Your favorite cocktail cavern / booze basement / sexy speakeasy / libation library / date night spot / place to hide from the Saturday night crowds on 18th Street is back in business. After moving from their tiny (yet, well loved) cabin-esque digs underneath Jack Rose into the larger and slightly more refined digs under The Imperial, Dram & Grain, easily one of the best cocktail bars in D.C., is officially open.
Helmed by the alcohol infused mad scientist / beverage director Andy Bixby, the new Dram & Grain is a little bigger and a little brighter, but retains the fun and unexpected cocktail combinations that made every night at the old Dram & Grain feel like an adventure.
And that adventure isn’t just for special occasions. Besides the larger capacity that makes swinging by for a drink, or making a reservation for a full on experience, a little easier, Dram & Grain has also switching things up with a brand new happy hour menu. Featuring five cocktails priced at $11 each (and $7 seafood snacks), these cocktails pack a punch. Think riffs on Manhattans, martinis and other high ABV drinks, like the lightly sweet and botanical based Vespers Semester Abroad. This international influenced play on a Vesper combines Tito’s, some sherry infused with classic gin botanicals, Cocchi Americano, vermouth and fortified wine. Like everything at Dram & Grain, there’s a lot more happening below the surface than what you might grasp at first sip.
And if you decide to stay and peruse the full cocktail list after a happy hour drink or two, we wouldn’t blame you. Broken into three sections, the new menu delineates drinks based on which of their house made ingredients are being used. There’s the Baked Citrus Amaro, which combines three different aperitifs, the Tamaro, which ads a savory umami edge, and the Anisette, which includes a combination of infusions that echo the strong flavors of absinthe.
If the Bed, Bath & Bodyworks-esque Baked Citrus Amaro is calling your name, go for the As The Jungle Bird Tai’s. Dram & Grain knows how to do tiki right, and this boozy baby is no exception. Featuring a garish smoked cinnamon stick garnish and an ingredients list that you couldn’t count on one hand, this cocktail is classid Dram & Grain, but it’s also, wildly, dangerously enjoyable. There’s funky rums, local rye, dashes of passionfruit, toasted pistachios, pineapple and that Baked Citrus Amaro. It’s a tropical fruit basket doused in rum that you found at the bottom of a pirate ship and then lit on fire.
I hope you don’t mind drinking your dinner, because the Pearls Before Swine has to be tried at least once. Made with their umami forward Tamaro, this drink is a dirty martini that wanted to be a full course meal when it grew up. Besides Tamaro, you can expect a mixture of gin, sherry, cucumber bitters and smoked cucumber pearls. At the bottom of the glass is a special surprise, a cucumber and scotch sphere that bursts in your mouth as you slurp it up. Think of it as a grown up gusher, filled with booze and vegetables.
For dessert, the Cavalletta AKA Bixby’s favorite cocktail on the menu, will set you up right. Made with their Anisette, plus a milk washed aperitif, white cacao and cream then topped with a delicate almond pizzelle cookie, it’s a sophisticated grasshopper that subs out sweet mint for the complexities of anise. Alternate between taking a sip of the drink and a bite of the cookie and you’ll be in heaven.
If thinking of cookies is making you hungry, Dram & Grain can help you out with that too. Their small food menu ranges from raw bites (go for the crispy kale and cauliflower) to more shareable dishes (the caramelized onion tart is like a Bloomin Onion that won’t immediately stop your heart), but if you don’t order a seafood tower complete with Old Bay coated fried saltines, smoked mussels, oysters rockefeller, clams casino and a bevy of raw delights (plus three different sauces!), you’re not doing it right. Dram & Grain’s seafood shines because The Imperial’s seafood shines, so order another cup of creme fraiche clam dip with the crunchy sea salt lavash and let loose.
You can’t go wrong here, but you can get wild.