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A few months ago, we wrote about one of our consistent favorites in Penn Quarter, PS 7’s.  We praised Chef Peter Smith’s approach to his menu and his commitment to using the best ingredients available to make inventive dishes with satisfying, complex flavors.  We mentioned Gina Chersevani’s cocktails in passing, but we largely focused on the meal.

For a lot of guests at PS 7’s, that’s the way they experience the menu.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  A few of our fellow bloggers (as well as the not-long-for-DC Daily Candy) have written about a way to have your cake and eat it too, in a manner of speaking.  If you know to order it, you can actually enjoy a seven-course tasting menu that comes paired with seven of Gina’s amazing cocktails in the lounge.

Don’t expect to see a menu (they abandoned the mysterious wax-sealed menus that the guys at the Scofflaw’s Den experienced), but do come prepared to eat and drink well.

How well?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

formosa2When word got out that Derek Brown was working with SOVA Espresso & Wine on H Street, some of the loudest cheers came from us here at Capital Spice.  And when we met Jamie MacBain, a bartender who came to DC from Portland’s craft cocktail scene, we knew that good things were in store.

Unfortunately for us, MacBain’s talents haven’t gone unnoticed, and it wasn’t long before the folks at the Four Seasons came calling.  As of Monday, MacBain has started behind the bar at Bourbon Steak, Michael Mina’s high-end dining room in Georgetown.  They’ve been proud of their cocktail program since they opened, making their own bitters and tinctures, squeezing their own juices and pouring their sodas from glass bottles instead of a gun.  It’s a great fit for a guy like MacBain, who was one of the founders of the Oregon Bartenders Guild.  And it means we’ve got another place to go for hand-crafted classics and innovations when we’re out drinking on M Street!

bourbonsteakWe suspected something was up when we didn’t see MacBain and SOVA listed among the competitors in the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild’s 2nd annual Rickey Month celebration.  So we checked in with Frank Hankins at SOVA and he confirmed that Jamie had gotten “an offer that was way too good to pass up” from Bourbon Steak.  Bummer.

So what does this mean for H Street?  Thankfully, Frank assured us that SOVA will continue to mix the impressive array of grape-based spirits (pisco, brandy, grappa, etc.) that Brown helped him put together.  MacBain’s fellow bartenders are still on hand, working hard to crank out the Arequipa Sunsets, Formosas and French 75s.  But they could definitely use a hand, and Frank has asked us to help spread the word.  Here we go:


Interested in being part of the growing craft cocktail scene here in DC?  Looking to shake things up behind the bar?  Want to work with a unique drink menu created by Derek Brown and other top talents?

If so, SOVA is calling.  As part of the emerging Atlas District on H Street Northeast, SOVA attracts a diverse crowd from all over the metro area.  In addition to craft cocktails and punches, SOVA serves a range of moderately priced wines using a Cruvinet system and a selection of beers.

Regulars include students at nearby Gallaudet University, so knowledge of ASL is a plus (but not a requirement).

If you’re interested or just looking for more information, reach out to Frank Hankins at SOVA.  Email or call (202) 397-3080 to inqure.

formosa2When FrozenTropics announced Sova’s new cocktail menu, we were definitely excited.   I know…shocker.

We were already fans of Frank Hankins’ espresso and wine bar, a neighborhood hangout where groups of Gallaudet University students share space with book clubs, Atlas Theater-goers, and even the occasional bluegrass jam session.  With a focus on quality and value, Sova has been brewing Intelligentsia coffees downstairs and serving a dozen wines from a Cruvinet wine system upstairs.  All in all, a pretty sweet setup.  But this latest development – a craft cocktail program developed by none other than Derek Brown – is a BIG deal.

chandelier-sovaLast week we sat down with Frank and company to taste some of their handiwork and talk about this new direction for Sova.  As Derek points out, there are certainly some coffee shops that have decent wine programs and some decent wine bars that also pay attention to their coffee service, but the concept of a coffee shop and wine bar that also has a top-flight cocktail program is practically unheard of.

Over the course of our conversation, they also filled us in on a week of drinking set to commence this Wednesday – World Cocktail Week.  This celebration of American spirituous ingenuity benefits the Museum of the American Cocktail (not to mention those of us who enjoy drinking them).

What’s in store for cocktail lovers at Sova and a run-down on DC’s week of events celebrating World Cocktail Week after the jump. (more…)

It’s been a big week for interviews here at Capital Spice.  First Elizabeth had a chance to chat with Top Chef finalist (and our absolute favorite) Carla Hall in advance of last night’s finale.  Then I had a chance to catch up with Todd Thrasher as he gets ready for the Domaine de Canton Bartender of the Year competition in Saint Maarten next month.

thrasherBack in December, we wrote about Todd Thrasher’s big win over some of New York’s best bartenders and mixologists in the regional semi-finals of Domaine de Canton’s Bartender of the Year competition.  Since then, Washingtonian has added some additional details to the picture: it turns out Thrasher made it to the semi-finals when a friend submitted an older recipe of his unbeknownst to him!

This week, we had the opportunity to chat with the Proprietor/Sommelier/Bartender at Restaurant Eve and PX about the upcoming finals, which are taking place in Saint Maarten on Monday, March 9th.  He’ll be facing off against the five winners (and the six runners-up) from the other semi-final competitions that took place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Boston.  Even with the $10,000 prize on the line, Thrasher’s numerous responsibilities have made it pretty hard for him to do much in the way of hardcore preparation for the contest.  But if his previous performance is any indication, he’s more than ready to go.

Cocktail conversations with Thrasher after the jump. (more…)

Ring the bell, if you can find it. It’s about three feet to the left of Marvin’s front door and barely marked. Try turning img_6579the handle if no one is outside. The rule of thumb is if the door is unlocked, they have room for walk-ins. If it’s locked, they do not. You can try getting on the guest list…but good luck.

Gibson opened less than a year ago and has remained relatively under the radar since then. Like PX and the short-lived but wonderful Hummingbird to Mars, Gibson continues the DC cocktail trend of faux speakeasy bars. Typically this means chic, luxurious interior and the most superior cocktails to be found in the area. It also means no crowds, some type of code of conduct, and patience. Patience to get in and patience to receive your drinks once you place an order.

At Gibson, like PX, there is no standing room at the bar. Gibson can accomodate no more than 50 people at a time. Seats are given according to reservation at specific intervals with some room held for walk-ins (allegedly). On several occasions when Mike and I have found ourselves in the U St area for the night we’ve strolled by the front door to check on empty space. More often than not, a dapperly dressed man with a clipboard and knit fingerless gloves (“very Dickensian,” Babe-B-Q points out) would put us on the waiting list and promise to text us when they had availability. The night went on, the text never came.

Finally, I made a reservation about two weeks in advance. What a difference advance planning makes. The woman on the other end of the phone took my name and phone number and asked what time we would prefer.  We arrive about 20 minutes before our reservation and “I’m sorry, your table isn’t ready yet.” No problem, we skip over to Ben’s Next Door for a quick drink. We swing back five minutes after our reservation. “Absolutely, welcome.” We are in!

Drinks and our experience inside after the jump. (more…)


Sketch by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli @

“Whatever you do, don’t bring up politics or religion.”

At some point, we’ve all received this pearl of cocktail party small-talk wisdom.  And generally speaking, it’s a pretty smart way to avoid starting a conversation with your foot in your mouth.

But what happens when the party is being put on by The Institute on Religion and Public Policy?   Do weather, sports and pop culture become the taboo topics?  This Wednesday you can find out for yourself.

The Institute, which advocates on behalf of freedom of religion around the world, is putting on “Spirits of the World,” a cocktail party blending hard alcohol and soft diplomacy, at the Embassy of Ethiopia from 7 to 10 PM on the 10th.

Details on this public event, including participating countries and how to respond, after the jump. (more…)

logoTucked away between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s an under-appreciated holiday that we here at Capital Spice are all about celebrating:  Repeal Day.

On December 5, 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified by Utah, at which point it had the necessary three-fourths majority of states’ approval and became law.  With that, the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed and Prohibition came to an end after more than thirteen years.

dc-craft-bartendersNow, seventy-five years later, a movement is underway to bring attention to this red letter day in American history.  Jeffrey Morgenthaler has been spearheading the effort, and here in DC he is being joined by the DC Craft Bartenders’ Guild.

What is the DC Craft Bartenders’ Guild, you ask, and what are they doing to celebrate Repeal Day?  Find out after the jump. (more…)