Regardless of what you think about Best Of lists — and personally, I consider them the journalistic equivalent of selling crack for a living — they all perform the same function: They validate those hard-working folks who made the list and frustrate those snubbed from it.
Case in point: Food & Wine magazine just released its list of the 50 Best Bars in America, and two local watering holes were deemed worthy of inclusion. You really can’t argue much with either selection: The Passenger/The Columbia Room near the Convention Center and PX in Alexandria.
What you can fuss about are those places left off the list, such as the bar at PS 7’s, where Gina Chersevani continues to create some of the most inventive (and tasty) cocktails I’ve sampled. Anywhere. Or Proof, where Adam Bernbach shakes it up to such a degree that it’s easy to overlook the restaurant’s deep wine list. Certainly one of New York’s nine spots on the list could have been sacrificed for PS 7’s or Proof. Right?
The interesting thing is, four Washington-area establishments made Food & Wine’s list of top 100 bars in the magazine’s “Cocktails 2011” book, according to Chersevani. Aside from the two mentioned above, Food & Wine also included The Gibson and PS 7’s on the expanded list. Chersevani even contributed her Old Faithful punch recipe to the book.
Her goodwill didn’t pay off in making F&W’s Top 50 list.
“I don’t know what to say,” Chersevani said during a phone chat. “It hurts. It kind of makes you feel bad a little bit. But you have to take it with a grain of salt.”
She also said the snub would make her work harder to make a list that included six bars from San Francisco, three from Los Angeles/West Hollywood and two apiece from Philadelphia, Portland, New Orleans, Seattle, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicago, Boston and Miami Beach.
Fritz Hahn, The Post’s Bars and Clubs editor, also had misgivings about who made — and didn’t make — the list. “First, they really should relabel this the ‘Best Cocktail Bars in America,’ because I don’t see a single outstanding beer bar on there,” he noted.
“I have to say I’m really, really surprised that The Passenger was the D.C. [bar] on the list,” Hahn continued. “To say there are two or three times as many good bars in Seattle, West Hollywood or Vegas as D.C., ignoring all the creativity and quality that we’ve seen at PS 7’s, Jack Rose, Fiola, America Eats or even Jackie’s Sidebar, let alone ChurchKey and its ilk...But it’s a national magazine story. What can you do?”
For his part, Derek Brown, the bookish bartender and boulevardier of The Passenger/Columbia Room, was thrilled to be listed alongside such places as PDT in New York and Bar Agricole in San Francisco. “I’ve worshipped at the shrine of these cocktail bars,” Brown says.
“It’s a tremendous honor” to be mentioned on the same list, Brown added. He noted that he and his brother, Tom Brown, and all the bartenders have worked hard to reach this level.
Todd Thrasher, the mixologist behind PX, was celebrating his victory from the golf course, where he passed along a text that is not fit to print, in whole, on this blog.
In short, Thrasher noted that the inclusion was “fab u lus you know!” He used a colorful modifier before “fab u lus.” I think he’s happy.