Washington DC after Dark is a wonderful place. While the city is shaking with nightlife, 14th street is the absolute epicenter of entertainment. From taking in live comedy at the Source Theater, or getting your bro and bratwurst on at Franklin Hall, you can find it all right here in one place. Our first stop is this clandestine unmarked door which after a knock and a pause in a stairwell will gain you entry to The Gibson (2009 14th st www.thegibsondc.com) where the eclectic mix of people and absolutely masterful bartenders will start your night off on a very high note and very green drink. If the weather is nice, then a stop at The Garden District (1801 14th st NW www.gardendistrictdc.com) is mandatory, with their festive patio brimming with a jaunty crowd as the feast on BBQ sammies and cold pitchers of beer. Dialing it back a bit swing just around the corner to the Left Door (1345s St NW http://www.left-door.com) which is located, well, through the left door of the dry cleaners next door. A mellow and friendly speakeasy it’s a perfect place to get to know someone, or plan your attack on the night. The next place isn’t hard to find and makes no beef of what they’re all about. Chicken+Whiskey (1738 14th st nw www.chickenandwhiskey.com) is a rare jewel in the nightlife mine. Up front is a positively delicious roast chicken joint, but if you venture in the back and slide past the fridge door, you’ll enter a full-fledged disco. This place was bouncing from wall to wall at 8pm so if you go, go early. I had to do a double take on the way out because I honestly thought it was a dream. Next we pitstop at Jane Jane (1705 14th st. NW www.janejanedc.com) which offers not just an amazing craft cocktail scene, but savory snacks to keep you rocking.
Giving our livers a breath of air, we popped into DC’s legendary Miss Pixie’s (Address: 1626 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 http://www.misspixies.com/) , which while labeled as a thrift store is really more of a emporium of epic tchotchke. from rare corning ware, to radioactive stemware, to not suitable for lunch dinnerware, this place is a palace to quirk, where you can easily spend a moment finding that perfect thing you didn’t know you needed.
Now, having built up quite an appetite, we slid into Barcelona Wine Bar (1622 14th St NW www.barcelonawinebar.com) which was positively humming with excitement. Here the line between lounge and restaurant is beautifully blurred in typical Castilian style, where you can either drink and nibble the night away, or dive a bit deeper and rock an authentic paella. Next we were told to roll the dice and take a chance on Players Club ( Address: 1400 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005 https://www.playersclubdc.com/), which delivers as a subterranean pleasure palace that lets your nostalgia run wild. If you can’t have a good time here, you might have a problem. Now that Jackie was devoid of inhibition I told her to go down this dark stairwell in an alley and knock on the door. What would seem like a murder scene, turns out to be maybe the best speakeasy yet simply called, The Mirror (1413 K St NW www.themirrordc.com ) There’s no camera’s allowed so you best just see for yourself. Last, to put a nail in the night’s coffin, we washed up on the shore of Sax (734 11th st NW www.saxdc.com) which you don’t need directions to, just follow the faint thumping sound permeating the city. Inside Sax you are transported to a divinely confused mix of St. Petersburg and Cabo, where the dancefloor is full of convulsing revelers fueled by sparkler topped drinks. To be honest, I am not entirely sure I would recall anything past The Gibson, if not for my camera and a few lovely souvenirs. Thanks DC, you’re the best time I don’t remember having.
If you’re a foodie or a very indecisive person Western Market food emporium is a palace of pure delight. Built from the bones of the original 1802 marketplace designed by Pierre L’Enfant, this new cathedral to cuisine offers a taste for every- man that’s cute. For the sake of research we decided to do a bit of a bang bang and sample a few places like Mason’s who are famous for their lobster rolls that are flown fresh from Saco, Maine and prepared in a very classic style that is exquisite. We also tried Roaming Rooster’s hot chicken which is the lobster of the land as you know, and definitely did not disappoint especially paired with their sour cabbage slaw that was delicious. But if you’re looking to lunch like a pro then there really is no place better than
If you’re looking to lunch like a pro there is really no better place to do so then Dukes Grocery (513 17th st NW).This DC old-school staple has three celebrated locations but for my money the original Dupont circle spot tucked inside a historic row house is the place to be. While inside offers full brit curry house feels, the outside patio is a premium delight for those that want to experience the beauty of downtown DC wash over them. Yes Dukes has an impressive beer and cocktail menu that’s glorified by their extremely generous daily happy hour, but what sets this pub apart is the food. A curated menu of savory delights made fresh each order, it’s as close as greasy spoon fine dining you can get. Perhaps what they are best known for is their “proper burger” which is a Creekstone Farm angus patty with melted gouda, pickles charred red onion sweet chili rocket and garlic aioli on a brioche which is … oh yeah.
Well to do drunken sailors and elite social media moguls rejoice at the notion of a hazy night spent in the Yards, Washington DC’s brand spanking new adult playground that is just lousy with world class eats and hyperactive watering holes. For a sublime time above the chaos one would be wise to swim upstream to Anchovy Social, located on the roof of the uber swank Thompson hotel. Toted as having year-round waterfront vibes, after-work spritzes, and the occasional seafood tower, the master mixologist here will blur your definition between heaven and earth and pour it in a glass for you. Once properly libated, head out to the parapet where you can watch the Emmy award winning show “what’s my neighbor doing up?”. It’s a gas.
The Tiki bar, and Tiki culture in general, holds a very special place in my heart. Theme bars in general are my favorite; they transport you to a new world, hidden from the normalicy of pedestrian life and issues license to become someone else for the length of a drink (yes I was big in the swing dance movement of the late 90’s). Tiki however, takes this escapism to a new colorful level, and those that choose to coat themselves in a thick polynesian coat of cool tend to be the laid back friends you always wished you had.
Which is why when I drove half way into the desert to meet a complete stranger I knew that we were going to be fast friends. Adrian Eustaquio (who goes by Polynesian Pop on youtube) has built perhaps the most elaborate and beautiful home Tiki bar I have ever seen.
I found Adrian through another home bar lover, Caroline Pardilla (AKA Caroline on Crack) who wrote a series of articles about LA’s most exuberant home bars. After contacting her she said I just had to hit up Adrian, and “experience” first hand what taking a trip to Polynesia is like … 10 feet from his living room.
The rest is as they say history … Beside experiencing his amazing hand-crafted workmanship Adrian also pours a mean drink. He is the complete package.
As I delve into this amazing new world with a cold one in hand I look forward to meeting all sorts of new friends, and explore how the nectar of life makes socializing in your own home that much more amazing.
That title may be pretentious but I’m a sucker for alliteration like most drunk poets (I’m looking at you Seamus Heaney). After a not-so-dry January, I’ve decided to take a look back at my long and wonderful love affair with alcohol.
My first drink was probably a drop of J&B on the gums as a teething baby. Although not Irish but Italian, no one puts grappa on a kid’s gums because that would be insane. Whiskey is the correct drink for a baby, this is a well known and documented fact. My real career in drinking began like most in college at UCSB (U Can Study Buzzed was thrown around often), where I was an avid reader of Hemingway because I loved the idea of making a living by writing drunk, boxing, and travelling the world. My drink of choice was a Rusty Nail, the drink my father called his favorite, a man who to this day claims he has never been intoxicated, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen him drunk. That said a Rusty Nail for me is 2 parts Scotch Whiskey to 1 part Drambuie and not to be messed with unless properly trained. I remember going to the legendary ancient jazz dive Arthur’s Tavern in NYC when I was 22 and asked the salty waitress for one. She paused giving me a hard look over and said plainly “you’re too young for a Rusty Nail, I’ll bring you a rum and coke” and proceeded to do so. Pure NYC.
From humble beginnings beautiful booze has brought me as many fond memories as it has clouded. I remember 50 cent giant cold Touborg beers on the veranda of a 16c. villa turned youth hostel just outside of Florence, falling in love with an Australian girl named Eva Toussaint. My parents, both airline employees, and Eva, just being an Australian, made a career of being a professional backpacker at very early ages, and like two international jet setters that didnt have two dimes to rub together between them, we would meet up in far-off places around the world in a blink of an eye for a shot and kanpai. Eventually I would move to Brisbane to be with her, fall in love deeper, be introduced to the true Dark and Stormy while watching the State of Origin on the tele, and ask her to marry me, all because of a cold Tuborg beer in Florence.
Unfortunately I was just turning 22. Man, writing that makes me laugh.
The proposal didn’t work out, I had to go back to the states and finish my degree and become a human. I left, heartbroken, unsure if I did the right thing, and confused about the future. Obviously I made a beeline for my local; Tom Bergan’s, the only real Irish bar in all of Los Angeles.
Tom Bergin’s was hallowed ground. It’s where I would go after a grueling day of work and school. My friends would pour in and we’d drink Guinness and Jameson all night, and when “Sweet Caroline” would come on the juke we would all pound the bar “Da Da Da, good times never seemed so good SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD” like a drunk soccer chant (is there any other?). After 2 A.M. they would do a “lock in” with the regulars, and I would smoke cigs while my best friends Dave Hanson would talk about the plays he was writing (and later become a fantastic playwright) and Chris Sullivan would talk about the parts he would want to play (and become a famous actor) and I would talk about the places I wanted to go. We sat under the South-West corner of the U-shaped bar, beneath three green shamrocks cut out of a Mickey’s case of beer that had each of our names on it; a badge you were awarded if you were a true regular, and not easy to earn.
It was in Tom Bergin’s that my life would change forever over a drink.
I was there, crestfallen from recently breaking up with the first true love when I heard over the already rowdy bar the distinct intonation of an Australian. It’s an accent that is immediately recognized anywhere in the world, like the sound of a leaf blower or a glass breaking in a restaurant. In my semi-sauced state I saddled up to this nearly 7 foot lanky Aussie and made fast friends, as I knew I would with anyone from the great Oz, presumably to tell him of my woes and tales of love lost. Predictably our conversation turned to drinking at which point I made a startling discovery.
“You never had an Irish Car Bomb?”
There are few accolades I take true relish in. One is having a film in the permanent collection at the MoMA. Two is meeting Anthony Bourdain. Three is teaching an Australian something about drinking.
Jimmy the barkeep was always listening and without having to ask two half filled pints of Guinness and a shot of ice cold Baileys slid before us. We dropped our shots in the pints and opened our gullets to let the elixir slide down our throats. I can’t say it’s a drink I enjoy often, but I’m always amazed how much it taste like cake to me. Justin, the Australian, must have enjoyed it too because he never forgot this interaction, which would end up making my dreams come true.
A few years later I get an email from my long lost drinking buddy Justin saying that he runs a travel magazine in Australia, and remembers me telling him (somehow) that I was a writer and traveller. He was wondering if I would be interested in writing a local piece about NYC (where I was living at the time) for the mag. Boy was I.
Booze has intoxicated me more then just physically in my life and I would have it no other way. So here is a moment to look back at some of the finer moments I happened to document were a good drink has made magic happen.
3A.M. Shanghai Bar Tattoos
You know any video with me screaming “LET’S GET TATTOOS!” as I drinking snake infused baijui at 3 A.M. in a very dimly lit back alley Shanghai bar has to top a list somewhere.
Belgium is the Beer Capital of the World
Most every country makes a form of beer, from Makgeolli in Korea to Kvass in Russia, but in Belgium people’s viens run with barley and they bleed Lambics.
5 Oldest Bars in NYC
Good history only makes drinking better. NYC is rife with watering holes that precede the countries formation, and which is the oldest is seriously debated. One day in June I decided to get to the bottom of the debate and visit each one to hear first hand who could claim the crown.
Amsterdam might be best known for its smokable delights, but for me it was it’s rose colored ambrosia that stole my heart. Boat culture is something that many travellers overlook when exploring Amsterdam, which is a shame, because there is nothing more fun than cruising the canals with chilled rosé making new friends.
It’s hard not to think of drinking when you hear New Orleans, and for good reason because the streets run with rum down there. Fortunately I was with a Bywater local that showed me all the back alley spots locals wet their whistles at, letting me go full Bourdain in one of my favorite love letters to an amazing drink-centric city.
Spain Loves Monday Nights
Barcelona and Madrid both hold special places in my heart. Barcelona’s dolce far niente (or I guess dulce hace nada?) attitude rivals Madrid’s deep tradition of good living (they do have one of the best, and oldest, restaurants in the world). They also love a good party, and choose Monday as their day to let loose. Between Madrid’s “Fucking Monday” and Barcelona’s “Nasty Monday” it’s hard to choose where to be hung over on Tuesday (Hint: it’s Barcelona;)
5 is a magic number for beers it seems, so when WOW airlines (remember WOW?) chose my friend and I to be travel ambassadors, the first exotic location they sent us was … Boston. I joke but Boston is one of my favorite towns, and if you even remotely like beer, you gonna love Boston, so we curated a brewery tour that took us to our favorite places and learn every variety the beer-centric Boston has to offer.
Jakarta’s Illusive Smokey Negroni
It’s usually pretty easy to find a drink anywhere I go in the world, save for one place: Jakarta. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, which means no demand for alcohol (which is largely illegal), so to find a bar, let along a booze temple that boasts a magical smoky Negroni, was a very unique find indeed and required on the spot documentation.
Edinburgh’s Scotch Malt Whiskey Society
In Leith, on the waterfront of Edinburgh, if you are fortunate enough to meet someone that is a member of “the secret vaults of the Scotch Malt Whiskey society”, you might be asked inside, and if you ever so gently ask to interview their caskmaster, he might be willing to talk casually over a delicious dram. Lotsa maybe’s went into this. (on a side note, I have to add in Flokí, the Northernmost whiskey distillery I visited in Iceland, who flavors their mash the old style, that being, with sheep dung. It’s … impressive)
Liquor in LA
Let’s get one thing straight. The greatest bar ever to grace Los Angeles is Tom Bergin’s. That said I would never make that information public on a YouTube video. I would offer three more elaborate pics to show off the flair and pageantry LA is known for. A stripmall speakeasy, a NYC dive in WeHo, and a rooftop looker should do the trick.
Lastly, a blast from the past, and one of my first videos I ever made. Back when craft beer culture began to explode I thought it would be a great idea to make a beer variety show called The Brewhaha. It had beer news, skits, some history, contents, and a reference to the Snooki on the Jersey Show (this was like over 10 years ago, give me a break). I produced, shot, and cut together a pilot episode, and learned a lot about beer in the process that I have a hard time remembering.
This has been so much fun to write, I don’t even know how to put it in words. I’m lucky I made films of some of these experience, to keep the memories sharp and the colors vibrant in my mind. Alcohol has provided so many interesting experiences in my life, from professional ones like doing commercials for Belvedere, Absolut, and Guinness, to drinking parking lot “tuba” wine in Mindanao and driving from LA to Hyder, Alaska in a straight shot, only to get “hyderized” at a bar and drive back (I failed that midterm). It was never about getting drunk, it was always about learning and connecting with people and places through something that is rather universal. There are so many styles, techniques, and varieties of drink out there that stretch back to the beginning of human culture, and is such a part of the human existence.
So nice to look back at a life well drunk, and here’s to the next round. Here are some pics … each has a special story … all have a drink to go with them. Salute!
This is the story about how one night my best friend Peter and I decided to make this ancient after dinner drink to impress our Spanish friend Matias, who loves a good Vermouth. To do it right we had the recipe translated from the original Latin to English, then spoke with sommeliers and anthropologists to find out what type of wine and herbs they might have been using that we could use today. Finally the only thing left was to put it all together and hopefully not go blind in the process.
The recipe is as follows: 1 Theban ounce of wormwood 6 scruples of mastich (Frankincense), 3 each of nard leaves, costmary and saffron 18 quarts of any kind of mild wine.
Here is how we interpreted it and put it together: 1. Place one teaspoon of Wormwood, 1/2 teaspoon of Frankincense. 1 tablespoon of Nard, Tulsi, and Saffron into a large mason jar and fill with 8 oz of high proof alcohol (higher the better, we used Everclear 190 proof).
2. Let sit for at least 3 days up to 1 week then strain the contents and return to the jar.
3. Take your bottle of wine (we used both Ionico Primitivo for red vermouth or Pinot Grigio for white) and add 1/2 a cup of your tincture (alternatively you can use 2 bottles of wine for the whole 8 oz)
4. Return mixture back to the bottle and cork. let sit for 1 day or up to 2 months.
You can add raw honey to the mixture if you want a sweeter wine, or use half port / half wine combination to dial in your perfect flavor profile. The more you let the mixture sit, the sweeter and more mellow the drink will become. We found after 1 month it was perfect on ice.
Jack Rabbit Hills Farms located in Western Colorado is a simply marvelous place that produces some of the best, award winning wines and spirits. Lance Hanson, the owner, is serious about biodiversity and organic farming, going far and beyond industry standards and employing a method that makes use of all material located on the farm.
The result is an ecosystem that works naturally together without the use of pesticides or forced fermentation. While yields may be less then conventional methods, the wines and spirits here are completely natural, a quality you can taste in the product.
Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, and therefore you wouldn’t think their drinking culture would be so on point with this epic smoky Negroni that I found at Beer Hall. Well it is.
First, Beer Hallis a pretty amazing space, voluminous, modern with a solid menu and as you can imagine, delicious beer, which, being in the far corner of the world, is a welcomed surprise. But I wasn’t there for the beer, I was there for their infamous Smoky Negroni whose legend was spread far and wide across this Southeast Asian Metropolis.
The way they achieve this magic elixir is by smoking a secret blend of woods and spices (I think it was chicory, but what do I know Cafe Du Monde). From their they pour their barrel aged Negroni in a tumbler, get it to it’s bone chilling temp, and add it to the vessel.
While this might seem like a cocktail parlor trick, the smoke really does add a complex vail of flavor to this already beautiful concoction. As a professional alcoholic, I have to say this is one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had, and being so very far from Italy, was quite amazed they could improve on a classic. Bravo BeerHall, Bravo.
The last trip to Edinburgh yielded simply the best place to drink Scotch whisky in all of Scotland, The Scotch Malt Whisky Societyin Leith, Edinburgh. This place is everything you want it to be, secretive enough not to be overrun by uncouth tourists, accessible enough to feel at home not knowing as much as you should about Scotch Whisky. Located a short ride from downtown Edinburgh in the seaside port town of Leith, the society is tucked away in a majestic stone edifice, and while you need a member to give you access, becoming one is a no brainer if you are any sort of lover of whisky.
Once inside you realize you have arrived in a holy land dedicated to malted liquor. Rich wood paneled walls and soft leather davenports greet you, as does a staff so knowledgeable about the hundreds of bottles behind them it will make you feel like you are in the Oxford of mixology.
While the appointments of the room and the sophistication of its caretakers are formidable, the true magic is actually how the society presents each variety of whisky. The process is nothing less than sublime; casks are purchased directly from the finest distilleries around Scotland, then, when the society deems each whisky properly matured, they bottle them and add their own unique label. The labels are a bit of poetry in themselves, often with fun names or poignant meanings, that are meant to capture the spirit of the spirit within. Other then the age of the whisky, no other information of it’s pedigree is given, meaning, that the whisky is only judged by its quality in the mouth, not by the distillery it comes from or any other superficial precedent.
In this manner you are truly leveling the playing field when it comes to your desires and tastes, and are judging the spirits solely on their merit to you, the consumer. It’s a really beautiful sentiment, and a fine way to not only enjoy the true drink of Scotland, but a fine way to look at life in general as well.
Another added perk is that because the whisky is purchased by the cask and matured by the society, you can often sample brands that would normally cost you an arm and leg in a regular pub. I had a few whiskies older than myself and can only say that I get much better in time.
When you are done running the gauntlet, making new friends, and learning everything you ever wanted to about this amazing mouth treat, you can take home a few bottles for not only a fraction of the cost, but from a place so special you’ll flash a smile every time you pass the bottle on your shelf for sure, even after it’s long been emptied by delightful gluttony.
Many claim to have the oldest bar in New York City, but here is what I think are definitively the 5 oldest still operating in town. PJ Clarke’s, Bridge Cafe (R.I.P.), Fraunces Tavern, Pete’s Tavern, & McSorley’s are undeniably ancient watering holes where you can literally sit and drink in the history of New York. Most of these places are no nonsense, old school joints that are either completely haunted, or surprisingly, have many of their most beloved customers buried somewhere behind the bar. Really, you wouldn’t believe how many people are buried in mugs behind the bar at these joints.
Anyway, come throw one back with me and a few of my brave friends as we did a little informal tour of the five oldest bars in NYC for our friends over at Get Lost Magazine.
And as if I have to ask, would love to hear what you all think are the oldest places, maybe the Ear Inn, Old Towne or Landmark … we’re gearing up for Part II so let me know where we should go get blotto.