Photos by Sarah Gerrity
The Gibson doesn’t have to prove itself. It doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s such a large part of D.C.’s cocktail culture, of 14th and U in general, that it doesn’t need a sign on the front door, and it probably never will.
We’ve been covering The Gibson’s spring cocktail menu for a couple of years and looking through our past coverage it’s clear that while a lot has changed, quite a bit more has stayed the same. The service is still fantastic. The drinks are very well balanced, very evocative, and range from “easy enough to drink a baby could do” it to “holy shit please send help.” They still have some of the best drink names in town, drawn largely from pop culture, but also from inside jokes between the staff.
Everything you love about The Gibson is still the same, but what has changed are the drinks. Gone are the winter drinks meant to warm you from head to toe. The menu is now filled with cocktails made to be sipped on a patio in the sunshine. And that’s exactly what we did.
We drank a lot actually. And while I cannot recommend the entire menu (mainly because I don’t want you to die) I do want to highlight a few (seven, because the devil is six) of my favorites.
We started off with Muse of a Warrior Poet, a punch drink inspired by the warrior poet himself, Ice-Cube. With tequila (because no other liquor screams getting drunk outside than tequila), pamplemousse, elderflower, lemons and raspberries, it has a lot of fruit and citrus, but the tequila keeps all that sweetness in check.
Next we tried two drinks that looked so healthy, you could probably drink them instead of going on a juice cleanse and it would be fine. The Resolve (with Kappa pisco, kale syrup, lemon, and lavender bitters) and Gurl’ That’s One Fierce Beet (with Beefeater, beet, orange, lemon, and bitters) are both light as hell and so drinkable. I’ve never had a drink with kale or beets that went down so smooth. If Jrink is looking for a bar to collaborate with, this is the place.
However, the best drink name of the night went to B²HM² (you don’t have to know any math to figure this one out, trust me). A mix of Rujero Singani (a Bolivian drink made from distilled Muscat of Alexandria grapes), yellow chartreuse, Benedictine, basil, and lemon bitters. Basil is always good in the summer, and this drink is so floral and light, you could honestly have a million. Pour it up.
(Yes, I did destroy an expensive cocktail in the alley behind The Gibson. I’d like to think Rhianna would approve.)
Next up, A Letter From the ABM to the GOP (“And yes, that does stand for Angry Black Man,” says Gibson bartender Frankie Jones) This is a drink that should come with a warning. I’ve had a lot of spicy cocktails in my life (I drink a lot of jalapeño mules my friends) but this is out of this world spicy. Some of it comes from the Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, but the Hellfire bitters are also partly to blame. The sweetness of the cognac reigns it in a little, while the campari provides a bitter element (that almost seems to egg the fire on). This is a drink that stays with you. In your throat, on your lips, and god forbid you rub your eyes.
Finally, we have my two favorite drinks of the night. Lust #1 (with Old Overholt Rye, Orgeat, St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram, and lemon) and the Chiquito (with Tequila Cabeza, hibiscus vanilla syrup, tonic, and lemon). The Lust #1 is perfect for those chillier summer nights, when you need something with a little burn. The Orgeat brings out some tiki flavors, but the Allspice Dram makes it lean slightly closer to a fall drink. While the Chiquito is all summer with it’s light hibiscus flavors, some nice carbonation from the tonic and a little bit of burn from the tequila.
The Gibson’s spring cocktails kill it every year. If you’re looking for somewhere solid that’s a little more secluded there is no reason to look anywhere else. You know exactly what you’re going to get here and there is nothing wrong with that.