Words by Melissa Groth, Photos by Franz Mahr
On 14th Street, hidden behind an inconspicuous brown door marked with only the street address “2009,” is The Gibson. If you’ve unknowingly walked by this brown door before (you have), take their new spring/summer cocktail menu as your reason to keep a sharper eye out. The menu is clever, with homages to women in pop culture, exotic ingredient lists, interesting tweaks on classics, and at least one cocktail with an “at your own risk” disclaimer.
The Playing Dirty cocktail is for fans of a dirty martini. You’ll find the olive juice replaced with green bean pickle brine, and the gin replaced with Dickle White Whiskey. Salers and celery bitters finish off this sweet-sour drink.
The Door to the Left (of Marvin) cocktail features Rujero, a Bolivian spirit with an agave flavor profile that made it to the US only a few months ago. The Gibson is the first area establishment to get their hands on some. Manzanilla sherry, Grappa (an Italian brandy), and Benedictine finish the drink, with orange flower water added for a bright yet subtle citrus flavor.
The Quick & Easy is the “at your own risk” cocktail. Its base liquor is El Dorado 151, a “high strength” rum at 76% ABV. The idea behind this cocktail was to take the high alcohol content of the rum and make it super easy to drink. Peach liqueur, lime, simple syrup, apple bitters and Green Chartreuse are how the cocktail manages to taste like a popsicle on a summer day. You won’t taste the alcohol, which is what makes it quick and easy, or quick and dangerous.
The Pris is a quintessential gin and St. Germaine summer drink, with summer flavors like peach, lemon and orange. Champagne adds a bubbly lightness to a drink you’ll love on a hot summer afternoon.
The Siren was my personal favorite; a St. Germaine and Champagne homage to Tori Amos, it has vanilla, lavender and lemon and is beautifully light and sweet. I adore lavender in a cocktail. It sings out “springtime,” but not quite as turmoil-y as its muse might.
Another drink on the menu inspired by a powerful female is the Clueless, which evokes Alicia Silverstone’s Cher in that it is “privileged, but confused about it” and “doesn’t play with others very well.” Made with Rye, lime, Orgeat (an almond liqueur) and Absinthe. If you like Absinthe, it is definitely the main flavor you’ll get from this cocktail; the Rye is hidden beneath the strong liquorice flavor..
A better Rye option is the Shotgun Shack, which was created as a tribute to a “childhood summer in the South.” It’s a re-imagining of a southern tea, with sweet Vermouth, lemon, chamomile-cucumber syrup, and a bit of spice and effervescence from ginger beer. Sweet tea is great but I’ll take a pitcher of this any time.
If you’re more of a tequila fan, try the Summertime. It’s made with Tequila Cabeza, Vermouth, mint, and Kummel – a cumin, fennel and caraway seed liqueur. The mint keeps it from being too heavy, and the Kummel adds an interesting flavor element equally as strong as the tequila.
Escape the heat this spring/summer by ducking into The Gibson. The cocktails look and taste like warmer months, a relief after a long winter and a reprieve from what will surely be a hot summer.