a sweeter gin, which can be too overbearing. The recipe also includes peach and apricot brandies along with a dash of lime juice. While the original recipe called for fresh squeezed lime, Hewes prefers to use Rose?s lime juice. ?I like to use Rose?s, reason being, that it keeps a clarity to the drink, ?He says. ?It?s not cloudy, you can look right through it and see what you?re drinking.? The Willard has a strong gin rush up front but finishes with a refreshingly sweet touch from the fruit liqueurs. It?s a timeless drink. ?We like to keep things simple here,? Hewes says. ?It?s a classic cocktail ? two sips. One is not enough. Three is too many.? The circular Round Robin bar is perched in an elegant room on the Eastern end of the hotel. According to Hewes, the bar has always had a similar arrangement. ?There has been a bar on this corner since the early 1800?s. Thomas Jefferson sat here after he left office,? Hewes informs. ?The room has always had a round configuration. At one time ?meet me at the rotunda? meant ?meet me at the Willard? - not the Capitol.? During his tenure, Hewes has served many important guests. ?History is always happening here. You never know who?s going to walk in and have a drink,? he says. ?Heads of states, captains of industry, entertainers, you name it.? When people ask Hewes if anyone famous been there, his line is usually, ?Well I didn?t catch his name, but he must have been famous because he had the Pope driving him around.? **The Willard Cocktail** *?Circa 1947?* 1 1/4 oz dry Gin ? oz Apricot brandy ? oz peach brandy ? oz lime use (Rose?s lime or fresh lime - your preference) Pout over ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel and a cherry. Readers may sample the Willard at the Round Robin bar located at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest. Ingredients to make the Willard cocktail may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M Street NW).

Cocktail of the WeekMay 30, 2012

Just in time for the upcoming summer season, the Museum of the American Cocktail hosted an event last week at the Georgetown Four Seasons Hotel celebrating popular drinks from South of the Border. Three bartenders from Bourbon Steak?Duane Sylvester, JP Caceres and Jamie McBain?each prepared cocktails featuring spirits from Latin America and the Caribbean. Sylvester, whose family hails from Trinidad and Tobago, presented two rum drinks, a classic punch and mojito. Caceres, from Bolivia, presented two traditional South American cocktails, the caipirinha, made with cachaca from Brazil, the pisco sour, and the forged frompisco, a Peruvian grape-based spirit. McBain presented the only original cocktail of the evening?a crimson-red tequila and beet juice concoction called ?We Got the Beet.? Being a tequila lover, I am always on the lookout for non-traditional agave tipples. But for a person who doesn?t like beets, I approached this concoction with hesitation. I later learned that Jamie, himself, doesn?t eat beets either. He developed the recipe after receiving multiple requests as a bartender for flavored margaritas. ?I get asked to make flavored margaritas, which I don?t,? Jamie said sternly. ?This is my small concession.? The classic margarita is a simple formula. Consisting of tequila, lime juice and a sweetener?usually an orange liqueur like Cointreau or triple sec?it yields a pleasing sweet and sour and potentially salty profile if you enjoy a salted rim. Jamie?s five-ingredient recipe of tequila, beet juice, agave syrup, lime and Averna Amaro, creates a multi-layered complex cocktail. Amaro?meaning ?bitter? in Italian?is an herbal liqueur, usually enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif. It is produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark and citrus peels in alcohol, mixing it with sugar syrup, and allowing it to age in casks or bottles. Averna has a distinct herbaceous flavor that tempers the sweetness of the beet juice and highlights the root vegetable?s earthy quality. The result is a harmonious balance of sweet, sour, bitter and salty. For tequila, Jamie uses Partido Reposado for this cocktail. Reposado?meaning ?rested? in Spanish?refers to any 100 percent agave tequila, which has been aged between two and 12 months in oak barrels. Jamie enjoys the subtle smoky flavor the reposado tequila imparts in this drink. For those planning to make this cocktail at home, finding the beet juice can be tricky. A health food store that sells fresh juices may be your only pre-made option. Otherwise, you?ll need a juicer to make it at home. At Bourbon Steak, Jamie uses beets that have been steamed first. But if you would prefer a more pronounced earthy flavor in your cocktail, he suggests roasting the vegetables before juicing. In addition to their unique freshness, the beets, will give this cocktail a stunning scarlet hue. If you don?t have access to a juicer at home, you can sample the ?We Got The Beat? at Bourbon Steak located inside the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown. For more information on upcoming seminars being hosted by the Museum of the American Cocktail, please visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org **We Got The Beet** 1.5 ounces Partido reposado tequila .5 ounce beet juice .5 ounces Agave nectar .5 ounce Averna .5 Ounce lime juice. Salt Salt half the rim of your cocktail glass. Mix four ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake.Strain intoglass.