I hate to tell you wonderful readers about things not available to the general public, but sometimes it’s just too good. You’ve read about Wisdom, Church & State, and Fruit Bat on this blog before. But until, now, it wasn’t personal.
Last night saw an event of epic mixology proportions hosted at Church & State on H Street. Erik Holzherr, the owner and genius behind these three bars, was on hand to tutor contestants in a make-your-own-drink competition at the Smorgie and Catoctin Creek-sponsored event.
Besides learning how hard it is to just create something fantastic out of thin air, I learned some fascinating tidbits about the world of cocktails. I can’t believe I got along without them.
Bitters. Bitters have always seemed mysterious to me, but they needn’t. Bitters are essentially a way to add depth to a drink, keeping it from being flat and boring. Think tannins in red wine.
Vermouth. Many people are afraid of vermouth, but play it off as being discerning. Oh, yes, I’ll take mine bone dry. No, really, vermouth adds a definite something. At Church & State, you can ask for a martini (gin or vodka) in the following way:
Bone dry=No vermouth
Dirty=Add olive brine
ODB=Lots of brine
There is still some debate about the merits of shaking versus stirring. We know what James Bond would say, but at least at Church & State, you can specify to have it stirred. Otherwise, they’ll shake the hell out of it.
Needless to say, the drinks on the menu, or Bill of Rights, at Church & State are amazingly good. The Sophomore Sazerac #2 is also served at Wisdom. The bartender swirls the glass with absinthe before pouring the cold magic into a chilled glass, then topping it off with a burned piece of lemon peel.
The Chuck Yeager (gin, lemon juice, cherry liqueur and lavender bitters) is named after the first American to break the sound barrier, and is a spin on the classic Aviation. Its tart syrupy-ness was a nice departure from hard-nosed cocktails on the menu like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan.
If you’re there to find a certain liquor, peruse the sheet of Hymns for the all-American selection. That’s right, all American. Don’t look for any Scotch here, folks.
So thank you, Erik. I knew I liked your drinks before, but now I’ll watch how they’re made even more carefully. Note that the bartender slaps the mint leaves between his palms making a Mint Julep. This is a great place.