Photos By Franz Mahr, Words By Logan Hollers
The Gibson is one of DC’s original speakeasies – hidden behind a plain brown door with no sign, this gem pumps out some of the best, and most interesting, drinks in DC. Their new winter cocktail menu has a strong focus on pop culture references, both obscure and well-known. But, more important, it’s packed with fantastic additions to what was already one of the strongest drink lists in the District. If you like strong, delicious, well-made cocktails without the douchery and pretentiousness often common to “speakeasies,” get here as soon as possible.
BLACK FRIDAY @ THE GIBSON
Coolest-looking cocktail on the new menu. Activated carbon (don’t worry, it removes toxins – pretty much getting healthier by drinking this one) means a cocktail that’s a deep, murky black, while green chartreuse contributes a subtle anise flavor. Perfect for Halloween. And every other day.
HARD KNOCK LIFE
Jay-Z and the musical “Annie” don’t seem like they’d go together. Neither do Akuavit and Kalani (coconut liqueur). Yet we all know the former did (Vol 2… was super dope, second only to The Black Album), and we can assure you the latter does. Sour and fresh, with celery bitters lending a smell of fresh-cut grass. Great final reminder of warm weather.
For those of you who aren’t into vampire/strip club movies…you’re really missing out. This drink, like it’s namesake (the Queen vampire in the 1996 Robert Rodriguez flick From Dusk Till Dawn, for those wondering), is smoky and tart, with Vida Mezcal and a splash of amaretto forming the base. A dash of Hellfire bitters brings some spice, and a dry shake with egg whites gives a great mouthfeel, creamy and sweet.
ALWAYS BE CLOSING
“A. B. C. Always! Be! Closing!” So sayeth St. Alec Baldwin, amen (also, if you haven’t seen Glengarry Glen Ross, go check it out – we’ll wait). Most people are too averse to tequila (one bad night in college does not a bad spirit make, people), but the herbal bitterness of Campari is a natural pair with the spirit. Think of this cocktail as a Negroni with a splash of lemon juice and pineapple syrup. Good one to drink to close out the night.
THIS DICKEL WON’T TAKE CARE OF ITSELF
Hands-down winner for best name on the new menu. Good thing the taste is as good as the moniker. George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey is combined with Cardamaro to complement the whiskey’s spice, vanilla syrup that brings out the whiskey’s vanilla notes, and decanter bitters that add some clove and cinnamon flavors. Brawny Old Fashioned. As an added bonus, garnished with a flamed orange peel (which is scientifically proven to make drinks taste better…or maybe just look cooler). Instructions: pour, sit by roaring fireplace, open Melville novel, drink. Repeat as necessary.
JACK’S SMIRKING REVENGE
The first rule of Jack’s Smirking Revenge is: You do not drink Jack’s Smirking Revenge, unless you love that Good & Plenty candy from when you were a kid. Seriously, this is like chewing on black liquorice. If you like that, more power to you. I don’t.
As this cocktail was delivered, I believe I was screaming about Gregor Blanco’s Game 2 lead-off home run (What, a guy can’t cheer at a bar?? Go Giants!). Still didn’t stop me from really enjoying it; a softer, smoother take on the Dark & Stormy, with predominantly spicy, earthy ginger flavors.
My notes immediately after tasting: “OMFG.” Easily one of the best cocktails I’ve tasted this year. Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur), lemon juice, and a dash of Hellfire bitters. That’s it. Who knew this combination tasted like heaven? A spicy, boozy cream soda with a little snap.
SODA POP SHOP
Kiddie cocktail. Delicious, sure, but tastes just like Sioux City Sarsaparilla…except alcoholic. I’d order it again, but there are more interesting options on the new menu. Seriously. Root beer.