Lukas B. Smith’s resume paints a picture of D.C.’s ever shifting cocktail scene. From pouring drinks at Daikaya, to ruling the basement at Dram & Grain, to running the beverage program at Cotton & Reed. Between these big projects, there have been one offs. There was an elevated cocktail menu in a hidden back room at Eighteenth Street Lounge and a nuptials themed basement bar (and by that I mean the old 2 Birds 1 Stone space) called Destination Wedding and maybe even a few other things. It would be easy to say he’s seen it all and he’s done it all, but he hasn’t done this.
In a truly D.C. turn of events, Smith has teamed up with the mysterious cheese and sauce wizards behind &pizza. It’s not quite the level of the National Bohemian boy proposing to the Utz chip girl, but it’s a remarkably D.C. combination nonetheless. Even if you don’t realize it, you’ve probably had one of Smith’s drinks and you’ve definitely stumbled into an &pizza at 11 p.m. after imbibing an especially strong edible. This doesn’t mean that all &pizza locations will suddenly start pouring incredible draft cocktails (although that would be sick, please have someone at corporate call me), but it does mean Smith has been given free reign at the Hotel Hive bar and Rhumbo Italiano, both of &pizza’s boozier operations.
In response, Smith has created two distinct menus that feel like mirrors of his cocktail personality. Hive is all about digging deep into the science of cocktail classics and finding ways to make them better, without alienating their fans. Rhumbo, on the other hand, is full of whimsy. There are multiple frozen drinks, a section of the menu dedicated to cocktails that fizz and a very small champagne list that prices a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow (the only champagne on the list, it’s a list of one) at $60 a glass. I don’t know who is going to order a $60 glass of champagne to go with their Gnarlic pizza, but I wish them the best.
Although, the glory of Smith’s new cocktail creations is that you don’t have to live that &pizza life. The drinks stand up on their own and live separately from the Mavericks and the Moonstrucks of the &pizza world. At Hive, we were particularly taken with Smith’s barrel-aged mezcal margarita, which features an acid and aroma corrected sherry, plus a Cabernet float for good measure. It’s sure to be the stand out on a cocktail list that’s full of good options (including Smith’s rosemary heavy version of a gin & tonic that feels like you’re drinking an herb garden in the best way). It’s a drink that definitely doesn’t need to exist, but our lives are better for having imbibed it.
Likewise, Smith has cooked up a slightly grown of version of a Long Island Iced Tea that is a fun riff on the kind of cocktail you ordered before you could legally drink, except much more delicious (and therefore, more dangerous). Any of these cocktails could be paired with a disc of pizza, but they work beautifully alone.
Hotel Hive’s bar is great if you’re looking for a more refined experience (or if you’re looking to get sloshed on Long Island Ice Teas with an air of dignity), but Rhumbo Italiano is more fun. Besides the name change (remember Broccoli Bar?) and the cocktail refresh, the space has also seen a light renovation. It’s brighter and bluer and features more indoor beach umbrellas. Think Seacrets if it was cleaner and less packed and had better drinks and was also on 7th Street.
Your winner here is really anything that’s served frozen. Sub 30 degree temperatures be damned, Rhumbo is putting their slushie machines to good use. We fell in love with the Pinkerton, which starts with a base of Cotton & Reed white rum (most of the bevs on offer here either include C&R rum, or pull from the cocktail list at C&R) that gets brightened with a ton of grapefruit. It’s pink and pretty and stupidly delicious. Like sugary cereal, it lights up every part of your lizard brain, the pretty color, the frothy texture and the refreshing bitter sweetness of a ripe grapefruit.
There are other options if you don’t want a boozy slushie, you’ll be just as pleased with the Fresco Refresco with its drinkable mixture of tequila and rum or the remixed Negroni with its heady dose of mezcal and juniper. But you should get a slushie. Lean into the fun and Smith’s concoctions will never disappoint.
Smith is taking drinks very seriously and having more fun with it than anyone else in the game. Locations and concepts might shift and evolve, but you can always count on being wowed by his personal brand of cocktail magic.