All the President’s Cocktails

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For those of us who failed American history in high school, now is the perfect time to visit the Round Robin Bar in Washington, D.C., the only place in the world where you can get a history refresher while sampling the drink menu. To commemorate the drinking habits of Jefferson, Nixon, Obama, and their presidential ilk, Round Robin mixologist and history buff Jim Hewes has crafted a signature cocktail for each American head of state, 44 cocktails in total. Class is now in session. 

“The selection is representative of our Founding Fathers’ tastes, the spirits of the era, as well as the availability of certain spirits, which was much different from our day,” Hewes says.

The specialty drinks menu debuted just in time for this year’s Inauguration at the hotel bar of the “Residence of Presidents,” the Willard InterContinental hotel in D.C. The bar will continue to serve the 44 cocktails year-round.

Not surprisingly, a popular choice is the Blue Hawaiian, inspired by Barack Obama. The cocktail combines the sitting president’s penchant for aged tequila with curacao, giving the beverage a similar tint to the azure waters near Obama’s birthplace. That’s the Pacific, not the Indian Ocean.

Other interesting selections include Tanqueray for Bill Clinton, California sparkling wine for Ronald Reagan, and Maker’s Mark for Harry S. Truman. Richard Nixon served Bacardi and Coke aboard the presidential yacht, while the Beefeater martini was the signature cocktail of JFK’s Camelot.

Our Founding Fathers preferred foreign wine to spirits, however: Madeira Mediterranean wine for Washington, French red wine for Jefferson. James Monroe was the first president to shake things up with the Sherry Cobbler, commonly referred to as America’s first cocktail.

Hewes hasn’t forgotten about the presidents who chose to abstain from alcohol. Abraham Lincoln replaced his early taste for whiskey with an affinity for apple cider, Calvin Coolidge embodied New England Puritanism by drinking only cranberry juice and soda, and buzzkill Jimmy Carter introduced alcohol-free white wine to the White House.

The true lush of the executive office, however, was Herbert Hoover, who personally recalled Prohibition by “nobly experimenting” with loaded Long Island Iced Teas. Hail to the chief indeed. 

[Related: BlackBook Washington, D.C. Guide; Follow Oscar Raymundo on Twitter]

Washington, D.C. Opening: Capella Hotel

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I live in New York but love visiting Washington, D.C. For a mid-sized urban center, it punches well above its weight in culture and nightlife, and I always have a great time there. Now there’s a new hotel that looks like a pretty righteous spot to rest your head after a day in the museums and a night in the clubs: the new Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown. Situated along the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and a short walk from the Potomac, it’s close to all the things people want to see in the nation’s capital, from the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian to the National Mall and White House. Of course all that educational, culturally enriching stuff is great, but is it suitable for those who want to paint the town red? It is.

While Washington, D.C. has a number of different nightlife districts these days, Georgetown is one of the originals, and it’s still a great place for a casual stroll from shop to restaurant to bar, repeating as necessary. You’ll find no shortage of watering holes, nor will you find a shortage of taxis which can take you new hot spots like Barmini by José Andrés and The Gryphon, as well as my personal favorite nightclubs in D.C., Capitale and Heist

But you actually don’t have to venture out of the hotel at all to tie one on proper. The hotel’s Grill Room restaurant is big on artisinal meats and sustainable seafood, while the adjacent Rye Bar (pictured) specializes in rye whisky (imagine bourbon, but spicier), and even features barrel-aged cocktails. If you’ve never tried one, here’s your chance. During nice weather, the infinity pool on the roof will be the place to chillax in style, and you can sip your suds with a view of the monuments at the Roof Top Lounge if that’s your thing. (It’s my thing.)

[Related: BlackBook Washington, D.C. GuideListing for Capella, Washington, D.C., Georgetown; Feature Story How to Party Properly in Washington, D.C.]

Washington, D.C. Opening: The Gryphon

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Meet the Gryphon, a mythical beast that’s half eagle, half lion new sports-centric Dupont Circle gastropub from David Karim and Rich Vasey (Lost Society) and Tony Hudgins (Capitale) that’s classy enough for date night, but won’t make your lager lout friends feel self-conscious during the playoffs. No more surreptitious checking of the phone for scores: 31 TVs ensure there are no bad angles from which to take in all manner of athletics, from the big leagues to the weird leagues (is cheese rolling televised?). 

Interior is woody and wild, thanks to a collection of animal skulls and a chandelier made from antlers–all from animals Hudgins wrestled and killed with his bare hands, no doubt. The menu, from Lost Society chef Joseph Evans, features upscale takes on game day classics. Apps like cajun gator bites and Gryphon wings are easy to nosh while gesticulating wildly, while those in the mood for a proper chowdown can tuck in the napkins for mains like coco- and chipotle-rubbed sirloin and crispy Scottish salmon with roasted maitake mushrooms. Plenty of draft beers of the fancy pants and tailgate variety remind you of the joint’s gridiron DNA, but those with more discriminating palates will find that the bartender can mix a fine sidecar without looking it up on the drinks rolodex. 

[Photo: Travis Vaughn]

Related: BlackBook Guides Listing for the Gryphon; BlackBook Washington, D.C. Guide; How to Party Properly in Washington, D.C.; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter

Reflect on the Brussels Diamond Heist at Heist-themed Heist Nightclub in Washington, D.C.

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It’s just a little too perfect. First, partners Timothy Sheldon, Patrick Osuna, and Charles "DJ Dirtyhands" Koch open Heist, an exclusive, high-end nightclub in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle that makes the most of its heist theme with such decor as a diamond-stuffed teddy bear, whose precious contents spill out of his sliced-open belly. Then, the massivest, most headline-grabbingest diamond heist in history goes down in Belgium, with robbers taking $50 million in precious stones from an airplane on the tarmac of the Brussels airport, and the world is immediately fascinated with high-end international jewel heists. Coincidence? I just sent an email to Sheldon, questioning him about where he was on Monday morning. So far, crickets.

But of course, if Sheldon and partners made off with $50 million worth of diamonds, they wouldn’t need a nightclub at all, even if it was suddenly made all the more popular by Monday’s heist … Or would they?

Maybe they need to lay low for a while until things cool down. Until the owners and insurers of that $50 million worth of diamonds forget all about it, and just write it off, as rich people do with life’s indignities. And who but me would really suspect the proprieters of a place named Heist would perpetrate such a massive heist? 

Let’s think about the crew here. At something like 6’5", former soccer player Timothy Sheldon is really big. He could be the muscle of the crew. Patrick Osuna was a highly-ranked tennis player, super quick and able to turn on a dime. There’s no catching him. And Charles Koch? He’s a trained pilot who flies his own airplane. What better for a quick getaway? 

So I advise everybody in the Washington, D.C. area to drop by Heist this week to see if the owners are acting a little strange, looking over their shoulders and installing new "fake" diamond decorations behind glass. 

I’m not saying they’re the perpetrators of this exciting, sexy crime. But the signs are there if anyone cares to look. 

[Related: BlackBook Guides Listing for Heist; BlackBook Washington, D.C. Guide; How to Party Properly in Washington, D.C.]

Washington, D.C. Opening: Barmini

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Superchef José Andrés owns several of the hottest restaurants in Washington, D.C., like the always-fun Zaytinya, but it’s Minibar that holds the greatest allure, with foodies making reservations months in advance to enjoy a tasting menu of 30+ mindblowing dishes created using inventive ingredients and ultramodern techniques. The same philosophy goes into the drinks at Barmini, which just opened at the same address. Cocktail hour will never be the same.

It’s the bleeding edge of mixology as applied to classic cocktails courtesy of drink wizard Juan Coronado. Think "airs," barrel aging, infusions, and a few ingredients and techniques we’ve never even heard of. Since you’d best have some food in your belly during an evening of drinking on this level, a few light bites are also on the menu, like Butternut Squash Meringue with Yogurt and Honey, but they play second fiddle to the sublime artistry in the antique glass in front of you. There are precisely 100 cocktails to choose from, one of which is the weird and cool Scandinavian Cup,  with coriander aquavit, white vermouth, grapefruit bitters, absinthe and Viking syrup, a blend of chamomile, citrus peel, cloves and brown sugar made popular by the Vikings. Yeah, ain’t that some stuff. 

The small, er, mini bar is likely to be just as popular as its restaurant counterpart, so be sure to get reservations (through the website) well in advance. Drink prices range from $14-$20, which is the same you’d pay for a vodka tonic at some overhyped velvet rope spot, so, on some weird level, they’re a bargain. 

[Related: BlackBook Washington D.C. Guide]

Washington, D.C. Opening: The Bar at the St. Regis

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We do sort of miss the unapologetic bluebloodedness of the St. Regis Washington, D.C. before its various renovations. The St. Regis Bar itself was once all stogies, cognacs, political kerfuffles, and celebrating young Sebastian’s Ivy League accomplishments. Modernized in 2007 to complement the arrival of Alain Ducasse’s Adour restaurant, it has just received another facelift which, ironically, tips it aesthetically back to its former glories. The Rockwell Group’s design draws on those particular northeastern takes on trad English comforts, all distressed leather Chesterfield sofas and herringbone floors. A custom Swarovski chandelier adds just a touch of glam.

Drinks-wise, the bar eschews ephemeral trends in favor of timeless sips. Adour’s deep wine cellar offers up highlighted monthly selections, complemented by such classically leaning cocktails as the Bitter Loves Company, the Old Fashioned Old Fashion, and the Capitol Mary. Comestibles including the croque monsieur & madame and the Contemporary Waldorf Salad also suggest that they knew enough not to try make it avant / neo / nouveau anything. Bless.

For more great spots to party in Washington D.C., like the BlackBook-approved Capitale and Heist, check out the BlackBook Washington, D.C. Guide and download the GPS-enabled City Guides apps for iPhone and Android. See you at the bar.

Eating Cheez-Its With the President: Our Inaugural Ball Recap

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Washington, DC woke up this morning with one collectively epic hangover. Let’s face it: a five-day-long celebration is kind of overkill. Yes, there were fancy dresses, open bars, and VIPs (Beyonce! Jay Z! John Legend! Some guy from Gossip Girl, maybe!) and enough parties to crush any notions that this is anything like prom.

Most coverage of yesterday’s Inaugural festivities was about how decidedly “toned down” the events were. Guests had to (get ready for it) actually pay for their own drinks at the two official balls, and Cheez-Its and other previously packaged goods from the bodega around the corner were served to the first twenty people who happened to show up. There were ten official balls last time, but don’t let the numbers fool you. Washington, DC this past weekend was more an embarrassment of riches than what current economic conditions would have you believe.

Balls started last Thursday and included a Kids Ball where Usher and Katy Perry performed, an art party in a warehouse on the newly gentrified H Street NE, and, of course, countless of the more typical Washington affairs.

And now, back to bed. 

Your DC Inauguration Weekend Guide

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Feels like just yesterday, huh? Well now we’re gonna do it all again. But better. Regardless of your stance on the election, the inauguration of Obama on Monday, January 21st is a good opportunity to head to DC, drink like you just got out of prison, and conquer the city’s top brunch and dinner places like a viking. Yeah, I want you to live it up. Not just because you only live once yadda yadda, but also because you paid good money for that train/bus/flight to be in the nation’s civic hub, so your weekend better be great. And with this Inauguration guide, it certainly will be.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Russian NHL Star Alex Ovechkin’s Tweet About Just-Opened Russian Spot In DC

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When Russian NHL star Alex Ovechkin tweets about how great a certain, just-opened Russian restaurant is, we launch into action; “He said what? When? Where is this place?” The answer: Mari Vanna in DC’s Dupont Circle. And this week, the newly-engaged 27-year-old captain took to Twitter to blast his excitement over his meal with not just a “Gr8 place for Russian food in DC” proclamation, but also a picture (to your left) of him in a very prideful stance. For the future of Russian cuisine, this means a lot.

Inspired by the Russian fairytale of Mari Vanna – an old woman who took in strangers, treated them like family, and cooked them classic, elaborate Russian dishes – this homey Russian spot is Mari Vanna’s largest yet. With locations across the globe – NYC, LA, and even Russia – a meal at Mari Vanna is a promise of attention to detail in both food and décor, authenticity, and precious coziness. The space is filled with Russian chachkas and literature, antiques, chandeliers, and teakettles, while the menu is stocked with signature mushroom blinis, beef stroganoff, borscht, and pierogies. Oh, and there’s also 70 kinds of Russian vodka. In  flavors like horseradish and cherry. I mean, if that’s what interests you.  

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Do you enjoy  dining out in DC? Then check out BlackBook’s Washington DC Guide and BlackBook City Guides app for iPhone and Android. Keep up on the latest openings and events across the nation by signing up for the weekly BlackBook Happenings newsletter.