The TNT Bar and PX lounge were both created by award-winning bartender Todd Thrasher. Both share an address with a Irish-style fish-and-chip shop called Eamonn’s. Both serve seriously good cocktails. And that’s about where the comparisons stop.
TNT, which made its debut on Monday on Columbia Pike in Arlington, feels worlds away from the classy, speakeasy-influenced PX. Sign number one: Thrasher is behind the bar in a tight black Jagermeister t-shirt, fiddling with the music playing from his iPod. He eventually settles on Metallica. (Thankfully, no one at the bar blinks.)
This 20-seat bar, named TNT after Thrasher’s son Trystan Noah Thrasher, is tucked into the back of the Eamonn’s restaurant; just keep walking until you see a large square marble-topped counter and walls graffitied with enough winged-hearts and gothic-style letters to cover an Ed Hardy store. (The hallway by the bathroom is wallpapered with Kiss, AC/DC and Pearl Jam concert posters.)
The bar itself is designed to be a “stage” where customers can watch their cocktails being made, from the huge central ice chest to the racks of bitters and infused liqueurs around the edges. It’s definitely eye-catching, and most eyes in the room were fixated on bartenders stirring drinks in large cut-glass jars and straining the cocktails into fancy coupe glasses.
There are six Thrasher originals on the menu, a few of which showed up earlier this year at PX while the recipes were being refined, including the already infamous “The Cocktail Left on the Nightstand,” which was inspired by stories of Slash putting out cigarettes in half-finished glasses of Jack Daniels and Coke at night, and downing the flat mixture in the morning. (Thrasher skips the cigarette, but uses Jack Daniels that has been smoked with cedar for a charred taste, and makes his own “flat” soda. The resulting mixture is served at room temperature. It’s better than you’d think, and at just $6, it’s tough to say no.)
Metal Surrenders When Oak Trees Meet Fenders is inspired by the Avett Brothers’ “In the Curve,” a song about a car wreck, but the drink is nailed-on: mellow bourbon meets sweet peach liquor and aromatic peach bitters, capped with a sweet, piney flavor that comes from “sorghum pine cone water” made with pine cones from Thrasher’s front yard.
The bulk of the menu, though, is a “Road Trip” list of cocktails created and popularized by bartenders from around the country. (“I sent out a mass e-mail asking for recipes,” Thrasher says, half-jokingly.) New York mixologist Tad Carducci contributed Curly and the Turk, a blue (!!!) gin cocktail made with a chili-hibiscus syrup and spicy cinnamon bitters for a nice kick. Former PX/Restaurant Eve bartender Evan Zimmerman sent a cocktail from Portland, where he’s the beverage director at the Woodsman Tavern. Love Makes You Ten Feet Tall is a snappy mix of gin, bitter Aperol, pisco, grapefruit and salt water that works as an aperitif or a palette cleanser. Other drinks, which will rotate seasonally, include selections from such well-known drinking dens as New York’s PDT and Death and Co., making this the next best thing to a cocktail vacation.
With all this booze, you need something to eat, and the Eamonn’s menu, which is delivered to the bar, is much expanded from the original Alexandria location. Want more than fish and chips? Try fresh sausage battered or baked into a pastry roll, burgers or the traditional chip butty: piles of hand-cut chips on a soft, buttered hamburger bun. (Most of these are between $3 and $5, too.)
After only a few days, TNT Bar is already buzzing. When word gets out, it’s going to be crowded. TNT opens at 5 p.m. daily; Aim for the window between happy hour and late-night (say, 7 to 9 p.m.) and it’s easier to find a seat – for now.