all photos: Jeff Martin
JP Caceres has been one of DC’s most beloved and busiest mixologists and bar professionals for years. Since arriving to the District he had worked with everyone from Oyamel to Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons to Sidebar to Del Campo to Farmers Fishers Bakers to MXDC, to name but a few, and was one of the most visible and beloved faces at DC food events. All that was threatened to come to an end in December of 2014 when Caceres’ immigration status was put in question and he was detained by immigration, in one of the most covered/discussed DC food industry human interest stories of late. Luckily for the cocktail lovers of DC, in April this year, the issue was resolved and J.P. was granted a temporary 0-1 visa for “individuals with exceptional ability” and without wasting another second, Caceres dived right back into the work he obviously relishes. Currently, he can be seen working his magic behind the bar of two of much talked about 2014 restaurant additions to DC: The Carolina Kitchen and Soi 38, keeping as busy as ever.
To celebrate having him back around (ALL THE TIME), we asked JP to be our next diarist. Below, a great week in DC drinking awaits:
Today is going to be a long day. I woke up very hungover from a great night with some friends in NYC— there’s nothing better than a Cuban Coffee to begin my day. Usually I don’t drink coffee, but this time it’s different. I’m at a great coffee shop on W 29 Street & Broadway Ave inside the Ace Hotel.
Although I’m out of town, I still have some administrative work to do. I place an order and talk to clients while sipping Vitamin Water; hopefully this will help my hangover. It did not, so we decide to go for a bite to eat. My lady has a craving for a bowl of soup, and since all I give her to eat is Mexican Pozole for her hangover, we decide that Momofuku Noodle Bar on the Lower East Side instead is a great option; I’m a big fan of the Alexandria native chef David Chang.
We begin our meal by sipping Dewazakura Dewasansan – Ginjo Sake chased by Tiger Beer Lager from Singapore. Pork Belly Buns arrive. The small wooden tables and large Momofuku Ramen Bowls crush our hangovers. Now that we feel better, it is time to walk the city and do some tourist-y stuff.
We walk to the Chelsea Market admiring the city and we stop at The Standard Hotel for a bottle of Camins de Priorat by legendary winemaker Alvaro Palazio. It’s a 2012 vintage that pairs very well with charcuterie.
Napping is important for me. When I wake up, a glass of water is a must. New York water tastes better than DC tap water— just saying!
It’s time to imbibe, so we head to Mayahuel for dinner and cocktails. I begin with a Stone Raft (Mezcal, Jalapeño infused Blanco, Amontillado Sherry and celery bitters) followed by a Michelada de Tamarindo (Tequila Blanco, Sangrita de Tamarindo, Lime, Salt & Modelo Especial Beer). I sip a couple of sips from my lady’s drink; she has a bitter palate so she orders an After the Curtain (Añejo Tequila, Bourbon, Nonino Amaro, Oloroso Sherry, Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters). We do a Copita (shot) of Mezcal Del Maguey Santo Domingo with Jeremy, our very talented bartender.
We have a 10:00 pm reservation at PDT, a classic speakeasy bar, owned by an old mentor of mine, Jim Meehan. We walk in through a phone booth and are greeted by my friend Jeff Bell, who holds the title of World Class Diageo Bartender of the year. Jeff is a true host and I have an intense respect for him. I began to sip a libation with Aged Rum, Banana Liqueur, Lime, Coconut and Bitters served in a chill Coupe glass and follow by a cocktail that seems to be very popular, since our barman is making a few of those in 30-seat bar. Bacardi Fat Washed Butter, Lime Juice, Blue Curaçao, Frangelico and Tiki Bitters. Wow! The Shark, as it was named three years ago, is a great way to end our journey at PDT.
We walk to Death & Co., a staple speakeasy bar. My dear friend Eryn Reece is behind the bar and they welcome us with open arms. I order a Have At It (86 Co. Fords Gin, Dry Sack Sherry, Fresh Lemon Juice, Fresh Grapefruit Juice, Simple Syrup, Angostura Bitters, Soda) while my date sips a cocktail with the moniker B.A.F. (Macallan 10yr Fine Oak Scotch, Lustau ‘Don Nuno’ Dry Oloroso Sherry, Aperol, Gran Classico Bitter). Later, I moved into something more sweet in the palate. This time the talent behind the bar is Al Sotack, a barman that recently moved to NYC from the famous The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. in Philadelphia. Al shakes Jamaican Rum, Dominican Rum, Coco Lopez, Orange Juice, Lime Juice, and other stuff, but now I’m feeling loved and I tend to forget my ingredients. We say another NYC goodbye once again, this time with a Copita of Ilegal Mezcal Joven.
We cab back to The Standard to pick up my lady’s phone (since she has left it in a previous visit), and happen to bump into a dive bar across the street. The doorwoman thinks my name is sexy, so she begans to call me Juan Pablo in a loud microphone. Ordering PBRs and a shot of Dickel 8 yrs Whiskey seems to suit the occasion for a venue that has a reputation for inspiring the movie Coyote Ugly.
Time to go to bed. I early day tomorrow and have to be in D.C. by 3 pm.
Waking up in the early morning to train back to D.C., I hold a bottle of Honest Green Tea. Today is an inventory day at the new Carolina Kitchen on Rhode Island Ave. This venue is one of the latest clients of my consulting company Menehune Group. It’s time to sip some of the new cocktails. Carolina Sweet Tea Brown Sugar (Pyrat XO Rum, Fresh Lime, Angostura Bitters & House Blend Tea) is among my favorite drinks here, but the best is a Hand Crafted Bottle Cocktail of Sazerac (Martel VSOP Cognac, Simple Syrup, Peychau’s Bitters and Pernod Absinthe) served in a large ice cube.
Time to re-group with my super-publicist hero, Anna Duff. She is a dear, old friend and former regular. Her home is near one of my favorite Arlington, VA bars, “Lyon Hall,” so sipping a Heihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier Beer from Germany is a great pick for the meeting, followed by a St. Bernardus Pror Beer from Belgium.
Time to wrap up our meeting and go to bed.
I’m in the process of launching a new menu at SOI 38, a new Thai street food restaurant on L Street, so my business partners Glendon Hartley, Kevin Rogers and I meet at noon and do staff training. We taste Tito’s Vodka, Beefeater Gin, Bulleit Bourbon, Rittenhouse Rye and Tequila Ocho Blanco 2012, which are followed by cocktails like the Lemon Lotus (Tito’s Infused Thai Basil/Cilantro, Patron Citronge, Fresh Lemon & Strawberry Syrup) and our newest addition, Emperor’s Punch (Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, Fresh Lemon, Tamarind Syrup, Thai Cold Tea & Chili Aromatic Bitters).
Training is done and now I head to Oyamel Cocina Mexicana to meet architect and Principal of Design Republica, Francisco Beltran, to talk about a new project that we will be working on. Miguelito, our barman, welcomes us with a Ron Cooper (Milagro Silver Tequila, Fresh Lime, Agave Syrup, Triple Sec & Sal de Gusano) chased with a Vida Mezcal on the side. We enjoy a few of those and time to head to meet my dear friend Jordan Davidowitz to join him for a private tasting of the whiskey portfolio of Williams & Grant. We try Monkey Shoulder Blend Whiskey, Tullamore D.E.W. Specila Reserve 12 yrs Irish Whiskey, Balvenie 14 yrs Caribbean Cask, Balvenie 21 PortWood Cask, Glenfiddich 15 Yrs and Glenfiddich 18 yrs aged in Oloroso Sherry Cask, to name a few. Today was a good day at the office.
I begin my day with a can of Coca-Cola to help my hangover to go away; I find myself very dependent on the fizz of this cola lately. Then I hit my laptop for some work.
Time to head to do some more staff trainings and menu development at MXDC Cocina Mexicana. Today we are trying different drink techniques: we fat wash Carne Asada fat with El Jimador Tequila Blanco and Brown Butter St. Germain Liqueur. I find myself first sipping a Chauffe-Coeur Calvados VSOP at MXDC then later a Paloma (Cabeza Tequila, Fresh Lime, Fresh Grapefruit, Hisbiscus Syrup, Soda Water).
It’s time to have dinner and visit a dear friend Jeff Faile at The Partisan, a new NRG venture. This place is heaven: great beers, wines, spirits and cocktails. Glendon and I share a double pork chop that has some incredible fat that melts in my mouth. Sommelier Brent Kroll pours us a 2006 Criox, Burgandy from France to wash out the pork, and our lovely bearded Jeff makes us a Coney Island Baby (Beefeater 24, Green Tea Simple Syrup, Grapefruit Juice, Hopped Grapefruit Bitters). I finish my dinner with a Flower Power IPA beer from Ithaca, NY and a bitter Chitown liqueur called Malort from Carl Jeppson Company. This bitter libation is on tap. Awesome!
I walk in to Del Campo to meet my dear friend and favorite chef, Victor Albisu, and have a Quilmes Beer followed by a Bar Sol Mosto Verde Italia Pisco. As a former Brand Ambassador of Pisco, I like to sip Pisco, or, like a dear Peruvian friend says, “Kiss the Pisco.”
I walk in to Graffiato and Glendon Hartley is behind the bar. Immediately, he serves me a 7oz Miller High Life and a cocktail made with Mexican Mule (Tequila/Mezcal, cilantro, lime, sugar & ginger beer). Time to grab a quick bite to eat and drink some Sake, off to next door Izakaya. Barman Daniel Pouridas pours me Kikumasamune Taru – Junmai, Manotsuru, “Countless Sisions” – Jumain unfiltered, and we finish with a unpasteurized Nama Narutotai, Genshu.
It was a long day at the office; now time to go to bed.
My morning begins with a lunch at my favorite taco place so far, Taco Bamba, in Falls Church. I pick up some TNT Tacos, Pozole and a Jarritos de Tamarindo. Time for a nap. That’s the benefit of being Latino: we believe that naps are good for our health.
Vita-Coco finds me on my way to a meeting with my lawyer; I have a big day on Monday.
Another training is scheduled at SOI 38 this afternoon. We order glassware, meet reps and place orders.
My afternoon includes a meeting at Boqueria with Chef Greg Basalla to talk about a guest bartending gig that I will perform. Greg welcomes me with half a quart of Iberico Ham Fat for me to fat wash with a bottle of Beefeater London Dry Gin. While we meet, I find myself sipping a Fernet & Coke or two. He sends me some tapas and I wash them down with an Estrella Damm Pilsner Beer.
Earlier in the afternoon I received a text from Nick Lowe, one of the brains behind the program of Dram & Grain, for an invitation-only event in the basement bar of Jack Rose Saloon in Adams Morgan. Nick has a reservation for a guest and me at 9:00 pm. So here we are, and it’s time to imbibe. We are welcomed with a punch cup of Gin, Fresh Lemon, Maraschino Liqueur and Bitters. It’s followed by a cocktail called Airmail (Pilar Rum, Honey, Fresh Lime, Sparkling), which is served with fried free-range chicken skin sprinkled with sea salt and lime to taste. Delicious. My last cocktail will be the Ode to Omaha (Thomas TewRum, Blackberry Cinnamon Syrup, Jerry Thomas Bitters, Hickory Smoke). I like watching bartenders use smoking guns in cocktails. These reservations are limited for two hours, so it’s time to pay the tab and hit the road.
It’s Friday night and I find myself to be a person of habits, so I call the gang and we meet at Cuba Libre Restaurant for some drinks and a little Salsa/Merengue dancing. Cusqueña Pilsner- Peru and Pyrat XO Rum is my poison in this place.
Late night dinner at the New Big Wong in Chinatown and a Coca-Cola to go. Good Night!
Another early meeting with the team, followed by staff training at SOI 38 and final menu prep and development of the menu. My business partner Glendon and I enjoy making syrups.
It’s been a long week and we reward ourselves with some TIKI drinks at Farmers Fishers Bakers. We have Trader’s Vic’s -Mai Tai (Jamaican Rum, Martinique Rum, Fresh Lime, Curacao & Orgeat Syrup), Queen’s Park Swizzles and Cooper Fox Rye Whiskey. Cheers to us and have a great day!
As a bartender, it’s a special perk to have Sundays off, and I have been lucky and enjoy them as much as I can. I sleep very late and watch TV during a typical day off. My tradition is to sip Coca-Cola and go buy Bolivian food from a food truck on Rt. 50, near Seven Corners. I haven’t been home in 14 years and this place makes me remember my hometown’s food.
Usually my days off are also days off for my body: I don’t drink at home (or perhaps I will say I rarely drink at home). Time to catch up on some reading and TV shows.
Thank you for following me in this weekly drink diary.