Cocktail of the Month: Whiskey Sour

December 7, 2016

America has spoken. More than 18 months of name-calling and nastiness has come to an end. Or has it? One candidate was elected by a significant majority of voters while […]

Cocktail of the Month: Cider House Cocktail

November 9, 2016

Asked to name a fruit that reminds them of fall, most folks would think of apples. From September’s harvest to Halloween bobbing and the all-American apple pie at Thanksgiving dinner, […]

Cocktail of the Month: Thyme to Decide

October 12, 2016

We’re finally in the home stretch of what feels like the longest and nastiest U.S. presidential campaign in history. As Nov. 8 creeps up, the entire world seems on edge. […]

Cocktail Of The Month: The Hangovertini

September 14, 2016

The scene opens with gangster Leslie Chow singing “If I Could Save Time in a Bottle” as the elevator rises …

Cocktail of the Month: Patrón Mango Margarita

August 10, 2016

There’s no doubt that one of the best summer drinks ever invented is the margarita. It’s cool, tart, a little tangy — with a spicy tequila smack — and salty […]

The Lady Bird

June 28, 2016

Warm weather in the nation’s capital means outdoor drinking, whether it’s on a patio or a roof deck. An outside space has become a necessity for D.C. bars and restaurants, […]

The Lady Bird

June 22, 2016

Warm weather in the nation’s capital means outdoor drinking, whether it’s on a patio or a roof deck …

Kevin Plank Launches Rye in Time for Preakness

May 25, 2016

The first batch of Sagamore Spirit, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank’s new straight rye whiskey, was released May 13, just in time to be the official rye of the Preakness Stakes.

At Plank’s Sagamore Farm — about 15 miles northwest of Baltimore’s Pimlico race track, home of the Preakness — Sagamore Spirit co-founder (with Plank) Bill McDermond hosted a launch party for the rye May 19. Restaurateurs and bartenders from D.C. and Baltimore drank rye and rye cocktails, tossed down bites from area eateries, smoked cigars, listened to a Nashville band and rode a mechanical bull. Plank’s remarks were on video; he was giving the commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Maryland.

The hugely successful athletic-wear entrepreneur bought Sagamore, former horse-breeding farm of Pimlico owner and president Albert G. Vanderbilt II, in 2007. About 100,000 attendees are expected at this year’s Preakness, on Saturday, May 21. The favorite, Nyquist, won the Kentucky Derby May 7.

A distillery for Sagamore Spirit, under construction in the Port Covington section of Baltimore, is expected to open to the public by early 2017, complete with tasting rooms. The rye, currently aged out of state, is cut to 83 proof with springwater that bubbles up through the limestone on Plank’s farm.

Two Georgetown liquor stores sell Plank’s Sagamore Spirit for $44.99 per 750-ml bottle.

“The guys like it,” said Steve Feldman of Potomac Wine & Spirits at 33rd and M Streets. “It’s kind of a sweet rye.”

Hop, Cask & Barrell — on Wisconsin Avenue near R Street — also had about six bottles left, pre-Preakness.

Cocktail of the Month: Special Delivery: Pineapple Airmail

May 4, 2016

What’s cooking behind the bar?

On a recent spring day, I was enjoying an after-lunch drink with a friend at Poste Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco when I was struck by an enchanting aroma coming from behind the bar. It had a fruity scent, joined with the fragrance of exotic spices. Since it was one of the first warm days after an early-April cold snap, the tropical scent tingled my senses.

As I leaned over to take a peek, I spied a pot filled with a brilliant yellow hue slowly simmering. Bartender Joel Newbraugh explained that he was preparing a seasoned pineapple syrup for one of the house cocktails, the pineapple airmail. The bouquet of spices included cardamom, turmeric and cinnamon.

The airmail is a classic, dating back to the golden age of cocktails. Even the name brings back memories of days gone by. Airmail (the service) was quite a feat when it lifted off in the U.S. in 1911. The idea of sending correspondence across the country — and later over the ocean — in a few days was unthinkable just a generation before.

Airmail eventually gave way to special couriers like FedEx and DHL — and, eventually, email. But at one time if you wanted a letter to get somewhere quickly, you went to the post office, bought an envelope with red and blue barbershop piping around the edges and attached a special stamp (often with a photo of an airplane).

Cuba began regular airmail service in 1930 and the cocktail of the same name appeared shortly afterward in a promotional pamphlet for Bacardi, then headquartered in Cuba. It is not known whether it was a Bacardi creation or copied from a Havana bar.

This delightful drink was composed of Cuban rum, honey, fresh lime juice and Champagne. It later officially turned up in in Esquire’s 1949 Handbook for Hosts. It was sometimes served with a special airmail stamp affixed to the glass.

Poste’s pineapple version, conceived by head bartender Justin Hampton, reinvents this timeless drink by replacing the honey with the aforementioned pineapple syrup, adding a sultry dimension.

The original version calls for Cuban rum, which unfortunately is not available here in the States. This rendering uses Plantation 3 Stars — a multinational rum blended with spirits from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. Bartender Amy Russell describes the flavor as similar to a rhum agricole (rum-distilled sugarcane juice), “but not as intense.”

The distiller says that each of the three distinct rums lends a specific character to the spirit. “Matured Trinidad rum imparts its classic elegance, Barbados delivers sophistication with a balanced mouthfeel and Jamaica conveys its unmistakable structure and rustic edge.”

The pineapple airmail is served in a champagne flute garnished with a mint leaf. While its appearance may look like a gentle mimosa, do not be fooled; this drink is definitely not tame.

On first sip, the full-bodied flavor of the rum and spice hits your tongue, mingling with the sweetness of the pineapple like happy bedfellows. Then, thanks to the lime and sparkling wine, it has a dry tart finish. The mint leaf adds a bit of coolness.

Pineapple drinks can easily become cloying, but cooking the fruit with spices curbs its sugariness. The airmail delivers the whimsical fun of a tropical drink with a refined flair.

If you want to try the pineapple airmail, you must hurry to the Hotel Monaco. Poste Brasserie is slated to close temporarily this summer, then reopen with an edgy new concept.

The Pineapple Airmail

1 ounce rum
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce spiced pineapple syrup

Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and pour into a champagne flute. Top it off with Prosecco.

Cocktail of the Month: Canning the Fine Brine

April 8, 2016

If you’re a barfly in the D.C. area, you may be on to a bartender’s best-kept secret. Just in case you aren’t, local pickle company Gordy’s Pickle Jar is letting us in on it — and canned it for home bartenders here and nationwide.

Gordy’s Fine Brine is the first pickle brine for cocktails to be sold in a can. Drink connoisseurs were pouring pickle brine from refrigerator jars — not the cleanest of options. Gordy’s founders, Sarah Gordon and Sheila Fain, were doing the same thing and realized there had to be (and needed to be) a better way. The cocktail pickle-brine can was born.

Gordon and Fain founded Gordy’s five years ago after deciding to go into the pickling business. Fain was in the hospitality industry and Gordon had her own consulting firm that focused on branding. The two met through mutual friends and created Gordy’s, named after Gordon’s father, whom everyone called Gordy.

“Gordy’s just seemed like a really strong pickle name,” Gordon said.

A Chicago native, Gordon has lived in D.C. for 10 years, while Fain grew up in Columbia, Maryland, and later attended the University of Maryland. Fain had been living in San Francisco, but since the pickle market there was already oversaturated with small batch producers, back to D.C. she came to start up Gordy’s. The partners decided to set up shop in the Petworth neighborhood at 2nd and Upshur streets NW.

“We love the neighborhood,” Gordon said. “It’s great. Upshur is getting a makeover and there are a lot of new businesses and young families.”

Gordon added that while it’s not an ideal place to manufacture pickles, they rented 1,500 square feet because of their immediate need for space. “Right now it’s working for us, but we always have our eyes open for the next potential space,” Gordon said.

The duo focuses on craftsmanship and sustainability, working with local farmers and farmers markets like Fresh Farm Markets ( They’re also at Whole Foods stores in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, as well as Harris Teeters and a number of small retailers. They also sell their products at local restaurants. For pickle-obsessed family members not in the D.C. area, Gordy’s ships nationwide.

Gordon and Fain also have a deal with Nordstrom as part of their “Pop-In” series. Until April 17, “Pop-In: Eats” is going on at Nordstrom Tysons Corner. Gordy’s and other foods will be available. Additional Nordstrom “Pop-In” series cities include Chicago, Seattle and Dallas.

If you visit Gordon and Fain’s website, there are delicious recipes created by the two, as well as some they collaborated on with other recipe magicians like Julia Turshen, who co-wrote “It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look and Feel Great” with Gwyneth Paltrow. Turshen created the “Kinda Korean Chicken” dish on their site (

As far as plans for their own book, Gordon seemed to have a “never say never” attitude.

“We really love pickles!” said Gordon, talking about her love of having a warm-weather vegetable all year round. “We love the idea of preserving the season.”

The back of Gordon and Fain’s cocktail-brine can has a unique drink recipe concocted by Adam Bernbach of U Street cocktail bar, 2 Birds 1 Stone. We’ve included the recipe here.

One Block Street

1 ½ ounces gin
1 ounce Gordy’s Fine Brine
½ ounce lime juice
¼ ounce rich simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters

Shake. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel. [gallery ids="102396,122718" nav="thumbs"]