A new rum bar has arrived in time for the shortest, darkest day of the year – the perfect occasion to close your eyes, sip a rum swizzle and pretend you’re on basking on a beach in Barbados.
Hogo, which makes its debut on Seventh St. NW tomorrow at 5 p.m., will also have a sort of test kitchen, where the public can try new dishes from guest chefs.
The spot is run by Tom Brown, who owns the neighboring Passenger with his brother Derek. Tom has always been a rum aficionado, and his new place, with 75 different rums behind the bar and a dozen cocktails on the menu, is a place to indulge in Caribbean flavors.
Tom’s Punch blends both Cruzan light and Black Strap rums with spicy falernum syrup and ginger liqueur. The classic Ti Punch is nothing more than grassy, rustic Rhum Agricole mixed with sugar cane syrup and lime.
Of course, man can’t live by rum alone: What looks like a mai tai is actually made with tequila, making it far less sweet. A couple of pisco drinks are also in the works. But if you want cocktails made with whiskey, vodka or gin, or a beer more complicated than Pacifico, you’re advised to head for the Passenger.
“In the West Indies, they call rum shacks ‘hogo shacks,’” Tom Brown says. It’s a derivation of the French “haut gout,” or “high taste,” used to describe funky flavors in rum.
The space itself, once occupied by Ruppert’s Restaurant at 1017 7th St. NW, is similar in layout to the Passenger. There’s a table surrounded by plate-glass windows in the front, and a bar with a dozen stools along one wall, facing a row of large circular booths. But if you keep heading towards the back, you’ll find yourself in the most unpretentious show kitchen in Washington. There are half a dozen diner-style seats at a white counter, with cooks bustling behind it. Tom Brown says the idea is to allow the simple kitchen to be a pop-up space, where food truck chefs can show off their chops, or cooks who want to try out recipes in advance of a new restaurant can get feedback from the public.
For the first month “at least,” Brown says, Passenger chef Javier Dunn will be prepping simple Hawaiian dishes, including Spam Musubi ($7), a large brick of spam served on rice and wrapped in seaweed, sushi style; Miso Saimin ($9), a bowl of noodle soup with pork belly, egg and bok choy; and the Loco Moco ($12), a choice of a bunless burger topped with a fried egg or fried mahi mahi mixed with scrambled eggs and tartar sauce. Either way, it’s topped with sausage gravy and served with a macaroni salad and a large ball of rice.
However, don’t expect the place to have a tiki vibe, or be as over-the-top cheesy as the New York Avenue Beach Bar was. Some drinks may come in a tiki mugs, garnished with fresh flowers, but the vast majority don’t. The most prominent decorations are a portrait of Bill Murray in “The Life Aquatic” getup outside the front door, a huge painting of a zombie Elvis, and a pinup mermaid painted onto the salvaged hood of a 1930 Pontiac.
It’s a chilled-out place that serves really good, really potent rum drinks. If you want to imagine an island paradise, you’ll have to close your eyes.