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Posted at 12:23 PM ET, 12/07/2011

Five questions for Room 11’s Dan Searing

Dan Searing, the co-owner of Room 11, pictured behind his bar. (James M. Thresher/For The Washington Post)
During Thursday’s Got Plans? chat, we’ll be joined by Dan Searing, a man of many hats. He’s one of the owners of Room 11 in Columbia Heights, an excellent mixologist who serves as vice president of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild and the author of the recent book “The Punch Bowl,” a collection of 75 new and classic punch recipes. He’s played in multiple bands and been a resident DJ at Eighteenth Street Lounge and Pharmacy Bar. At 1 p.m. tomorrow, he’ll take your questions about holiday cocktails, entertaining and cool bars -- or whatever you want to ask.

To help you get to know him, here’s a quick Q&A:

What’s the perfect winter cocktail?

I like Atholl Brose, a Scotch drink that’s similar to egg nog. It’s made with Scotch, honey, and water that you’ve soaked oats in. (You take the oats out.) I also add egg whites. It’s so super rich, and that’s what you want around the holidays.

What if you have friends coming over in an hour, and you want to be hospitable and make them a bowl of punch. What’s a festive drink that you can make in a short period of time?

It’s easy to say mulled wine, and if you have the ingredients for glogg lying around, that’s what I’d make. But lately I’ve been making the Cold Claret Punch, which is in “The Punch Bowl.” It’s basically red wine with a little bit of Curacao and a little bit of Kirsch, plus cherries. It’s easy, fast and festive, and it’s a crowd-pleaser because it’s really not too heavy. [Find the recipe at the end of this post.]

Which bars or restaurants do you find particularly festive during the holiday season?

The real answer is your neighborhood place. I used to love going to the Black Cat on holidays, because you see people whose second family is there. When I used to work at Pharmacy Bar, I loved working on holidays because I always knew I’d see people who I hadn’t seen in a while.

I also love the grand hotel lobby of the Willard and walking around and window shopping downtown, especially when we’re lucky enough to have snow.

How did you get into mixology?

I was really into history and drinks when I was in college. My parents sold antiques, so they got me some old cocktail manuals, but it was lonely going back then. You couldn’t find the ingredients, so it was hard to recreate those drinks you read about in F. Scott Fitzgerald novels. But it was when I got my own [cocktail] program going at Temperance Hall that I really started exploring, and the great cocktail community in D.C. really helped, too, with the formation of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild.

If you could only drink three cocktails anywhere in Washington -- besides at your own bar -- what would they be?

One I’ve had recently that really stuck in my head was the Hickory Highball at Rogue 24 -- bourbon with house-made smoked cola. I just can’t get it out of my head.

The others would be the Corpse Reviver II with Ridge Gin and Absinthe Verte at America Eats Tavern, and the Cruzan Blackstrap [rum] and Cynar Daiquiri at the Columbia Room.

Bonus question: What do you want for Christmas?

I recently saw on [the Alexandria cocktail shop] the Hour’s Web site that they have a Russel Wright cocktail shaker. I’m a collector of his -- he made mid-century modern housewares that weren’t as splashy as some of the others of that time.

And I saw that [drumstick manufacturer] Vic Firth has started making wooden muddlers [for muddling fruit or mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker]. As a drummer-turned-bartender, that particularly appeals to me.

Recipe: Cold Claret Punch

From “Chafing Dish Recipes,” 1896

Makes 10 to 15 servings.


1 750 ml bottle of Claret, or other Bordeaux-style full-bodied red wine

3/4 c up Demerara sugar

2 tablespoons Curacao or other orange liqueur

2 tablespoons Kirsch

2 cups cold water

3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

1 / 2 pint cherries, pitted


1. Pour the Claret into a medium punch bowl, and add the sugar, Curacao and Kirsch. Stir well. Add the water and the lemon juice, and still well.

2. Add the cherries, and then float a large block of ice in the punch bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes to chill, then serve.

Sound good? You can find two other recipes from “The Punch Bowl” — Light Guard Punch and Gin Punch — in the Food Section’s Recipe Finder database.

By  |  12:23 PM ET, 12/07/2011

Categories:  Bars and Clubs

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