Words By Norm Quarrinton, Photos By Clarissa Villondo
Cocktail lovers of D.C. can always count on the good folks at Dram & Grain to devise a seasonal menu that’s as interesting as it is smart. This time they’ve gone global. The new concept is a homage to some of the planet’s most prestigious drinking locations. So if your wanderlust is as strong as your liver, you’re in for a real treat because the smart and savvy minds of Mikey V. Barton, Andy Bixby, Benny Hurwitz, and Lukas B. Smith have developed very special world tour for your boozy pleasure.
Maywine cordial, cherry blossom syrup, lemon, sea salt & coriander bitters, angostura
The first destination on our whirlwind world tour of cocktail capitals is Tokyo, and the Sakura Cobbler is like some sort of teleportation potion. Inspired by the cherry blossoms that were bestowed on DC as a gift from the Japanese government, the cocktail’s flavor was a bright as its presentation. Tangy and sweet with a gland tingling aftertaste. The first wave of cocktails were designed to be delicate and refreshing, so it was the perfect way to kick off our journey.
Mizu Shochu, Suntory whisky toki, Fuji apple soda, burdock chip
Up next was a fizzy, fragrant whiskey based beverage. The whiskey is Suntory, the brand Bill Murray’s character promotes in Lost in Translation, which is appropriate because the Hai Baller is definitely a drink I would consume whilst drowning my sorrows in the bar of a fancy Tokyo hotel. Despite not being a lesson in aesthetic perfection (although it is garnished with a cute little burdock chip) it’s a charming cocktail that perfectly encapsulates the culture it represents.
King of Wishful Thinking
Absolut elyx, D&G pommeau, raspberry infused rosé, fresh ginger
The second stop on our adventure was London, and this is where things started to get really interesting. Anything named after a Go West song gets a good review from me. Especially if it’s punch in a pouch. A lot of thought went into this vodka-heavy heavy hitter, and was easily the most uniquely presented drink on the menu. It’s Capri-Sun for grown-ups, although obviously it tastes a lot better. Bachelor/bachelorette parties are going to have a lot of fun with this one.
Ford’s gin, Granny Smith gomme, lime, ruby port espuma
Topped off with a ruby port espuma, the aptly named Excelsior Gimlet is obviously on the creamier side, but it sets the tone perfectly for the more serious drinks to come by making gin the star of the show. The slightly-sour apple aroma complements the espuma, which itself is a game changer–it’s smooth and moreish, and is really creative way to celebrate the spirit of London. Just be careful if you have a lot of facial hair.
Lost spirits Cuban inspired 151 rum, D&G falernum, grenadine, lime, tropical mist
We make our way to Havana for some rum based shenanigans. Rum. The word itself is enough to conjure up some cool Caribbean imagery. A sandy beach, a steel drum, Jack Sparrow etc. Mosquito Hour is an enticingly sweet beverage with a tropical vibe. it looks great, and the rum cuts through the tutti frutti sweetness, partially created by the alluringly fragrant tropical mist that is spritzed on at the end.
Mount Gay Black Barrel, honey roasted peanut orgeat, Cynar, Amontillado Sherry, lime
Paradise Lost is an intriguing and delectable offering that peanut lovers will go nuts for. The rum/sherry ratio is perfect, and the Cynar prevents the drink from being overpoweringly peanutty. Another well-presented drink, that is literally lit up by its flaming peanut shell garnish. But as is the case throughout the menu, the garnish isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s an almost integral element of the cocktail’s theme. The name says it all, and Paradise Lost is a fitting way to say goodbye to Cuba.
Edinburgh Gin, Chartreuse, Cocchi di Torino, Barbadillo Palo Cortado Sherry, Bergamot, bittercube orange bitters
We’ve finally made it back to America. New Orleans to be exact. Party time! The Bisou Cocktail brings together an appropriate combination of cultures. I usually find gin cocktails to be slightly overpowering, but in this drink the sweet spiciness of the green chartreuse, and the tang of the vermouth tempered the strong gin flavor.
Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Copper & Kings aged brandy, petite chartreuse syrup, peychaud’s, charred licorice stick
A playful aroma and a delightfully long finish. The ingredients might sound slightly too eclectic for the more reserved cocktail consumers, but the Smoke Show really is a work of art. Don’t even try to figure out how the pieces fit together, they just do. Perfectly. Unique, fun, intriguing, and ever-so clever–this was one of the most enjoyable alcoholic concoctions I’ve ever consumed.
Jensen’s Bermondsey Dry Gin, basmati syrup, yuzu-lillet espuma, matcha green tea, lemon, egg white
We did it! The final leg of our epic journey places us in San Francisco. The Teahouse Tipple is another cocktail whose ingredients should not work as well together as they do. There’s a lot of overlap between tea lovers and cocktail fans (probably), and this is must-try drink for those in the middle of that Venn diagram. The espuma and egg white create a wonderfully delicate frothy texture, and the matcha green tea subdues the gin without completely sedating it.
Eva by the Bay
Fernet Francisco, carpano antica, dungeness ginger beer, lime, ginger enhanced Amaro di Angostura, mini crab
Our whirlwind world tour comes to an end with an almost savory number. The lashings of ginger are cleverly offset by the alcoholic elements, creating a lively and heavy bisque-like drink that’s way tastier than it has any right to be. And as if that wasn’t enough, Eva by the Bay uses an actual crab as its garnish–and again, it’s not just there to look pretty–it’s seasoned, adds flavor, and the drink really benefits from its presence. Another great example of why the garnishes on this menu are so important to its thesis.