Learn about Edgar Allan Poe while sipping creepy cocktails

October 4, 2013
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe died on Baltimore on Oct. 7, 1849. (AP File Photo)

On the eve of Edgar Allan Poe's birthday, fans in Baltimore wait in the cold outside a graveyard to see if a mysterious stranger will leave a rose and a bottle of cognac next to Poe's headstone in the dead of night.

On the anniversary of Poe's death, fans in the Washington area will gather at bars to sample cocktails inspired by Poe's stories and listen to scholars talk about his work.

I think we know which sounds like more fun.

The Craft Spirit of Poe is a new event dreamed up by Les Dames d'Escoffier, an organization for women in the culinary industry, to raise money for scholarships. They've enlisted nine bars to create Poe-themed drinks, which will be paired with talks by Poe scholars from American University and representatives from spirit companies. It's the perfect excuse to drink something new while geeking out about gothic literature on a Monday night.

The Gibson's Frank Jones selected "The Masque of the Red Death." He'll talk about how the ingredients relate to the story, while American University's Priyanka Joseph discusses the imagery of the story. Ripple mixologist Caroline Blundell and American's Courtney Wells, who has a master's degree in literature, will team up to talk about "The Raven's Claw."

"The Casque of Amontillado" is featured at Clarendon's Green Pig Bistro, and along with a cocktail and a discussion of the eerie revenge story, Chad Robinson of Catoctin Creek Distillers will be on hand to discuss the local whiskey, which features in bartender Andrew Shapiro's drink.

Some bartenders are handling everything themselves. At Daikaya, bartender Lukas Smith – who holds a double master's degree in comparative literature – will talk about "The Raven" while pouring his drink, dubbed Nevermore. (A full list of locations and themes is available on the Craft Spirits of Poe website.)

Tickets for each event are $20, which includes the featured cocktail, a small-plate snack and the discussion. Because the talks and tastings are staggered throughout the night -- Daikaya's talk begins at 5 p.m., Room 11's lecture is at 6 p.m. and the Gibson starts at 8 p.m. -- organizers are encouraging a bit of bar-hopping. You can hit any two locations for $35, or three for $48, and cocktails will be offered late into the night – just the way Poe would have wanted. Tickets will not be sold at the door, so make sure you buy them in advance.

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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