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All photos: Dakota Fine (on site @ The Columbia Room)

Both Derek Brown and Chantal Tseng can be described as powerhouses of DC’s imbibing universe (and extremely nice people too-ed). Over the years, he has handled cocktails at places like Citronelle, Palena, Komi, making his way to The Gibson and now presiding over The Passenger’s Columbia Room which is the ultimate craft bartender’s playground. He listens carefully and delivers thoughtfully every time you place your cocktail future in his hands. And, as if he was not busy enough, he also pens & demonstrates the Mixmaster column for The Atlantic. Chantal has presided over the bar at the venerable Tabard Inn for years, creating some of the most memorable and seasonal drinks in this city, and has penned the now-defunct “Drink in the Details” column alongside another Drink Diary Alum, Adam Bernbach.

They are one of our favorite DC couples (they tied the knot last year-ed) so when they suggested that instead of doing individual drink diaries they do a joint one, we jumped at the chance.

What we have below is an early September week brimming as much with mezcal and whiskey as with excellent teas, plus a series of terrific drink recipes to stride into fall with.


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Monday, August 30, 2010

Derek Brown: Despite reading in Time magazine the advantages of heavy drinking, I stick to coffee for breakfast. The El Grotto Microlot coffee from Guatemala is the choice of beverage recommended by manager/barista David Fritzler at Tryst, he’s my go-to coffee guy. The bright, acid and fruit driven coffee is just the thing to wake up to.

Chantal Tseng: I began my sunny afternoon with some loose leaf Golden Yunnan black tea. I buy most of my tea from a site called www.Adagio.com. I brew a big pot & transfer it to a large mason jar (I like to drink large quantities with a straw), with just a dash of agave nectar to sweeten. Definitely one of my favorite black teas.

Preparing for our DCCBG social @The Passenger. Derek buys a pineapple corer. Down goes the beautiful ripe nectar from the shell. Yum.

DB: During the evening we hold a social for new members of the D.C. Craft Bartender’s Guild. I make a Bombay Punch from Tom Bullock’s Ideal Bartender published in 1917. It’s pretty good (this is first time I’ve made it), though it definitely bears little relation to the heartier Bombay Government Regulation punch of 1694. Ehem, nerd.

BOMBAY PUNCH (2 ½-gallon mixture for 40 people)

  • Braise the skins of 6 Lemons in 1 lb. of Bar sugar and put the Sugar in a Punch bowl and add :
  • 1 box Strawberries.
  • 2 Lemons, sliced.
  • 6 Oranges, sliced.
  • 1 Pineapple, cut into small pieces.
  • 1 quart Brandy.
  • 1 quart Sherry Wine.
  • 1 quart Madeira Wine.
  • Stir well; empty into another bowl in which a block of Clear Ice has been placed and add: 4 quarts of Champagne.
  • 2 quarts Carbonated Water.
  • Serve into Punch glasses so that each person will have some of the Fruit.

Then I put back a few Boont Amber Ales from Anderson Valley Brewing Company in California. They’ve always been one of my favorite, and it’s even better in a cold can.

CT: Social began at 9pm but is getting livelier. I have probably 4-5 cups of Derek’s Bombay Punch. Delicious. I believe I am fulfilling my Sherry imbibing quotient for the day. Love sherry. Include 2 pint glasses of Soda Water.

I end the night with a lovely pot of Egyptian Chamomile with a dash of Jasmine scented Rooibos Tea.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CT: Special day. New shipment of Adagio’s Master Collection of Teas. I start the early afternoon with the Anhui Keemun Black, from the Anhui province of China. Hints of earthy smoke & chocolate with something almost Islay-ish to it. Not bad…but I recall enjoying the more provincial Keemun Encore better so I get that pot o’ brewing as well. Hours pass, couple glasses of OJ, H20 & then…Have lots of research & cataloging to do so I also throw on a pot of the Golden Yunnan. In truth, I’ve been drinking ALOT of tea since I gave up coffee.

DB: Rush off to work and grab a coffee from Chinatown Coffee along the way. Michica natural sundried coffee from Sidama, Ethiopia. It’s awesome and finishes like you just bit a sprig of mint after eating strawberries, it’s fresh and summery.

CT: After work, Derek and I share a lovely bottle of 1999 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino with our pasta. Beautiful fruit & texture. There’s only a slight moment of guilt as to the regret of longer aging…but that passes quickly. Compliments the sweet sausage in the tortellini shells quite nicely.

After dinner, I venture to my home away from home & work, Bedrock Billiards. Pool league night. Bartender/GM Peter pours me a very refreshing pint of Scrimshaw Pilsner. First three games I play decently well with a sweet kick shot on the 8-ball…

Water, water, water & sleep.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

DB: More of the Michica natural sundried coffee from Sidama, Ethiopia from Chinatown Coffee. Fuel, sweet fuel.

CT: I drink a pot of the Yunnan Golden Curls. Then I brew the Golden Spring Black Tea from the Fujian Province. Leaves are actually panfried and then hand-rolled. More delicate than one would imagine but unique and almost umami rich.

DB: I’m now ready for fall to come after tasting a range of Michel Jodoin ciders and brandy, microdistillers from Quebec.

Cidre petillant gaziefe -Light, fresh and slightly sparkling.

Ambre de pommes- Combo of brandy and apple juice.

Cidre de glace rose – Amazing! Crisp, tart acidity.

Brandy de pommes- Eight year old apple brandy aged in Cognac barrels.


CT: At work I drink a good deal of our Iced Tea called “SPORTea”. It is a blend of green & black teas with Siberian Ginseng, Ginger, Brazilian Mate & other vitamins & minerals. I feature for the evening the following four cocktails & try a little of each throughout the night:

The Adonis (Old recipe from late 1800’s but this version is from “Straight Up, Or On the Rocks” by William Grimes, 2002)

  • Equal parts sweet vermouth, amontillado sherry & fresh OJ, and a dash of Angostura bitters lightly shaken & strained into a cocktail glass, and garnished with orange peel.

L’Amour En Fuite (originally created 2007 by Jamie Boudreau of Seattle) Recipe is a slight variation.

  • 1.5 oz. Tanqueray Gin, .75 oz. Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, .5 oz. Pernod Absinthe, and .25 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. Ingredients are stirred, strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with an orange peel.

The Honeydew-Basil Caipirinha

  • I juiced one whole ripe honeydew melon with some amazingly aromatic Pistou mini Basil leaves.
  • One oz. melon juice.basil combo is added to the half of one lime quartered & muddled with sugar. 2 oz. Leblon Cachaca shaken w/ice & served in Old Fashioned glass.

A Gator Named Suzita

  • This drink makes sense in my head as it combines the Johnny Cash “Boy Named Sue” with avocado (the fruit nicknamed “Alligator Pear”) & some of the fixin’s for a Margarita.
  • 1.5 oz. Partida Blanco, 1 heaping spoon of a puree of fresh avocado, cilantro, key lime & agave nectar. Shake well & strain into a short cocktail glass with sprig of cilantro garnish.

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DB: Go to Oval Room with good friend and Proof and Estadio’s cocktail guy, Adam Bernbach, and we place ourselves in the hands of sommelier, Brent Kroll.

He starts us with two German wines:

Weingut Robert Weil Spatburgunder Weissherbst, Rheinghau 2008 – White pinot noir. Delicious and sings with a “Shrimp Chorizo, Black Olive, and Avocado” made by Tony Conte.

Valckenberg Gewurtraminer, Pfalz 2008 – This goes particularly well with Conte’s excellent “Roasted Baby Beets, Passionfruit, Horseradish, and Ice Wine Dressing.”

It gets better…

Falesco Ferentano, Lazio 2008 – Beautiful wine from the Roscetto grape. Great soft minerals, tropical fruit and honey.

Adelsheim Deglace, Oregon 2007 – Sweet pinot noir. I can see Brent has a very playful attitude toward wine. Despite knowing that throngs of guests come in like mad zombies chanting “Pinot, pinot,” this is the second Pinot Noir he’s served that bears little resemblance to most people’s conception of pinot noir. Very clever.

Verbena Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany 2004 – Another great Brunello. Beautiful.

Tenuta Garetto In Pectore Barbera, Piedmont 2000 – Barbera isn’t generally aged as long as the other Piedmont big-boys, Barolo and Barberesco. In this case it’s to wonderful affect. Still fruity, but great acidity and pairs astoundingly well with duck.

I finish off with a cocktail made by Brendan Murphy at the Gibson with rye whiskey, Ramazotti and Punt e Mes Vermouth. Unfortunately, I forget the name. It’s dark and bitter–a perfect digestif.

CT: Midnight. It’s now my birthday! I fix myself & fellow patrons & friends, Larry & Carl a Root Cream Stout.

  • 1 oz. ROOT liqueur, .5 oz. St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram, big heaping scoop of Huw’s Vanilla Ice Cream topped w/ a third bottle of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

CT: I wake up on this lovely morning only to realize my birthday just happens to be 90210. Great. Many show references follow. But first, a pot of the Wuji Da Hong Pao, a Chinese darkly roasted mineral rich Oolong Tea. Rich yet delicate with a lightness at the finish. Then we run off to have a delicious lunch at Oyamel.

DB: For Chantal’s birthday we go to lunch at Oyamel. Bartender Joe Cleveland makes us two lunchtime drinks upon our request. We ask for a drink that is tall and refreshing. I get a combination of gin, ginger, mint, lime and Sprite, a take on the Gin-Gin Mule. Delicious and exactly what I was in the mood for. For Chantal he creates a passion fruit cocktail with St Germain and Jamesons. She loves it.

We also sip on some Tres Generaciones Plata Tequila. Real Tequila is great stuff and can easily sit alone in a snifter or mix into a cocktail.

CT: My out of this world tres leches cake for dessert is soaked in rum. Yum.

I join friends on the patio at Poste Brasserie & sip on a Champalou Vouvray Brut Sparkling Wine with some crudite, fried squash blossoms w/chives & some of the creamiest oysters I’ve ever tasted.

I go to the Columbia Room. My friends & I toast with the 2000 Chartogne Taillet Brut Champagne. I love the oxidized nutty richness of this bubbly.

Katie Nelson shares her “Almost Home” cocktail made with Yamazaki 12yr. Japanese Whiskey, La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, Lavender honey & grapefruit peel. I try to drink this slowly but to no avail. Delicious.

Derek concocts the ridiculously refreshing Watermelon Basil Smash served with a metal spoon straw (love those things). It’s made with muddled watermelon & basil, Plymouth Gin & lemon juice & cane sugar. So darn tasty.

Next J.P. Fetherston whips up an “Amero,” a Mezcal Old Fashioned sweetened with a Chai-infused maple syrup. A decadent fall sipper.

Dessert course! A fantastic plate with one shot of Lustau PX (Pedro Ximenez) sweet sherry, a bruleed & caramelized fig, and a never ending bowl of Dolcezza’s Pineapple Mint ice cream. The plate sings with harmony & flavor.

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DB: It’s also my little brother’s birthday. He opens Port Ellen 27 Year Old 1983 Scotch – Cask Strength in the Columbia Room and we all swoon. Big, peaty, delicious Scotch.

I do a pudding shot. Yes, pudding shot. Katherine, a regular at the Columbia Room, made them with Amarula, a spirit from South Africa. She also brought jello shots. I could lie and say that someone of my training and distinction wouldn’t dare to slurp a jiggly, college shooter but they were delicious. BTW, there is nothing unmanly about drinking pudding.

CT: Somewhere in there another glass of bubbly appears, likely before the Port Ellen…along with a charming paper cup jello shot of St. Germain & strawberry-rhubarb. I am in awe of my drinkspread on the bar. A rare bottle of scotch, a flute of champagne & a polka dot plastic cup of fancy red jello. I live in a dream world.

Water, water, water.


Friday, September 3, 2010

DB: More of the Michica. What can I say; I’m a creature of habit.

CT: I brew the Keemun Rhapsody. Favorite Keemun variation yet. Must remember to purchase more. This is my preferred black tea when making Black Tea Maple Syrup. (2:1 syrup to tea).

DB: Chantal brings me some Yunnan Golden Curls, her new favorite tea. Here’s the Steepster’s description, which is on-point:

This is an exceptional quality tea comprised exclusively of soft, golden-leaf buds with an unusual curled shape. The dry leaf yields aromas of roasted peppers and sweet, wet hay. As the tea steeps, the hay fades into the background in favor of aromas of warm toffee and leather. As the liquor cools, the body of this tea seems to fill out and finish with notes of sweet potatoes and of course the characteristic pepper that makes Yunnans so distinctive. [link: http://steepster.com/teas/adagio-teas/11537-yunnan-golden-curls]

Don’t you wish you drank more tea?

CT: Meet up with friend Robert to shoot some pool at Bedrock. I have high hopes to have a can of the Back in Black dark lager & sip with a whiskey but wouldn’t ya know it…out. I settle for a draught of Bell’s 2 Hearted Ale & accompany it with a sipper of Jefferson Bourbon. I shoot pool like a rockstar. I have a second Jefferson, plenty of water & retire.

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DB: We make a Ramos Gin Fizz at the Columbia Room with vanilla extract. There have been violent scuffles over this addition of this ingredient to the New Orleans classic fizz, with some arguing it was a secret ingredient and others claiming it ruins the drink. The answer is: the Ramos Gin Fizz is much improved with vanilla extract. I make them for the whole bar and staff.

After work, the Columbia Room staff tastes through Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals: Minero, San Luis del Rio, Chichicapa, Santo Domingo Albarradas, and Tobala. All are from Oaxaca, Mexico. None of them have a worm. Mezcal is to Tequila what Brandy is to Cognac. Mezcal is the category and Tequila is a specific region in Mexico. These are great traditional expressions of both the earth and people and are smoky, earthy, funky and highly quaffable.

CT: It’s late and I’m feeling the need for some stomach settling bitters. I add several (5-7 dashes) Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters to about 2 oz. Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth & .25 oz. St. Germain. Sip over 1 cube of ice. DF10_9.3_DerekBrown-125

Saturday, September 4, 2010

CT: Finally, my favorite day of every week. It’s hibernation day here in the lovely Adams Morgan. I do some grocery shopping, drink OJ, brew some Yunnan Golden Curls, ice it down w/agave. Read on the rooftop. Lots of water.

DB: You may note that my toping tapers during the weekend since I get busier with prep and work. It’s much like you drink less Monday morning, or so I hope, if you have a day job—what we call “day walkers”. Nevertheless, I can’t resist a tipple or two so I end the day sampling a Calumet Cocktail, which is made with equal parts Bourbon and Sweet Vermouth, bitters and a few drops of acid phosphate. Really good, lighter than a Manhattan and with a zingy finish.

I also create a prototype for a Mezcal cream fizz (which is why we were tasting through Mezcals the night before). I settle on Del Maguey Minero, with a fig and honey like quality to it. I add fresh squeezed orange juice, orange blossom flower water, cream, vanilla extract, agave syrup and shake, then I top with soda and nutmeg. Sweet lord this is going to be the ruin of mankind. Mezcal shouldn’t taste like a creamsicle, should it?

You may note that I like these guys: Anderson Valley Brewing Company. The Boont Amber Ale is my fall staple, but the AVBC Summer Solstice or “Cerveza Crema” was my summer drink of choice. I down the Cerveza Crema and grab some Chinese food in Chinatown.

CT: Around midnight, after some experimentation, I stir together 2 oz. Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth with 1 oz. Amaro Ramazotti & drink over 2 very cold cubes of ice. Now dubbed the Amaro, Sec & Sweet because it is all those things…in a miniature mason glass.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

DB: This is my day off. The first half is spent drooling on the couch. It’s been a long week. I then drop by the Passenger for some business and have a Red Eye, beer and tomato juice. This is the Brown Brothers favorite morning drink. It’s addictive. May sound gross to you, but after one you’ll crave it.


CT: I work a long Sunday 9-5 Brunch at the bustling Tabard bar. I juice some very ripe mangos & mix the juice with some Passion fruit puree. I taste & feature the Oberon Cup today, made with said tropical delightfulness, a light squeeze of lemon, a half oz. of brandy & about 3-4 oz. of Bell’s Oberon Summer Wheat Ale. Served in a punch type glass & garnished with a slice each of lemon, orange & cucumber.

DB: Chantal and I make a date to go to Alexandria. The water taxi that picks up at Georgetown harbor is a delightful ride over and half the price of a cab. Besides, it’s a beautiful day. You just have to block out the tourists and information about tourist sites. There’s not much selection on the boat, so we settle for Bud Light. Truth be told, I like Bud Light. It’s the most flavorful of light beers besides Sam Adams Light.

We order Piña Coladas at the Majestic (cue song: “Yes I like Piña Coladas/And getting caught in the rain/I’m not much into health food/I am into champagne). If Todd Thrasher makes a Piña Colada it’s the mother of all Piña Coladas. It’s frosty, coco-nutty goodness.

We end the night with a stop-off at Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream. I’m becoming obsessed with classic sodas, malts and the idea of a soda fountain. I have a Chocolate Malt. Way too rich. In other words, just right.

CT: After a feast, I humbly request a Seelbach Cocktail made with 7 dashes each of Peychaud’s & Angostura Bitters, 1 oz. of Grand Marnier, 1 oz. of Jim Beam Bourbon & Sparkling Wine. I steal a sip of Derek’s Chocolate Malt & done!

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